Sunday, 7 March 2021 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, the third Sunday in the season of Lent we are all called to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter, that now as we are already halfway through this season of Lent, we should make good use of the time and opportunities given to us so that we can be ready not just to celebrate the occasion of Holy Week and Easter, but even more importantly, we may become better and more faithful disciples of the Lord.

In our first reading today from the Book of Exodus, we heard of the Lord revealing His Law and commandments to His people through Moses, His servant and the leader of the Israelites during their time journeying out of the land of Egypt in the Exodus. The Lord revealed His Ten Commandments, which I am sure we are all familiar with, as well as many other laws and rules that were recorded in the Books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, especially in the Book of Leviticus.

All of this happened as the Lord renewed and established the Covenant between Himself and the people of Israel, those whom He had called and chosen to be His own people, at Mount Sinai. The Lord specified each one of the most important Ten Commandments, beginning with the first and most important Law and Commandment of all, that is to love the Lord and honour Him with all of our heart, our might and strength, and with all of our whole being.

The first three of the Ten Commandments specified the Law that is focused on our reverence and love for God, stipulating that as those whom God had called to be His people, we are all bound to love the Lord and worship Him alone, glorifying and honouring His Name, and honouring the day and time that He had set aside for us to spend with Him, the Holy Day of the Lord, which used to be called as Sabbath and which we now keep on Sundays as our Holy Day for the celebration of the Sunday Mass.

Then, the other seven Commandments beginning with the commandment to honour our father and mother, are focused on our relationship with one another, and how we are supposed to love our fellow men, just as much as we love God. And as a whole, the entire Ten Commandments had to be honoured and obeyed as a whole, which means that we cannot truly love God unless we also show the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, and neither can we truly love one another unless we have that genuine love for God.

Then we heard in our Gospel passage today of the account of the moment when the Lord Jesus came to the Temple of Jerusalem and cleared it from all the corrupt merchants and money changers who were doing their business in the courtyard of the Temple. The Lord was furious that all of those merchants and money changers were openly doing their business and cheating the people of their hard-earned money right at the very place where God Himself placed His dwelling in this world.

While business itself by its nature is a profit-seeking action, but it was likely given the context of the time, that the merchants and the money changers had been charging the people unfairly for their services, meaning that they gained extra profits from what they sold and through what they did in the selling and money changing efforts. It is this unfairness in the actions those people took which led to the Lord striking them out of the Temple for their vices and injustice.

The merchants were the ones who sold the animals and the goods for the ritual sacrifices in the Temple, while the money changers were essential because at that time the Jewish diaspora was truly large and extensive, with many Jewish people living in far-off foreign lands and therefore had currencies of various origins that needed to be changed first into the ones recognised by the Temple. Otherwise, those foreign coins and money could not have been used for getting a proper sacrificial offering, and the offering would be unclean and unworthy.

With this context, we can see how not only that they unfairly did their work and business on the disadvantage or loss to the customers who came to them, many of whom had come from distant lands, but since many of them required the services of both money changers and the merchants, then they were unjustly treated not just once but twice of their hard-earned money. And this is in fact in direct violation of the Ten Commandments as mentioned earlier in our first reading today.

When those merchants and the money changers cheated their customers, it was a violation of the Commandment of the Lord, ‘Do not steal’ and ‘Do not covet what belongs to your neighbours’ among others. And not only that it showed contempt on one’s fellow brothers and sisters, a disregard of the commandments regarding our relationship with our fellow men, but even more so, by what had happened, they had disobeyed the Lord, tarnished His Name and the holiness of His Name and sanctuary.

Why is that so? By committing all these heinous deeds in the courtyard of the House of the Lord, they disrespected the sanctity of God and His holy Presence. They had also put their love of money and worldly pleasures above their love of God and they had idolised money and material wealth, and turned away from the Lord and His Law. And the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, by their approval of such actions blatantly taking place for so long, likely driven by business and greed, by worldly considerations, also had a share in the blame.

As the Lord cast out all the merchants and the money changers from the Temple courtyard, He also told the chief priests and the elders who challenged Him and questioned His authority of doing all those things that He would destroy the Temple and then raise it up again in three days. While those who listened to Him really thought that Jesus was referring to the physical Temple of Jerusalem, He was in fact referring to Himself as the Temple of God, as He is the Son of God and Son of Man, where the Divine Word has been incarnate in the flesh, and born as Man.

And it is a prefigurement of the crucifixion, when the Lord would lay down His life and therefore destroyed in that physical self through death, the destruction of the Temple as mentioned, and which was also symbolically represented by the tearing of the veil of the Holy of Holies when the Lord died on Good Friday. All of these served to show that the Temple is no longer just the physical Temple in Jerusalem, but in fact is referring to the Lord Himself, present in the Church and in all of us.

How is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord reminds all of us that as we are all part of the Church, the same Body of Christ, partaking in the Eucharist which is Our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood, we have ourselves become the Holy Temple of God’s Presence. St. Paul spoke of our bodies being the Temple of the Holy Spirit and how we should keep it immaculate and clean, pure and free from the corruption of sin through our genuine faith and dedication to God.

There we have the Temples far better from the Temples of Solomon and Herod, for while the latter were built by the hands of man from stone, wood, silver and gold, our bodies as the Temple of the Lord were crafted and made by God Himself. Yet, unfortunately, through sin we have allowed its corruption to make these Temple of our bodies to be corrupted and filthy, unworthy and unbecoming of the dwelling place of Our Lord and God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why during this season of Lent, and through the reminders of our Scripture passages today, we are all called to return to the Lord and obey His Law once again. Just as the Lord cleared the corruption of the Temple, the wicked merchants and money changers, we are also called to clear our own Temple, our body, mind, heart and soul from the corruption of sin. We have been given this reminder and the opportunities to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy because the Lord truly loves each and every one of us.

What shall we do then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Shall we be like those chief priests and the teachers of the Law who only obeyed the Law superficially and not with genuine intention and commitment? Shall we be like those who were only concerned about the external and superficial faith? Or shall we be genuine in our faith and commitment to God, in our love for Him and our desire to serve Him, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us all discern carefully our path forward in life that we will not lose our way easily amidst all the temptations present in this world. Let us all make good use of this season of Lent to rediscover our faith in God and our love for Him, purifying ourselves from all the corruptions of our sins, from the temptations and the allures of worldly desires and ambitions among other things.

May the Lord help us and strengthen us in this journey, that we may indeed be faithful to Him and be genuinely committed to the Commandments and Law that He has bestowed on us. The Lord has given us the guidance and the path for us to follow through the Law, and therefore, let us all endeavour ourselves to be good and even better Christians from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 28 February 2021 : Second Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the Second Sunday in the season of Lent, and we heard from our Scripture readings today about the Covenant that God has made with us all, His beloved people, and the connection between the story in the first reading today from the Book of Genesis of the action of Abraham obeying God in offering his own son Isaac to Him at Mount Moriah, with the story of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, at Mount Tabor before three of His disciples.

First of all, the story of the first reading today showed how Abraham, who after receiving joyfully the fulfilment of the prophecy of the promised son, in the form of Isaac, was asked by the Lord to offer that very son for a sacrificial offering on the Mount Moriah, as an offering for the Lord. Contextually, Isaac was the long awaited son and heir to Abraham, who had waited for a very long time but failed to have any children with his wife Sarah. But God promised Abraham and made a Covenant with him, that he would be the father and progenitor of many nations through the son that he would have with Sarah.

Thus, we can just imagine what must be in Abraham’s mind the moment he heard of the Lord asking him to do what could be considered as impossible for him, to sacrifice the very son whom he had been longing for, to offer him as a burnt offering for the Lord when the Lord had promised this son to him. Yet, as we heard from the story, Abraham obeyed unconditionally and trusted in the Lord, and told the same to Isaac, that ‘The Lord shall provide’ when Isaac was wondering why there was no sacrificial animal brought with them as they went up Mount Moriah.

Abraham obeyed God wholeheartedly although he might indeed be wondering why God would ask him to do something like that. As St. Paul later on would comment on this matter in his Epistle to the Galatians, that Abraham had such trust and faith in God that even if he were to offer Isaac, God would provide and He would do what was impossible, and that His Covenant would last no matter what, and it was this unshaken faith that was rewarded by God when He told Abraham not to harm Isaac, as He had seen how truly faithful Abraham was, even to give his most beloved son to Him without hesitation.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how is it then that this story of the offering of Isaac at Mount Moriah can be related to what we heard in our Gospel passage today, of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ? On a quick glance, the two stories may not seem to be related, but in truth, the parallel between the two go on truly much deeper than just what is evident on the surface. The offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in fact a prefigurement of what the Lord Himself would do to show His faith and commitment to the Covenant that He has made with all of us.

First of all, the Transfiguration takes place at Mount Tabor, one of the renowned mountains of Israel, just like Mount Moriah. At that time, as it was throughout the history and tradition of the people of Israel, mountains are sacred places of worship of the Divine, and the Lord was worshipped in those mountains. Just as Moses ascended up Mount Horeb when he first met the Lord in the burning bush, and later on, ascending Mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments and renewed the Covenant of God with Israel, and as the prophet Elijah also travelled to the same mountain to meet with God, thus appreciating the symbolism of Mount Moriah and Mount Tabor is very important for us to understand today’s Scripture passages.

When Abraham went up Mount Moriah, it was to offer Isaac to the Lord just as how the others at his time offer sacrifices on the mountains to the Divine. Now, when the Lord Jesus and His three disciples went up to Mount Tabor, none of those disciples could have predicted what they would witness at that mountain, when the Lord revealed the full truth about Himself as He unveiled His divinity before them, appearing in the fullness of His heavenly glory together with Moses and the prophet Elijah.

As the Lord appeared in His glory as the Son of God, Divine Word Incarnate before Moses and the prophet Elijah in the full sight of the three disciples, St. Peter, St. James and St. John, He was in fact revealing before all of them that He truly is not just a mere Son of Man, but also the Son of God Most High, the salvation of Israel and the Holy One of God, sent into the world in the flesh, God’s own Son given to us as the perfect gift of love, to redeem us and save us from the tyranny of sin and death, and to reconcile us all to Himself.

Here is where the connection between the sacrifice at Mount Moriah and the Lord Jesus came full circle, as later on, we know how the Lord would go on to pick up His Cross and go up the Mount Calvary just outside of Jerusalem during His Passion and suffering. This is significant because Mount Moriah was according to the tradition, located at where Jerusalem now stands, and therefore the offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah can indeed be compared directly to the offering of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, on Calvary in Jerusalem.

There we see the Lord Jesus, the Promised Saviour of Israel, the Son of God, Who just like Isaac, the promised son of Abraham, was tied and brought up to the mountain, bearing the wood of sacrifice, to build up the altar of the sacrifice, and for the Lord’s case, the Wood of the Cross is His Altar, the Altar of His sacrificial offering of love, where He, as the High Priest of all, offered Himself as the worthy offering for every single one of us, on the Altar of the Cross that day, when He suffered and died for us.

And that is the ultimate proof of God’s enduring love for us, His commitment to the Covenant that He has made with all of us, that has been renewed and made anew through His Son, Who offered Himself as the Mediator of this New Covenant and as the perfect and unblemished Paschal Lamb of sacrifice, offered for the atonement of all of our sins. His Most Precious Blood was spilled on the Altar of the Cross and hence, purified us who believe in Him from our sins and all the corruptions of those wickedness that have been enslaving us all these while.

What is also significant is how God saved Isaac from being sacrificed at Mount Moriah by telling Abraham to stop and provided a ram to replace Isaac for the sacrifice. This is an allusion to how Christ has become the Lamb of sacrifice Who went through the suffering and death instead of us, that He died on the Cross so that we may live and not perish because of all those sins. The Lord truly loves each and every one of us and wants nothing less than for us to be reconciled to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what do we need to do then? First of all, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the three disciples of the Lord did not want to go away and down the mountain from the blissful experience they had on Mount Tabor, even suggesting to the Lord that three tents be made for Him, Moses and the prophet Elijah, the Lord reminded His disciples that it was not meant to be that way. He had to go through the suffering and the crucifixion in order to save all mankind. And the voice of the Father could be heard, telling the disciples to listen to His Son.

This means that all of us as Christians have also been called by God, called to listen to Him and to obey Him. We are called to follow the Lord and as He Himself said, to be His followers, we have to pick up our crosses and follow Him, which means that we should dedicate our lives and our actions, to serve Him and to do what He has willed for us and what He has called us all to do. And just as the Lord Himself has not held back giving us His own Son to be Our Saviour, to suffer and die for us on the Cross, then we should not hold back either on giving ourselves to Him.

Let us all be inspired by the faith that Abraham, our father in faith had in obeying God and in putting his full trust in the Lord, the Covenant that God had made with him and in the providence of His love. Let us all be ever more faithful to the Lord in this season of Lent, spending more time with God through prayer, listening to Him and understanding His will, dedicating ourselves ever more to His cause day by day through our own actions in life.

Are we willing to make the sacrifices and the commitment to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has called us all to follow Him, and if He Himself has not held back in giving His all for us by giving us Christ to be our Redeemer, and if our forefather Abraham had not hesitated in giving even Isaac, his promised son and heir to the Lord when asked, then how about us? Are we willing to give our hundred percent to the Lord, beginning from now if we have not yet done so?

In this season of Lent therefore we are all called to be better Christians, not just in name but also in deed. This means that just as much as we dedicate ourselves to the Lord and be obedient to Him, we must then show love to our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow neighbours and all those whom we encounter in life. We are all called to be more generous in giving, not just in giving of money and material help, but even more importantly in giving more of our time and attention to others, our generosity in love, care and compassion to those who need them.

We have to remember that whatever we do to the least of our brethren, to those who are in need, we are doing it for the love of God and for our love for our fellow men. This is the kind of faith that God wants from us, and this is the kind of fasting that the Lord also seeks from us, that we do not just fast from food or abstain from meat only, but even more importantly, fast from selfishness and greed, from self-importance and vanity, and abstain from all wickedness in thoughts and deeds, in exchange for true and genuine faith in the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all thus seek the Lord with all of our heart, with all of our might and redirect our attention back towards Him, with contrite heart and with regret for all of our many sins. Let us all be thankful that He has loved us all these while, caring for us and blessing us, being patient with us even as we continue to sin against us. He even sent us His own Son to be our Saviour, dying for us that by sharing in His death through our common humanity, we may share in His resurrection and enter into a new life and existence free from sin and filled with His grace.

May the Lord continue to guide us and help us, and may He empower us all to walk faithfully in His presence always. May all of us have a blessed and most fruitful time and season of Lent, that we may draw ever closer to God and find the path to His salvation and be worthy of Him. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 21 February 2021 : First Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are all celebrating the first Sunday in the season of Lent, in which we are brought to focus our attention to the great love which the Lord has lavished on us, the love and compassionate mercy by which He willingly reached out to us in order to gather us in and to be reconciled with us, so that we will not perish due to our sinful ways but instead receive justification and grace from the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Genesis the account of the Covenant made by God with Noah and his descendants at the time when the whole earth had been subjected to the Great Flood or the Great Deluge in which the entire world was covered in the great flood after forty days of continuous rain and flooding. All of the sons and daughters of mankind were wiped out save for Noah and his immediate family who were rescued on the great Ark that God had commanded Noah to build earlier on.

God promised Noah and his descendants, who alone were righteous among the children of men, then corrupted greatly by their sins, that He would never destroy the world ever again with the Great Flood the like that Noah and his family had experienced, putting the rainbow in the clouds as a reminder of that promise. Through that act, the Lord also in fact reaffirmed the fundamental truth that God truly loved each and every one of us mankind, no matter how terrible and wicked we may have been. He has given us opportunities, again and again, one after another to repent and to turn back towards Him.

Although the details were scarce in the Book of Genesis, it was documented that the Ark took many decades to be completed, and throughout all those times, it was likely that God had kept on calling on the sons and daughters of man to turn back towards Him, not least through Noah himself and his building of the great Ark. But no one could be turned, and no one wanted to change themselves and way of life, to embrace God and His forgiveness and be saved. They rejected God’s mercy and as a result, by their own conscience choice and actions, received condemnation and destruction.

This means that as St. Peter mentioned in our second reading today, that ‘God, in His great patience, delayed punishing the world, while Noah was building the Ark, in which a small group of eight persons escaped, through water’, God truly has loved us deeply, and He never intended for us to be destroyed. But it was our own sins and our own conscious rejection of God’s forgiveness that dragged many of us and our predecessors down the slippery path towards eternal damnation and suffering.

And the symbolism of the Ark could not have been more powerful and apt given that the Church of God today, is like a great Ark that manoeuvres through the stormy and most difficult challenges of the world, carrying within it, those whom the Lord had called and chosen. Those eight people, the family members of Noah, kept their faith in the Lord and despite the great Flood and all the storm and waves raging all around them, they did not abandon the Ark or give in to their despair. They held on to their faith, and in the end, God rescued them and made a Covenant with them.

St. Peter mentioned in the same passage of his Epistle that there is the type of baptism that has saved the faithful through Jesus Christ, and this refers to the Sacrament of Baptism that countless people had received from the very beginning of the Church, that through the waters of baptism, many had been called and gathered into the Ark of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, becoming the members of the Body of Christ, with Christ Himself as the Head and as the Guide and Navigator through the stormy ‘seas’ of this world.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having established the link between the old Ark of Noah and the new Ark of the Church, in which we are all members and part of, traversing the great darkness of this world, we are all called to keep our faith in the Lord strong and firm, and not to be easily swayed by the many temptations and pressures by which those who want and seek our destruction are certainly trying to drag us into annihilation with them. That is why we have this season of Lent in order to remind us to be faithful and to persevere amidst all these challenges of life that we may encounter throughout our journey as Christians in life.

The Lord Jesus Himself was tempted by Satan in the desert just right after His baptism at the Jordan, as the devil wanted to stop Him from continuing His ministry and the works that the His heavenly Father has entrusted to Him as the One to be the Saviour of the whole world. Satan struck hard with his efforts in trying to tempt the Lord with the desire of His body, for food and sustenance, and to test God for His providence and help, by jumping down the parapet of the Temple, and lastly by tempting Him with all of the wealth and glory of the world if He would only worship him, Satan, the prince of lies and the false guide.

Through this, we are reminded yet again that temptations are real and that we will likely be hard pressed to conform and to submit to the pressures of those temptations and the expectations of others, or of any other things that lure us closer and closer to the downfall to sin. This is why, during this season of Lent, all of us are called to control our desires and restrain our flesh and body, that we may not be so easily swayed to the lies and false promises of the devil, and instead can remain ever faithful to the Lord.

As St. Peter stressed in our second reading today again, that Christ our Lord has suffered and died for our sake, in the atonement for our many sins, we have received this promise of salvation through Him. It is thanks to Him that we now have hope once again, that just as Noah and his family entered into a new world purified and cleansed from the taints of those corruptions, we too are promised the eternal bliss and true happiness of heavenly glory with God. And this we shall gain through our faith in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour alone.

But we also need to realise that our faith must not be stagnant or dead, as St. James said that faith without actions and good works are dead. This means that our faith must also be shown through real and concrete actions, through our daily living and all that we say and do, which truly exemplify our faith. Otherwise, if we profess to have faith in God and yet we do not act in the manner that is faithful to God, will it not then be a scandal of our faith, an embarrassment for our Lord and for His Church?

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, during this season of Lent, which has just recently begun, we are all called to remember our Christian faith and calling in life, to be genuine followers and disciples of the Lord, so that in all things we are truly faithful, not just in words or as merely a formality. We are all called to follow the Lord with a renewed faith and conviction from now on, and be genuinely Christian in our way of life, in how we interact with one another.

Therefore, are we willing to make this commitment to follow the Lord more wholeheartedly from now on? Are we willing and able to do what is needed for us to be true disciples and followers of the Lord? And we can begin this from ourselves, by rejecting the vanities and excesses of life, adopting a more humble lifestyle, one that is not driven by ego, desire, greed, ambition and others.

And we are also called to be more Christ-like in our actions, and hence, this Lent, we should be more loving and compassionate towards others, in giving not just material or financial help, but even more importantly, our attention, affection, time and company, especially for those who had none to love and care for them. This is our Christian charity and love, through our almsgiving, care and concern for others.

Let us all make this season of Lent meaningful and fruitful, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may truly appreciate fully God’s love for us by sharing that same love with each other, to remind ourselves that God Himself is dwelling among us, and we, the members of His Church, in His great Ark, the Church, are safe and will always be well provided for, and He will guide us and not abandon us to the darkness of this world.

May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us, and may He strengthen us all during our Lenten journey and observance, so that hopefully we may come to share eventually, the eternal joy and glory with Him just as He has promised us in the Covenant He made with us and renewed through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, by His sacrifice on the Cross. Let us all look forward to worthily celebrate this love of God at Holy Week and Easter, and make best use of this time of Lent. Amen.

Sunday, 14 February 2021 : Sixth 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 focus our attention on the Lord and His love for us that He was willing to reach out to us and to rescue us from our deepest troubles and predicaments, to lead us out of the abyss and deliver us from the sufferings we experienced due to sin. And we are all called as Christians to reflect on what our faith truly means for us.

In our first reading today from the Book of Leviticus, Moses revealed to the people of Israel the laws and rules of the Lord, which he delivered to them and asked them to keep in their hearts and minds, and to pass them on from time to time, as they journeyed from the land of Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. And today we focus in particular on the laws regarding the treatment of those who suffered from leprosy, what to be done with them.

At that time, the cause for leprosy was not well known, and the disease was often misunderstood. Leprosy is actually caused by bacterial infection that can be spread through direct contact, either with the other person or with the items that the infected person has been using or wearing. Although leprosy was not particularly infectious and it was actually not easy to contract leprosy unless through frequent contact, but we must then understand the context of the circumstances of the Exodus.

During the Exodus, the Israelites journeyed through the desert and stayed together in a close-knit community due to the harsh desert conditions of the Sinai desert and the other places they journeyed through. As a result, the density of the population within the community was likely quite high and people lived in close contact with each other regularly. And as it was in the desert, where water was scarce and although the Lord did provide water for the people to drink, but it was likely that hygiene might have been a problem for the people then.

As a result, the Law was very strict with regards to leprosy, as an outbreak of leprosy could be dangerous at the time when the people were living in such close proximity. Since leprosy is also a slow-acting and chronic infection that slowly affected those who were infected, allowing the people who got leprosy to roam around freely in the close-knit community could be harmful to the greater community. Hence, those afflicted with leprosy, which showed its symptoms quite clearly, had to stay outside the community until they could prove that they were freed from the leprosy.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what is the significance of this focus on leprosy that we have heard today? In our Gospel passage today we also heard the Lord healing a man who had been afflicted with leprosy. Until that time, over a thousand years after the Law was first revealed by Moses, the rules and traditions of the Law had been preserved and passed down for so long that the original meaning and intention, the context and appreciation of the reason of those rules had been forgotten.

That is why many of the rules and regulations enforced by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often opposed by the Lord, Who came to straighten up the truth and to reveal the true meaning and intention of the Law. He wanted all of us to know that God was not some distant, angry and wrathful God Who demanded total obedience and submission from the people, but rather, a caring and compassionate, most loving and generous God Who will bless all of us and Who seeks to be reconciled with us.

And this is where we then look again at how leprosy had been dangerous for the people back then, and how it affected them, slowly ‘eating’ through their bodies and making them to lose their body parts in time unless they could get the leprosy cured. When the man who had leprosy came to the Lord asking for Him to heal him, certainly he had been suffering and had great predicaments and troubles, being excluded and shut out for his condition. The Lord healed the man and made him good and whole again.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is in fact very symbolic of what the Lord Himself would do for our sake, in healing us from another ‘leprosy’ which is far more dangerous than the worldly leprosy. What am I referring to, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the leprosy of the soul, which is sin. Yes, sin is like that of leprosy, a disease and corruption that is even far more dangerous than the bodily leprosy. Why is that? That is because while leprosy only affects the body, sin affects everything, our every aspects of life.

And while leprosy could still be cured, and like how it has been largely eradicated today due to the advance of modern medicine and better hygiene practices, but there is nothing that can be done with regards to sin. Only God alone can forgive us our sins and heal us from its corruptions. That is why, as the Lord came and approached the man suffering from leprosy, not only that He showed us His power to heal earthly diseases, but He also revealed to us how He would also forgive us our sins.

In another miraculous occasion, the Lord healed a paralytic man and said to the man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law immediately made issue with this statement. Yet, the Lord was speaking the truth, that He indeed had the authority to forgive us our sins, and therefore heal us from this leprosy that is eating up on all of us, afflicting us and leading us down the path of suffering.

Now, what matters is whether we are willing to let Him to touch us and heal us, as He did with the man suffering from the physical leprosy. The man who suffered from leprosy wanted to be healed and he also had faith in the Lord. Hence, he was healed and made whole, and happily he went to see the priest so that he could be readmitted into the greater community, no longer exiled and cast out due to his condition.

Sin has also made us to be exiled and cast out, brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is why again it is often referred to as the ‘leprosy of our souls’. It was due to sin that we have been cast out from the Gardens of Eden, separated from God and the fullness of His grace and blessings. Sin corrupted us and made us to be unworthy to stand in God’s presence. We should have fallen into eternal damnation and share the fate of the devil and all of his fellow fallen angels, condemned for eternity if not for the love that God has for us.

God sent us nothing less than the best gift of all, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, through Whom we have been given the sure promise of salvation and healing from our sins, which He alone can heal and forgive. And He generously showed us this forgiveness and compassion, as He gathered to Himself all of our sins, bearing them down upon Himself, on His Cross that He carried up to Calvary. And by dying for us on the Cross, He offered Himself as the perfect offering for our sins, to absolve us from all those combined sins we have committed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us as Christians are called to reflect on how fortunate and blessed we are to have received God’s truth, and how fortunate we are to have been loved in such a way by the Lord, so generous with His love and so patient in always trying to reach out to us and to forgive us when we seek Him with a heart full of contrition and regret for our many committed sins, as well as the sins of omission that we have had with us.

Have we taken God’s love for granted, and ignored His great love and the great patience He had in dealing with us? Let us not disregard our loving Father’s call for us to Him anymore, and let us respond to Him with a genuine desire to commit ourselves to Him, rejecting all the temptations to sin and to disobey against His laws and commandments.

Let us realise that in God alone we can fully put our trust and be made whole, healed and liberated from all the sins that have held us down and kept us away from the true happiness that can be found with God and Him alone. And as Christians, we should be inspirations and examples to each other in the way we live our lives, filled with faith and virtue, trust in God and righteousness that all who see us and interact with us, may also come to know God through us.

May the Lord remind us always of His love and compassion, His care and dedication towards us that we too may grow in our faith and dedication towards Him, and that we may strive well against the many temptations and pressures that try to keep us away from God and His path. May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us all into life everlasting in Him, and make us all His exemplary and faithful disciples before all the peoples of all the nations. God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 7 February 2021 : Fifth 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 focus on the love and merciful compassion by which the Lord has shown to each and every one of us, the healing and the wonders He has brought upon us, to our darkened world and wretched state of life. All of us have been so fortunate to have been so beloved by God, and we should really be thankful for all that He had done for us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the reading from the Book of Job in which Job, the servant of God well-known to us for his many unfortunate sufferings, lamented his fate and his misery, all that he had endured due to the test and attacks of the devil who wanted to show God that he could lure this faithful man of God through the many trials and sufferings that he had to endure, all the losses he had received, the humiliation he got.

Yet in the darkest of moments, Job remained faithful to God and did not blame God for all of his misfortunes. Instead, he blamed himself and the circumstances for having placed him in such a predicament, lamenting and wondering why he had to live on and persevere through amidst those difficult moments. But he still kept the faith and held fast to the assurance in God, and he did not fall completely into despair.

This is then we heard afterwards the Psalm used this Sunday, that certainly sounded like a great relief after all the sorrowful and despair-filled words of the Book of Job. The Psalm chosen for this Sunday is filled with messages of hope, of deliverance and salvation, of how God saved His people and restored them all from their fallen state. This was referred to when the Lord rebuilt Jerusalem and brought back the people from their exile, a reference to the Lord’s fulfilled promise that He would not abandon them to their enemies and suffering.

Contextually, the people of Israel had suffered humiliation and great suffering when they were banished from their lands, evicted and forced to endure bitter humiliation when the Assyrians and the Babylonians came over and crushed them, destroyed their cities and conquered their lands. The Temple of God, the centrepiece and heart of the people’s worship and God’s dwelling among His people was destroyed.

Yet, amidst all of that, the Lord promised and reassured His people, the remnants of those who were still faithful to Him, and He fulfilled that promise, restoring the people their lands and the Temple of God was rebuilt and reconsecrated to God. He renewed the Covenant He had made with them and blessed them once again. This was exactly the same as what He did to Job at the end of his sufferings.

God praised Job for his faith and for remaining in His side despite all the efforts the devil had placed in trying to subvert him and putting him against God, hoping that Job would blame God for all of his misfortunes. Job remained true to the Lord to the very end, and although God did chastise him for having doubts and for his despair, but God blessed Job wonderfully and restored all that he had once lost and even gave him double and more of what he had.

It was often said by biblical scholars and historians that Job might not have been a real person, but a metaphor and representation of the people of God. Nonetheless, whether Job was real or not, what was true is that God saved His people, freed them from their troubles and healed them from their sickness, imperfections and shortcomings, and led them into a new life and existence, blessed and filled with His wonderful grace.

God has always cared for all of us even when we have constantly and consistently been disobedient and difficult to handle, like those wayward children who preferred to do things their way and refused to obey their parents. Yet, the Lord was like a patient Father, Who indeed as our loving Father genuinely cared for us despite our rebellion and sins, and wished for us to be saved, to be free from our bondage to sin and to be healed from our corruptions due to those sins and disobedience.

That was why He has given us Jesus, His only Begotten and Most Beloved Son, to be our Saviour, just as we have heard the Lord Himself performing His wonders and miracles in our Gospel passage today, in how He had pity and mercy on all those who came to Him, seeking Him for consolation, healing and guidance. The Lord touched them all, their lives and their hearts and minds, and healed them in body and soul.

And as we heard in that same Gospel passage, the Lord did not allow Himself to be swayed by pride, ambition and desire, for glory or for renown, for wealth or for any other worldly causes. When the disciples came to Him saying that many people were looking for Him and were waiting for Him, He told all of them that they had to move on to other places, for He was sent into the world for all mankind. He would not dwell in a place for long and be tempted by ambition and glory.

The Lord instead devoted Himself and His ministry in reaching out to the marginalised and the poor, those who were often ignored and abandoned, overlooked and forgotten. Do not forget, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Lord Himself has shown His love and compassion to us, when we were still sinners and He still shows the same compassion and love to us even now when we ourselves are still testing His patience, refusing to follow Him and believe in Him.

When we were in the worst of conditions like Job and the people of Israel were, He did not forget about us, but journeyed with us and showed us the way forward, even when that path forward may indeed be littered with many trials and challenges. God’s love has been made so apparent before us, in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, Who has made Himself available and approachable to all, bridging the gap between us and God, leading us down the path of reconciliation.

When St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, our second reading today, spoke of the phrase of ‘becoming all things to all people’ and in becoming the ‘slave of everyone else’ he was in fact following in the footsteps of the Lord Himself, Who has made Himself all things to all of us. He has given everything for us, even His life and suffered for us, willingly enduring the punishments meant for us, all so that we can be saved and will not perish due to our sins.

What can we all learn from these then, brothers and sisters in Christ? First of all, we must not allow despair, fear or doubt to cloud our judgment and vision of the path ahead. We need to have faith in God and wholeheartedly believe in Him just like what Job had done, and we need to have more faith and trust in Him, and be more hopeful no matter how difficult things may be for us. Of course, this is easier said than done, but we have to remember that no matter what, the Lord is always by our side, supporting us.

And then, we should also remember that as Christians all of us are called to be ‘all things to all people’ that is to make ourselves available to others, and to show our love to those who need it, those who are unloved and without hope. During this period of the pandemic, when the world are still reeling from its effects and from all the associated problems, it takes great courage for us as Christians to be the bearers of God’s light and hope, to inspire and to touch the lives of others positively. And even when we ourselves are suffering, we can still be happy and show that smile to others who have even lesser or no happiness at all.

Are we willing and able to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to follow in the Lord’s example and the inspiration showed by His innumerable saints, our holy predecessors in faith? Let us all discern this carefully today, brothers and sisters, and see in what way that each and every one of us can contribute, in reaching out to our fellow men and women, especially those who may have been downtrodden, sorrowful and without hope.

Let us all be genuine witnesses of the Lord in our daily living and at every single moments of our lives, that our every actions, words and deeds will glorify God and reveal His love and truth to even more people, that more and more will be saved and share in the joy and the true happiness found in the Lord, our loving God alone. May God bless us all and our good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 31 January 2021 : 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 readings of the Sacred Scripture, we are all presented with the assurance from God that if we focus our attention on Him, put our faith in Him and entrust ourselves to Him, in the end we have nothing to worry about, and we should not allow worldly concerns and temptations to distract us, or worse still, drag us away from the path towards redemption.

In order to understand properly the readings of the Scripture today, which may not be so easily evident and understandable, we have to understand first the context of how they were written and recorded. First of all, regarding the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy in which Moses addressed the people of Israel and promised them the coming of the great Prophet that would come from their midst, he was in fact speaking about the future coming of Christ.

Why is that so? That is because, Christ, our Lord and Saviour was born among the Israelites, as the Heir of king David no less, and He was the One promised by the Lord and prophesied by the many prophets, and that included even Moses and his proclamation, that even all those years ago, before the Israelites even reached the Promised Land and established themselves, God had begun to reveal His plan of salvation to them.

And most importantly, as we heard in our Psalm today as well, the mention of Massah and Meribah was significant as these two places were especially infamous in the history of the Exodus, as it was at Massah and Meribah that the people of God explicitly rebelled against the Lord and refused to obey Him, complaining that they did not have enough to eat and how their lives as slaves back in Egypt were better than when they were then at, in the desert.

All of these happened even though the Lord had generously taken very good care of them, providing them with food to eat, with the manna from heaven and the flocks of large birds daily along the entire journey, as well as water to drink in the middle of the mostly dry, barren and lifeless desert. The Lord had loved His people very much, and yet they had rejected Him and rose up against Him, again and again.

We also heard Moses mentioning about Mount Horeb, the place where the Israelites had come to gather and make a Covenant between them and God. That was also the place where God established His Law and gave them the Ten Commandments through Moses. However, I am sure we also remember how at that very moment, the Israelites had also distrusted the Lord yet another time, when they turned to a golden calf idol as they thought that the Lord had abandoned them when Moses went up the mountain for forty days to receive God’s Law.

We have seen how faithless the people of God had been, many times throughout their history, even through the relatively short period of the Exodus. Many of those were caused by their failure to resist the temptations and pressure to crave the desires of the world, the temptations of pleasures and money, the desires of the flesh among many other things. That was why they turned away from God.

Finally, in our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord Jesus, His works and preaching, as the fulfilment of God’s promises and the One Whom Moses and the other prophets had mentioned. And when men possessed by the evil spirits came to Him, the evil spirits even recognised the Lord and proclaimed Him as the Holy One of God, the Son of God and Saviour of the world. And the irony is how those evil spirits recognised and proclaimed the Lord when many among the people to whom the Lord had taught and performed miracles still refused to believe in Him and doubted Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, as we listened through the Scripture passages, we are all called to reflect on the nature and importance of our faith in our daily lives. Have we been truly faithful to God and have we trusted Him wholly all these time? These are some things that we really should spend time pondering on, and we need to consider how we can grow ever more in our faith and commitment.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress in life, let us all be exemplary in our actions and in how we reach out to one another, to share our faith with our fellow brothers and sisters. If we ourselves have not been truly faithful then how can we expect others to be faithful as well? The Lord is calling on all of us to turn towards Him with faith, and to be true and genuine witnesses of our Christian faith, our belief in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all.

Let us all be filled with God’s grace and love; and let us do our best in our every moments in life to lead one another towards the salvation in God. May the Lord give us the strength and the courage to continue walking ever more faithfully in His path from now on. May He bless all of our works and our interactions, that we may call ever more souls from the darkness of this world and into the eternal light and glory in God. Amen.

Sunday, 24 January 2021 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday which is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time we also mark the occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, and this year we celebrate the second time this occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, after our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted it in his Apostolic Letter Aperuit Illis on 30 September 2019.

This institution of the Sunday of the Word of God is an important reminder for all of us that the Sacred Scriptures, in which is contained the very Word of God, and which is the Word of God itself, is very important and central in our Christian faith and living. We cannot be true Christians unless we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God into our hearts and live our lives according to it.

Why is it important then that we appreciate, understand and internalise the Word of God in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because if we do not know what the Word of God is, then how can we say that we know about our Christian faith? Our faith is more than just attending the Mass and doing our various devotions. Unless we deepen our understanding of the Word of God, then it will be difficult for us to remain faithful to God.

What do I mean by this? It means that without the Word of God in our lives, then our faith will be just like a house built on weak foundation, just as the Lord’s parable on the two houses, one built on sand and the other built on a firm rock foundation had illustrated this. If we do not know of this parable, or any other parables, or any other words of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets and the Apostles, then it shows just how lacking our knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures are.

Many people have criticised and spoken about us as Catholics that have not enough or appreciable knowledge about the Scriptures. Regardless of the context and intention, the sad reality is that this is the truth for quite a few of us. However, this problem in fact also extends to all Christians, regardless of denomination, for knowing the Scriptures also often does not equate to understanding the Word of God.

Take for example the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. These people were very knowledgeable about the Torah and could probably have memorised the entire verses of the Old Testament, the sayings of the prophets, and even learnt it all by heart. However, they did not understand fully the meaning of those words and the intention of those Word of God, and ended up making their own interpretations and following the flawed understanding of the Law, which made them to oppose much of the good works of God.

Therefore, in a similar way, unless we really make the effort to understand and internalise the Word of God into our lives, and learn of the true meaning, intention and purpose of God’s words, then it will be difficult for us to live a truly Christian way of life. And we cannot do this unless we make the effort to bring the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures into our lives, by spending time to read and reflect on them.

We must appreciate the fact that the Word of God is now so easily and readily available to us because in the past, there was no such thing as a printed Bible available for every single Christians and for the multitudes of the people. The Bible is easily one of the most if not the most printed literary work out there, and it is all the more special because the Bible is itself, the Word of God contained through the revelations of the prophets, the authors and the Apostles inspired by the Holy Spirit.

However, we also have to keep in mind that while first of all of course we must make the effort to read the Scriptures and spend time to know more about the contents of the Bible, the Word of God, we must also understand it properly and meaningfully. Otherwise, we will end up like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who misinterpreted the Word of God and the Law, and like the many people who had fallen into various heresies in the history of the Church.

It is very easy for us to misunderstand the true purpose and meaning of God’s words, just as Satan himself showed us during his temptation of the Lord Jesus, when he tried to use the verses of the Scripture and twisting its meaning and intention in order to try to persuade the Lord to fall into temptation and stop His works in saving us all mankind. But the Lord immediately rebuked the devil with other words of the Scriptures and defeated him, while revealing the wickedness of the devil’s intentions.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the Sunday of the Word of God, we are reminded of the gravity of our responsibility as Christians, first of all to familiarise ourselves with the Word of God, and there is no better way to do that than to read the Scriptures and spend quality time in reading through the words written about the works of the Lord among His people, and the truth that He has revealed to us through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

However, we cannot just read the Scriptures separately on their own, or else, we may end up misinterpreting, misunderstanding and even worse still misusing the words of the Scriptures for the wrong purposes and intentions. Throughout history, that was how many different heretical sects had caused so much division within the Church and caused bitter struggle between the members of the faithful people of God.

That is why, all of us need to adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, the Magisterium of the Church, through which the Lord has preserved the truth that was contained within our Christian faith, as passed on to us through the Apostles and their successors. That was how the Church has persisted and persevered in maintaining the truth of God despite all the divisions and heresies that had happened throughout the past two millennia.

We must remember that the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Traditions of the Magisterium of the Church are the two important pillars of our faith, and they cannot be separated from each other. The Sacred Scriptures themselves came about by the authority of the Church and the Magisterium, who deliberated and decided on the list of the books and portions considered as ‘Canonical’, while rejecting many others of dubious origins and quality, or incoherent in its message.

At the same time, the Church and its Magisterium must remain true and faithful to the truth contained within the Word of God, the revelation of truth by Christ Himself, the Logos, the Divine Word Incarnate. Thus, both the Sacred Scriptures and the teachings of the Church together become the pillar and foundation of support for our genuine and authentic Christian faith and expression.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture readings we can clearly see how each and every one of us as Christians are called to follow the Lord and to be His true disciples and faithful witnesses in our respective communities, much as the prophet Jonah was sent to the people of Nineveh, calling on all to repent and turn back towards God.

All of us are the parts of the Church and therefore, we share in its mission to bring forth the truth and the Word of God to all the peoples of all the nations, following in the footsteps of the Apostles that the Lord had called and chosen. By our baptism, we too have been called and chosen to the same purpose and ministry. If we think then that we are unworthy or incapable of such deeds, then we need to realise that it is God Who makes us worthy, and as long as we trust in Him and put our faith in Him, then we have nothing to worry about.

And we do not need to do great and mighty things, as even the smallest and seemingly least significant of actions are what it takes for us to contribute to the cause of the Lord and His Church. Each and every one of us should therefore deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Word of God in the Scriptures, and make the effort to know more about the teachings of the Church, so that we will uphold the two pillars of our faith.

Through all these, we shall be true disciples and followers of the Lord, and by our actions and examples, we can inspire one another and so many other people, and through us, the Lord shall call many more to follow Him. Let us all therefore be the bearers and witnesses of God’s truth and be filled with the Word of God in all of our lives, in each and every one of our actions, now and always.

May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, Who has revealed to us His truth and love, continue to guide us and be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good works and endeavours, in proclaiming His Word through our lives and actions. May God be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, 17 January 2021 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we celebrate the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, all of us heard the words of the Lord through the Sacred Scriptures reminding us that all of us have been called and chosen by Him and we are all called to respond to His call for us to follow Him and to be His disciples. And this is in essence, what it truly means for us to be Christians, that we devote ourselves to the Lord and do what He has commanded us to do, His will and commandments.

In our first reading today we heard of the calling of the prophet Samuel when he was merely just a young boy in the care of Eli, the Judge and leader of Israel. The Lord called Samuel, who was sleeping and was still so young that he had not yet comprehend who the Lord truly was. He thought that Eli had called him and came to ask him again and again, only for Eli eventually to realise that the Lord had called Samuel. And Samuel answered the Lord call innocently and honestly, and God was with him through his life from then on.

Samuel would become a great leader over all of Israel succeeding Eli, as Judge and Leader, as well as a great Prophet and also a Priest of the Lord, for Jewish tradition stated that he belonged to the tribe of Levi. Samuel dedicated his life to the Lord, guiding and shepherding all of the Israelites through difficult moments, especially when they fell into sin and disobeyed the Lord. He gave Israel their first king when he anointed Saul as the king of Israel after the people complained and insisted to have a king over them. And even still he did not stop doing works for the sake of the people.

All the more in fact Samuel’s work grew as we should know how king Saul eventually disobeyed the Lord and became unfaithful. Samuel often stood up against Saul and rebuked him for his unfaithfulness, something that must have indeed required a lot of courage and faith, which Samuel had in his service to the Lord and His people. Samuel anointed David as king over Israel to replace Saul, and although he was to disappear from the records of the Scripture not long afterwards, likely as he was already very old at that time, but his contributions to the people of God cannot indeed be underestimated.

In our Gospel reading then we heard of the calling of the first disciples by the Lord, when He came to the River Jordan and was baptised by St. John the Baptist, and then the latter revealed to two of his own disciples Who Jesus really was, the Lamb of God and promised Messiah or Saviour of the world. Those disciples, one of whom was St. Andrew the Apostle, then decided to follow the Lord and asked Him firstly where He stayed.

The Lord then asked them to follow Him, and from then on, they were convinced by the Lord, and St. Andrew introduced Him to his brother Simon, as well as the other fishermen, the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee. St. Andrew introduced the Lord as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. The Lord called them to follow Him as well, and they all followed the Lord as well, leaving behind their boats and professions, and walked with God from then on.

The Lord gave Simon a new name, that is Cephas, the Aramaic word for ‘stone’, which is Greek is Petros, and in Latin, Petrus, and thus, henceforth, he would be known as St. Peter the Apostle. They all followed the Lord, and with other followers and disciples, listened to the Lord, did what He asked them to do, and eventually, after His Passion, death and Resurrection, were commissioned and sent to the many peoples of the nations, establishing the Church of God.

In those two readings therefore we heard of the Lord calling His people to follow Him, with the example of Samuel, when he was but just a young boy, and then the poor fishermen of Galilee, the brothers Andrew and Simon Peter, James and John the sons of Zebedee. They all acted on the Lord’s call, responded, not just with words, but with action and eventually, a lifetime of dedication and commitment. Samuel dedicated his whole life to serve the Lord, and all the brothers-turned-Apostles mentioned suffered martyrdom for their faith and dedication.

How about us all then, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has called us all as well, through our common baptism. As we become part of the Church through baptism, we have had a share in the same calling and mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and followers, especially the Great Commission, to ‘go forth to the nations and be witnesses of the Lord and His Good News, and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’

All of us share in this same mission by our common baptism, and all of us are urged to be active in contributing ourselves to the works of the Church, and to live our lives as good and faithful Christians at all times and in all things. We cannot call ourselves as Christians unless we are active in living our faith, and doing whatever we can to commit ourselves to the good cause of the Lord. Otherwise, we are no better than hypocrites who believe one thing and then act in a different and even contradictory way.

Then, if we are all wondering if we are up to the task of doing what we have been called to do, we should look no further than those whom the Lord Himself had called. Samuel was just merely a boy when he was called, while the fishermen of Galilee were illiterate, poor, unknown and had no prior experience in the faith. They had little knowledge of the Scriptures and little wealth or means to support themselves. But that was where then they learnt to trust in the Lord, to allow the Lord to lead and guide them, to teach them and show them the way to go to.

That was also the contrast between them and the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were highly educated and highly knowledgeable on the Scriptures and the teachings of the prophets and the elders. Many of them refused to believe in the Lord and follow Him because they presumed that they knew more and better than others. It was this ego and pride that became stumbling block in their way to the Lord. But some among them, like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and others, they were humble and willing to listen to the Lord, and thus, were counted among the Lord’s disciples themselves.

We can see that one does not have to be qualified and capable to follow the Lord. A poor man can be a disciple just as a rich man can, a man without education or much knowledge, intellect or abilities can be a follower of the Lord just as a smart or genius can, and a sinner, no matter how great, can also be a follower of the Lord, provided that the sinner is willing to abandon his or her sinful ways, turn their back against their past, wicked ways, and embrace the Lord fully and be His true disciple.

Aren’t all of us sinners too, brothers and sisters in Christ? Whether our sins be small or great, in some way or another, we have sinned against Him, and even after we have been baptised, we may end up falling again and again into sin through the many temptations present all around us. But this should not discourage us from embracing the Lord and responding to His call. Just as He has called His disciples from all sorts of origins, and some, like His own Apostles, were sinners, and committed sins and faults, like how St. Peter denied the Lord three times at His Passion, and how the others abandoned Him at the same time, no disciple of the Lord is perfect.

Instead, we must allow the Lord to take our imperfections, and allow Him to lead us down the path towards perfection in Him. For the Lord made worthy those whom He had chosen, and not we who make ourselves worthy for the Lord. If we think that we are more worthy than others, that is when we allow pride and ego, jealousy and ambition to cloud our thoughts and judgments, distracting us from our true intention and purpose of following God. Rather, we should focus on the Lord and our faith in Him, and discern in what way we can contribute for the work of the Church.

We should make use of this opportunity to make use of whatever God has given us to be the true witnesses of our Christian faith, by being exemplary in life and in all the things we do, in our every interactions and in even the smallest actions we carry out daily. In our second reading today, St. Paul reminded all of us that we are all the Temples of God’s Holy Presence, the Temples of the Holy Spirit. By our baptism, the Lord Himself has dwelled among us, and being present within us. Therefore, we should do our very best to uphold an exemplary Christian life, one that is filled with genuine action and righteousness.

Let us all not worry about how we are going to follow the Lord. Have faith in the Lord and entrust ourselves in His hands just as how the Apostles had done, and He will lead us down the right path. And the Lord will make us all worthy, strengthening and empowering us to do what He wants us to do, in glorifying His Name and proclaiming His truth in the world today. Let us all be the beacons of God’s light, living an honest and good Christian living that our lives will become genuine examples and inspiration for others to follow.

May the Lord Who calls us to be His disciples be with us always and bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, that we may serve Him from now on, in leading more and more souls to the salvation in God, continuing the good works began by the Apostles and faithful servants of God, following Him faithfully like them and the prophet Samuel of old. Amen.

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the last day of the liturgical season of Christmas as beginning tomorrow we will begin the Ordinary Time that will last up to the day before Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. And today as mentioned, we recall the extraordinary occasion of the Lord’s baptism at the Jordan by St. John the Baptist, marking the beginning of His ministry in this world.

On this day, we remember that moment when the Lord came to the River Jordan, asking St. John the Baptist to do what he was supposed to do, in baptising Him so that by passing through the water of baptism, He may come to share in our baptism and show unto us the depths of God’s amazing love for each and every one of us. Through the Lord’s baptism, all of us are brought closer to experience the fullness of the truth about God’s love.

We may be wondering why is it that the Lord had to undergo His baptism at the Jordan, because the baptism of St. John was the baptism of repentance, of the desire of man to turn back against their sinful and wicked ways, and embrace God’s love and grace. But the Lord was without any sin, and sin has no place in Him, so how is it then that the Lord asked for baptism from St. John?

This was precisely also why St. John was completely taken by surprise when the Lord asked him to baptise Him, and in fact St. John told the Lord that it was Him Who was supposed to baptise him, a human and a sinner as he was, even though he was indeed the Herald of the Saviour. St. John the Baptist himself had said that he was unworthy to even untie the sandals of the Lord, Who would come after him.

And here we see the Lord instead humbling Himself and abasing Himself so lowly that He was willing to take the place and position of a servant and a sinner, by asking to be baptised by St. John. Through His baptism, the Lord showed us that He truly wants to reach out to us, and to rescue us from our sins. And by this baptism, the Lord revealed before all, what He would do in order to save us all.

We celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord just right after the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord because traditionally together with the events of the Epiphany, as well as the Wedding at Cana, the Lord manifested and revealed Himself, His nature and the purpose of His coming into this world to all of us plainly, revealed before all of us that we may come to know of the infinite love of God.

The Lord at His Baptism was revealed by the Father Himself to be His Son, as the heavens were opened and the Lord’s voice was heard, ‘This is My Son, My Beloved, My favour rests on Him’. And a dove came down on the Lord, descending on Him from the Father, the symbol of the descent of the Holy Spirit. And therefore, at that very moment, the Lord did not just reveal His Son to be the Saviour of all, but also His nature as a God in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

At Christmas, we have seen the salvation of our God coming down to us in the flesh, born as Man, through the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit through Mary, the Mother of God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In Our Lord, Jesus Christ, we have therefore seen the perfect manifestation of God’s love and His desire to save us all mankind, to make us whole again and to heal us from our predicaments and bondage to sin.

Now that we all know of how fortunate we are to have been beloved by God and how we have received this share in the glory and salvation in God through our own Christian baptism, sharing in the baptism of Christ, then we must reflect on just how important our baptism is to us, and what is meant for us to be Christians, having been brought into the Church through the holy water of baptism.

Through baptism, all of us have received a share in Christ, sharing in His humanity and in all that He had suffered, as He gathered all of our sins and their consequences to Himself, all nailed to the Cross as He suffered and eventually died. And through our baptism, we have been led through the waters, just as the Israelites of old passed through the Red Sea on their journey from slavery into freedom.

Thus, we have died to our old lives of sin and bondage to those sins, and brought through the power of God, via the holy waters of our Baptismal sacrament, and became new, free sons and daughters of mankind, and also becoming the children of God, by adoption because if Christ is the Son of God, then all of us who share in the humanity of Christ also become sons and daughters of God.

And as God’s beloved children and the people of the Light of God, today as we recall in the Lord’s baptism, marking the beginning of His ministry in this world, all of us are then reminded of the great commission that the Lord Himself has entrusted to us, to all baptised Christians and members of His Church. This commission is for us to go forth to the nations and baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must be the bearers of God’s truth and love to the nations, to all the people as members and parts of the Church. There are still so many people out there who have not yet received God’s truth and appreciate or know God’s love, unlike what we have ourselves received and experienced. And it is indeed up to us to share and reveal what we know to others.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is not by loud words and proclamations, but rather through our every actions in life, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to be. Even the smallest actions can either make people to come to believe in God through us, or to push people away from God and His salvation. It is by all these that we can either inspire or prevent people from coming to God.

We can become genuine and good witnesses of our Christian faith through our dedication and faithful actions, in showing love and kindness, compassion and empathy to others whenever we can, in showing care and concern for those who need them, in loving sincerely and generously just as the Lord has loved us. Or have we instead caused scandal for our faith by our immoral and wicked actions?

These are some things that we really need to think about and consider carefully as we proceed in life. That is why, as we end this season of Christmas and begin the season of Ordinary Time, are we going to make these next few weeks be truly ordinary, brothers and sisters in Christ? Although they are called the days and season of the Ordinary Time, by no means in fact that they should be ordinary.

Rather, it means that it is time for us to get our actions ready and to do something, to participate as we should in the good works of the Church, just as the Lord Himself began His ministry after His baptism. Baptism is not the end of our faith journey, brothers and sisters in Christ, but it is in fact the beginning of a new journey, a journey filled with God’s grace and blessed by Him.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ, to be fully dedicated to the Lord at all times, and to do whatever we can with the time and the opportunities given to us. Let us all contribute to the good works of the Church, and be faithful and genuine witnesses of Christ through our lives, and through how we touch the lives of others positively, at all times. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, one of the most important celebrations of the Liturgical Year. This Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the revelation of the Messiah or the Saviour of the world to all the nations and the peoples of the world. The word Epiphany came from the Greek word ‘Epiphaneia’, which means revelation and manifestation.

That is why today, on this celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord, we focus our attention on the manifestation and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the whole world to all the nations, represented by the Holy Magi or the Wise Men. That is why the celebration of the Epiphany is closely tied to the Three Wise Men or Magi, and in the Gospel we heard of the account of their visit to the Lord at His manger in Bethlehem, guided by the bright Star of Bethlehem.

The Magi saw the Star of Bethlehem from afar as a very prominent and bright star, and as they were educated and intelligent people who perhaps dwelled in astrology and other studies, they knew that a very prominent event was about to happen, and in this case, it was the upcoming birth and arrival of the Saviour of the world as prophesied by the many prophets and wise men throughout the centuries and millennia past.

They undertook the very long and arduous journey from their respective lands, as was common at that time, travelling a long time and enduring difficult conditions to reach the place pointed at by the Star. Although their names were not recorded in the Scriptures, but according to the Church traditions, their names were Caspar or Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar or Balthazar. Their places of origin were often given as India, Persia and Arabia or other relatively distant places.

We heard of how they came to king Herod, the ruler of the land, both to ask for advice and direction, as well as to courteously seek permission to find the One prophesied and shown by the Star, which happened to be in the land under the rule of the king. Herod however became immediately suspicious and fearful over the news of a rival King that would come into the world, fearing that this King would seize the power and authority from him and his family.

King Herod the Great himself was in fact not a Jew or descendant of the Israelites, but rather a Nabatean, one of the neighbouring people of the Israelites. He also seized power from the rightful rulers of the land, the Hasmoneans in a coup engineered and supported by the Romans, who then came to be overlords of the region. As such, king Herod the Great always felt very insecure in his reign, and this news of the coming of a new King certainly unsettled him a lot.

Nonetheless, the Magi managed to get his permission, regardless of the vicious plots that Herod would later on execute in trying to destroy this new threat to his reign as king. The Magi eventually came to Bethlehem after a long journey and saw the King of kings, the One shown to them by the Star and prophesied by the prophets, and they recognised Him and paid Him homage.

And now I want to bring all of our attentions to the gifts that each of the Magi brought before the Lord in homage and submission. Each of these gifts were precious on their own and had great symbolic meaning and importance. The gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh had greater symbolic meaning than what their earthly values might have shown, and it revealed to us all, Who the Lord that the Magi had paid homage to, truly is.

First of all, the gift of gold signifies royalty and kingship, as gold at that time symbolises glory and wealth just as it is still the case today. Therefore this gift of gold signifies that the Lord was truly a King, and indeed not just like any other kings of this world, but the one True King of all, the King of Kings and Lord of lords. He has come into this world as King but not behaving like other kings, for instead of seeking to be served, He came to serve His people, His beloved ones.

Then, the gift of frankincense has two important meaning, first being a symbol of Christ’s role as the High Priest of all, the one True and Eternal High Priest signifying how He would offer the perfect sacrifice and offering to redeem us from our sins, and be the worthy sacrifice and absolution from our shortcomings. Incense is usually used by the priests as the offering of prayers to the gods, and in this way, it emphasised Christ’s High Priest role.

Frankincense then is also a mark of Christ’s divinity, for when offered to Him in homage by the Magi, this offering of the finest quality incense signified the sanctity of God, that the Child born of Mary in Bethlehem was not just a mere Man or a mere Child. He is God Himself in the flesh, possessing two distinct but inseparable natures of Man and Divine concurrently in the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Last of all, is the gift of myrrh from the Magi. On a hindsight, the gift of myrrh is truly a bewildering one given that while myrrh is an expensive commodity and spice highly sought after and rare, but it was also commonly used in the preservation and embalming of dead bodies, which is why given that this was presented to the Child Jesus, it might have been strange at a glance.

However, the myrrh is an important reminder and revelation of the role that the Lord would take up in fulfilling His ministry, as the precursor and sign to His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross. The myrrh therefore marked the great sacrifice and love of God for us all that He would even suffer and go through the most terrible pain and humiliation for our sake, unto death for us.

The gifts of the Magi, the gold, frankincense and myrrh therefore revealed the true nature of the Lord and Saviour, He Who is King over all and the Lord over all things, Who is also the Most High and Almighty God, and at the same time, also the Eternal High Priest of all creation, having been incarnate as Man, and through His humanity united to His divinity, He would suffer for our sake, bearing His Cross of love, that through His suffering and death, all are to be saved from their sins and from the eternal damnation.

The Lord has revealed Himself to the Jews, to His own people at the moment of His presentation and circumcision at the Temple of God, and then now, as celebrated in this Epiphany, He has also revealed Himself and His intentions to the non-Jewish people as well, showing that everything He has promised, He would do for everyone without bias or regard for their race or origin, their status or descent among others. All are equally beloved by God, and He is the Lord and Saviour of all.

On this Solemnity of the Epiphany, we are therefore brought to focus on the Lord’s ever present love for each and every one of us, and reminded of the same love that He has showered on us from the very beginning. Through Christ all of us have seen the salvation of God, and while once we were in the darkness, but through Him and our faith in Him, hope has been restored to us, and we have been strengthened and rejuvenated as God’s beloved children once again.

On this day as we focus on the revelation of the Lord to the nations, as He has shown Himself to the Magi, let us all remember the dedication and commitment of the Magi who answered the Lord’s call and sought for Him as they braved the dangers of the long journey just so that they might pay homage to Him and to worship Him. Their faith is an inspiration to all of us, just as according to the Church traditions, the Magi lived to old age and became Christians themselves, and took part in their respective ministry until their lives’ end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, on this Solemnity of the Epiphany, are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of the Magi and seek the Lord with renewed zeal and love for Him? Are we willing to renew our faith and commitment to the Lord, that we may ourselves be inspiration for our fellow brothers and sisters, and through us, we may inspire even more people and call more people to the Lord’s salvation and grace? This is our calling as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us all inspire each other to be ever more faithful to God in all things that we may truly be worthy to call ourselves as Christians and bear the Light of Christ within ourselves. May our actions and deeds, our words and interactions be like the bright Star of Bethlehem shining its bright light in the darkness of the world. Let us all bear faithful witness to our Lord and Saviour, for all the love and commitment He has shown us all these while.

May God, our Lord, King, High Priest and Saviour, revealed and manifested to the whole world, be our Light and Guide, and may He be our Strength as we continue to walk faithfully in His presence in this world bearing witness to His truth and love. May He bless us all in our every good endeavours and works, now and always. Amen.