Sunday, 27 September 2020 : 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, this Sunday we have heard from the readings of the Sacred Scriptures of the calling for us all to follow the path of the Lord, to listen to Him and obey His commandments, to follow His examples and to be faithful in our Christian way of life, and be genuine in how we live up to our faith by real actions and interactions with one another, and not just by mere words alone.

This means that we cannot have a faith that is empty and without real application in our lives, as a faith that is without application in good works and deeds, as St. James the Apostle put it, is a dead faith. It does not mean that by our deeds alone that we are earning our salvation, but rather, one who has faith cannot possibly be truly faithful without being committed in action in accordance to that faith.

Neither can one be good and do good, without that seed of faith planted in that person by God growing in him or her. Do all of us remember the parable of the sower? The different places where the seeds spread by the sower fell on determine whether those seeds grow and produce fruits or not. Only in those who has received the faith and acted on it, that the faith bear rich fruits, the fruits of our salvation.

As Christians, we are God’s chosen people, whom He has called and brought into His Church through Baptism. We have been made His own adopted and beloved children, and because of that, we are all expected to follow His will, to obey His Law and commandments. How can we do this if we do not live up our faith and if we do not act in ways that are in accordance to His teachings?

That is exactly the point that the Lord Jesus is trying to point out to His disciples and thus to all of us as described in our Gospel passage today. The Lord spoke to His disciples asking them who between two children were truly faithful, between one of them who said to their father that he would obey but did not obey by action in the end, and another who said that he would not obey but in the end, still did what the father asked for.

This is related to our first reading today, in which the prophet Ezekiel spoke of how the righteous would perish by their sins and disobedience, or how the wicked would be saved by their obedience and faith. This was a reminder from God to His people through Ezekiel, a prophet sent to the people of God at the time of their lowest and most sorrowful, having lost their Promised Land, conquered and humiliated among the nations, that should they change their attitudes and obey the Lord once again, they would be forgiven and be worthy of God’s love and grace again.

Similarly, it is a reminder that no one should be pretentious thinking that they had been chosen and saved, without the need for action, taking it for granted that they have received such a grace from God and therefore can just enjoy its benefits and without the need to do anything. Faith like that is merely superficial and for show, and not a genuine, living faith that God wants from us. And it is even worse still if we use this as an excuse for us to be judgmental on others as well, to look down on others just because we think that we are better or more faithful and pious than them.

That is why, we are reminded again and again, to be loving and to show care and compassion on one another, and to be Christians means that we should follow what St. Paul told the Church and the faithful in Philippi, to be filled with the love of Christ, not to despise or look down on others, not to be judgmental and vicious or harsh on those who are in need of our love and attention. We are called to love as Christ Our Lord Himself has loved.

In that same passage, we heard the famous lines from the Epistle to the Philippians, highlighting the humble obedience and the great love that the Lord Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour had shown, that He willingly humbled Himself and took upon Himself to bear the most painful burden of the Cross, on which lies our sins, the whole multitude of it, the punishment due for those sins. That is the kind of selfless love that each and every one of us have been called to show in our daily lives, as the sign of our living and true Christian faith.

Do we remember the Lord’s words, “All that you have done to the least of these, you have done it unto Me?” And He said before this, how these people were the least among the people, those who were naked, suffering, imprisoned, lonely, all those who were encountering misfortune in life. That is why this Sunday, as it coincides with the World Day of Migrant and Refugees, we remember all the plight of those suffering, especially the migrants and refugees in the world today.

Migrants are all those who have left their place of birth or the place where they used to live in, and moved to another place or country from various reasons. Some had to leave because they looked for better opportunities elsewhere, to have a better life for themselves and for their families, while others had to move because of unfortunate circumstances, separated from their family members, and in which it may overlap with refugees, who are those displaced and forced to leave their countries because of conflict, wars and even persecution and genocides.

Many of these migrants and refugees are suffering as they had suffered previously, throughout their time spent away from their homeland. Majority did not have much to survive on, and many had to sustain their families and children, while having to fend various challenges. Those who chose to settle permanently in their new homeland and countries faced rejection and prejudice, injustice and even attacks, having to endure racist attitudes and inequality at work among other things.

Refugees in particular often had to live in cramped and unsanitary refugee camps, with thousands packed in place that they had no choice but live in, for if they had remained in their original places, they might have suffered even worse or killed. And similarly, many of them are suffering from prejudice and injustice, and they are often rejected and shunned by the rest of the society in general.

Some of us argued that they deserved such treatment because they are different from us, or that there might be some bad people among them, which became especially worrisome in the recent years due to the rise of religious fundamentalism. But this has happened throughout history, and while some of them might indeed be bad, but let us all not forget in our first reading today, that the Lord said, even the righteous will die, perish and be condemned into hell if they sin and refused to turn away from that sin, and how the wicked would be saved if they embraced God’s forgiveness.

How are we acting as Christians then if we do not embrace those who are in need of love and help, compassion and assistance? And how Christ-like are we if we look down upon and condemn those whom we despise as our enemies and dismiss as hardline fundamentalists when Our Lord Himself has forgiven His enemies and prayed for them? This is why it is so difficult for us to be true and genuine Christians, for to be a true and genuine Christians, we need to reach out to these suffering brothers and sisters of ours, and overcome whatever prejudices and fears we have.

And we must not forget that we ourselves are migrants in this world, and in fact even refugees. After all, wasn’t it Adam and Eve, our very first ancestors who had been banished from Eden because of their disobedience and sins? They had to endure hardships and sufferings in this world just as those migrants and refugees suffer now. And many of our forefathers were probably migrants themselves, or even refugees fleeing from war and destruction.

We have to consider ourselves lucky and blessed if we have a good life, but before we become prejudiced against others, or treat some worse than how we treat our loved ones, then let us remember that perhaps, our own forefathers, our grandparents, ancestors and all of them somewhere and sometime had once endured the other end of the prejudice and injustice, inequality and even persecution, even though they were all equally human beings, children of God all the same.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore keep these in mind and discern how we, as Christians can better live up to our Christian faith and calling, to be genuine and faithful as the followers of Christ, He Who loves us all equally and Who has lowered Himself to be in the position of a slave, bearing His Cross and suffering for us out of love, that we may be saved. Can’t we do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly those who are really in need of our help, those migrants and refugees?

Let us all be more empathetic to their suffering and listen more to their story and understand them better, rather than easily being swayed by false rhetorics and ideas that are unfortunately rampant in our increasingly xenophobic and individualistic world. Remember, that we too, are migrants and refugees in this world as I mentioned earlier, and what we do not want to happen to us, then let us not do on those who need our love and empathy, and not hurtful words, prejudices and worse still, persecution.

May the Lord, our loving God and Father, guide us in our journey of faith so that each and every one of us as Christians may come to walk more faithfully in His path, to be righteous in all of our deeds, avoiding actions of prejudice, showing hatred or being hurtful against others, and instead, to show genuine Christian love, showing the same love of Christ, pure and selfless love for our fellow brothers and sisters.

They may look different, talk in different language, has different cultural practices than ours, but they are our brothers, our sisters, our family, the same God’s beloved children. May God help us to love selflessly and generously, to give without counting the cost, and to show mercy when we are able to. May God guide us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 20 September 2020 : Twenty-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 seek God with all of our strength, and to purify ourselves from sins and wickedness, as mentioned in our Scripture today. The prophet Isaiah in our first reading passage today spoke of this call for all of us mankind to turn to God and to trust in the Lord in all that He had planned for us, responding to His call and follow Him into the path of righteousness.

Contextually, the prophet Isaiah was addressing a people who had had plenty of history of disobedience and unfaithfulness against God, as they frequently abandoned God for false idols and pagan gods and goddesses, living wickedly and indulging in the excesses of the worldly pleasures. Prophets and messengers had been sent to their midst from time to time to call them back and to repent from their sinful ways.

And it is truly reminiscent of what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord spoke of a parable that related the story of a vineyard owner that was seeking for workers to work in his field. He went out to seek those workers, and as he found some of them, he called them to work in his fields. Those workers and people gathered from many places represent those whom God had called to Him, including all of us.

In that parable, the vineyard owner went out and gathered some people to be his servants and workers in the field. And as time moves on, the owner continued to look for more workers, and went out all the way to seek for the workers, and called those whom he gathered to work in the field. And he continued doing so until the eleventh or the final hour, in which he again went out to gather workers from those who were by the roadside and from other places.

In this, we heard how the vineyard owner went out of his way, gathering as many workers as possible for his vineyard. The vineyard owner represents the God Himself, our Lord and Master, while as mentioned, all those whom the owner called represent all of us. And thus, in all these, we heard how God is reaching out to us, His beloved people, sending messengers, prophets, and all those servants to call us, to remind us that we may be reconciled and reunited with Him.

And the meaning of this parable, its subtle details are truly significant, if we come to realise how God loves us all so much that He constantly tried to call us and to bring us back to His embrace, then we must truly be grateful and appreciate the many opportunities that He has given to us all these while. But unfortunately, many of us are not aware, ignorant and not being thankful for the love that God has shown us.

Instead, we still continue to live in sin, and we ignore God’s reminders and patient efforts to reach out to us. Nonetheless, God did not easily give up on us. Until the very last moment, to the very last hour, as long as we are still breathing and living, it is never too late for us to repent with all of our heart, and we can still be forgiven by God, and be reconciled completely to Him. And in this case, I can bring one example of a real encounter between a woman and St. John Vianney, the famous saint and priest.

At that time, a woman came to St. John Vianney, just as many thousands others did, and this particular woman wanted to tell him and confide in him that she was devastated and worried because her husband had committed suicide by jumping down from a bridge into the water and perished. Suicide is a mortal sin for taking one’s own life in direct disobedience against God Who is the Lord and Master of all life, and taking one’s own life is truly a serious sin because our lives are not ours to take.

St. John Vianney was very popular and the queue for the people to see him was always very long. The wife of the man who committed suicide wanted to give up after queueing for many hours, when suddenly St. John Vianney exclaimed joyfully, addressing that particular woman, that her husband had been saved from the fires of hell normally reserved for those who committed mortal sins like suicide.

When the woman kind of did not believe in him, St. John Vianney once again stressed it out and repeated it clearly to her, that her husband has been saved, and had entered into Purgatory, where he would remain for a while to be purified from his sins, but with the ultimate destination and assurance of Heaven in the end. St. John Vianney likely received a heavenly and mystical vision he was also known for, seeing and knowing what happened even before the woman even approached him.

And truly, that man who committed suicide was really fortunate that he has been spared from the utter and eternal suffering and destruction. And all of these were because the man, just right before he hit the water, had managed to make a genuine act of contrition, regretting sorrowfully and wholeheartedly his many sins before God, and he was forgiven. This is the true and real definition of the pardon at the very last hour, just like those workers whom the vineyard owner gathered at the very last moment.

From this we can see yet again the power of God’s love and mercy, His compassionate care for us, and His desire to be reconciled with us. That is why, we must not wait until it is too late for us. The man who committed suicide in St. John Vianney’s case was fortunate to have a change of heart at the very last moment, but no one, no one at all knows the moment when our lives will be taken from us, the end of our earthly lives.

If until the very last moment we still refuse to repent and remain in our disobedience and sins, then it is by that stubborn refusal and by our own sins that we will be judged against, and thrown into hell and suffer for eternity. This is not so much because God is wrathful or fearsome, but rather, it is the just result and outcome of our own conscious choice to ignore, reject and spurn the very generous love He has lavished on us, and all the opportunities He has given us to repent and be reconciled with Him.

And then, besides this, what we heard in our Gospel passage today is also a reminder, that each and every one of us, all of us are in this journey of faith together, having been called into this new life, our new Christian life and existence through baptism. This was represented by all the workers who have been gathered through many hours of search and calls, and all of them shared in the same reward from the owner, one piece of silver coin.

What does that represent? It represents to us the fact that, in the end of our journey, all of us will receive the same inheritance and reward, that is eternal joy and true happiness, all in the perfect bliss of heavenly glory with God. Regardless of how early the timing is, or the circumstances of our conversion and reconciliation with God, all of us are to receive the same inheritance, nothing more and nothing less. For indeed, there is nothing greater than what we are to receive from God through our dedication and faith.

But we must also be vigilant that we do not end up like those workers who had been employed earlier by the vineyard owner and grumbled seeing that those who had been called and employed much later than they were, received the exact same reward in the end. This is somewhat similar to another well-known parable, the parable of the prodigal son, in which the elder son complained and became angry when the father welcomed back the sinful and wicked younger son with a great party when he returned in remorse and complete repentance.

This attitude was also reflected in many among the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and many of the members of the Sanhedrin, who looked at themselves as being more worthy of the Lord than others, especially those who were deemed unclean and sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes. And unfortunately, this attitude persists even in our Church, down throughout time, and to this very day.

Many of us compete against each other and also argue among ourselves, on who among us are more pious than the other, or how our pious practices are better than others. Even worse, in our Church ministries and in our communities, we end up giving in to slander and gossiping, jockeying for position and power instead of putting God at the centre of our lives. This is the sad reality for the Church and for our Christian communities.

What is it that we are really fighting, arguing and disputing with each other for, brothers and sisters? Is it for the Lord? Certainly not! And is it for our own good? Definitely not as well! It is to satisfy our own pride and ego, our own greed and ambition that we have done all these, and these are truly scandals to our Christian identity and faith. As Christians we cannot condone this kind of attitude and way of life, and we are called to be different from this.

And this is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have heard today is very significant for us, not only just because we are reminded to turn away from our sinful ways and sincerely repent from those sins, but we are also reminded that instead of focusing on ourselves and being selfish, on the contrary, we need to reach out to our fellow brethren, and especially to all those who have lost their way rather than to despise them or to look down on them.

Remember, brothers and sisters, that each and every one of us are equally sinners before God, unworthy and weak, ought to be condemned, but instead, by God’s love and grace, He has called us to turn towards Him, repent from all of our sinful ways, and embrace once again the fullness of His love. Therefore, let us all as fellow children of God, show love on each other, care for each other and help those who are struggling and together we move forward in this journey towards God.

Let us all be thankful for the life that God has given us, and be grateful for all the love and mercy He has shown us. May He strengthen us all in our faith that we may draw ever closer to Him, and in the end, receive from Him the crown of eternal glory, and the eternal life of pure bliss and joy, in His presence, forever and evermore. Amen.

Sunday, 13 September 2020 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday’s Scripture readings all spoke very strongly and firmly on one topic, that is forgiveness. As Christians, forgiveness is a very important aspect of our faith, and we are all called to forgive one another generously, to let go of the anger and hatred in our hearts, to be forgiving just as the Lord, our God is rich in mercy and forgives generously.

The Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today spoke very firmly on this matter when St. Peter asked Him, ‘Lord, how many times must I forgive the faults of my brother or sister?’ And the Lord answered to his suggestion of seven times, with an even greater number, of seventy-seven times, or in another, seventy times seven times. The use of the number seven here is symbolic and does not literally mean that we must forgive exactly seven, seventy-seven, or seventy times seven times.

In fact, the number seven is a frequently used number throughout the Scriptures, as the symbolic number of ‘perfection’, and many things associated with God number in seven, such as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven Sacraments of the Church, the seven Holy Archangels ministering in the presence of God, the seven Spirits of God in the visions, among others. That is why the use of seventy-seven or seventy times seven, represent the ‘perfection’ of forgiveness.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must learn how to forgive without end, forgive unconditionally, forgive without being transactional and to forgive with all of our hearts, with all of our whole being. Forgiveness is something that is very difficult and it is something that many people find very difficult to do, but it is what each and every one of us as Christians are called to do.

Why is that so? That is because to forgive means that we learn to let go of our ego and pride, of our hatred and perhaps jealousy, among other things. Many of us cannot forgive because we cannot find it in ourselves to do all these, and more often than not, it is our ego and pride that are the greatest barriers in preventing us from forgiving others. And we must know, brothers and sisters in Christ, by remembering again today’s Scripture readings, particularly the Gospel parable, that unless we forgive others, how can we expect to be forgiven ourselves?

In that parable, the Lord used the example of a great lord and master who had many servants, some of whom were indebted to him. And in that occasion, a servant who owed the master a very large sum could not pay his due, and therefore was to be punished and to suffer until he could return all that he had owed his master. He begged his master to give him more time to pay off his debt, for mercy and compassion.

The master who saw his pleas for mercy was moved and decided to forgive that servant’s entire debt, a sum of ten thousand pieces of gold, a very considerable sum. It was truly very generous act by the master, and the servant was free to go, free from all of his debts. And then, almost immediately we heard how that very same servant threatened another servant who owed him some money, a much, much smaller sum of a hundred pieces of silver.

The symbolic comparison between the cases could not have been clearer, with the other servant’s debt being represented with a far smaller sum and also in silver, a far less worthy and valuable, although still precious, metal and commodity at that time as it is today. The contrast was also made between the master’s great generosity and willingness to forgive, even the huge amount of debt, and the ungrateful servant’s insistence to persecute his fellow servant for a far smaller debt.

Through all of that, the Lord gave us all in fact, a very stern reminder that we must not be like that ungrateful servant, who had been forgiven his massive debt only then to persecute and refusing to forgive his own fellow servants who owed him a far smaller sum. Using this parable, the Lord showed the comparison between the mercy of the master, representing the Lord Himself, and the lack of mercy and compassion showed by the ungrateful servant, representing us mankind.

God forgave us our sins, even though they were numerous, terrible and wicked, and He wanted to forgive us all those faults and shortcomings, extending His most generous mercy and compassion to all of us, at all times. However, He has not showed us this mercy only for us to take revenge and to persecute our brethren because of their debts and faults against us. And we must also not forget that each and every one of us ourselves also had faults and mistakes against each other.

That is why, before we become angry against others, before we judge others and persecute others, thinking that we have the right to do so, or that we are better and superior against them, we must reflect on these readings we have heard today. We must wake up, brothers and sisters! Wake up and realise just how fortunate we are to have such a merciful and loving God. For every single one of our innumerable and terrible sins, we could have been cast to eternal suffering and destruction, if not for God’s enduring love and mercy for us.

And yet, we are not appreciative of this, we do not thank God as we should have done, and we failed to do what He has asked to do, that is to be merciful and loving as He Himself had done. We are being judgmental and biased to our fellow brothers and sisters, exacting revenge and held contempt and hatred for one another, and we refuse to forgive when we can do so, preferring to hold on to that anger and desire in our hearts and in our minds to satisfy our own ego and our own personal agenda.

Let us then do not forget that by whatever standards we have judged others, be angry on others, be unforgiving on others, then we will also be judged by those same standards. And it is not just that others will judge us in the same way, for as I said earlier, all of us have faults and mistakes, shortcomings and failures, and none of us are perfect, and if we are to hold others accountable for theirs, we shall be held accountable for ours too. We must then not forget just how even much more shortcomings that we owe the Lord.

This has been very clearly shown and summarised by the master in the parable told by Jesus, and how he has forgiven the immense debt of the ungrateful servant, only for that servant to hold a double standard and attack his own poor fellow brother, and thus, in the end, he was held accountable for his original debts, not being forgiven anymore for he himself did not show mercy when he should have.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, we all truly have great challenges ahead of us, considering how we have been called to live, that is to love when we ourselves have not been loved, to forgive others especially those who hurt us and made our lives difficult, even when they themselves have not forgiven us. The challenge for us is to dare to be different from the world, that when the world champions individualism and the ego of the self, we dare to break free from that, and seek instead to love and show genuine care for others, even to those who have hurt us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the question is, are we willing and able to humble ourselves to forgive generously and sincerely? As I said earlier, ego and pride are the greatest obstacles in the path to sincere forgiveness, and no true forgiveness will come forth unless we remove these burdens and obstacles from our hearts and minds alike. God Himself has forgiven us so generously, showing us His love despite the multitudes of times we have betrayed and abandoned Him. Can we forgive others just as how God has forgiven us?

The prophet Sirach echoed this again in our first reading passage today, that grudge and wrath are the things that are abominations in our lives, and these lead us deeper and deeper into sin, for grudge and wrath ultimately stemmed from our pride and ego, and our refusal to let go of these, that when we feel hurt, we hold grudge and are angry against our fellow men. Unless we get rid from ourselves all these, we cannot truly be God’s holy and devout people.

And lastly, a very good reminder from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, in our second reading today is perhaps a very important reminder and also suggestion on how we can lead a holier existence in God from now on. He elaborated that no one lives in this world for himself or herself, but rather one lives for God. And as long as we remember this fact, and also remember God’s love and mercy for us, then we will be able to resist the temptations to be angry against others, and to be willing to forgive one another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect carefully on what we have heard in the Scriptures today, and let us all discern what we can do from now on to live faithfully in accordance with the Lord’s path, to be inspiration and good example for one another, in being loving and forgiving just as the Lord, our loving Master and Father had done for us. Let us remember His love and mercy each and every moments of our lives, and trust in Him with great faith, now and always.

O most loving and merciful God, our loving Father and Creator, the Divine Mercy, have mercy on us sinners and forgive us our sins, and help us all to be able to forgive each other our mistakes and sins to each other too. Help us to be charitable and to be compassionate, to be generous with love and mercy whenever we are able to. Have mercy on us and on the whole world, forgive us and bring us into Your everlasting glory. Amen.

Sunday, 6 September 2020 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard a very important message from the Scriptures, which lay at the very centre and heart of our Christian faith, that is love, compassion, forgiveness and kindness. On this day we remember God’s such great love for us that He is willing to forgive us all our sins, even as great and many as our sins are, provided that we are willing to repent and turn away from those sins.

God has remembered His people, even when they have betrayed Him, abandoned Him and left Him behind for other, false gods and idols. As shown in our first reading today, taken from the prophet Ezekiel, was a remark of just how God loved His people so much even when they have sinned and fallen. At the time of the prophet Ezekiel, the nation and kingdom of Israel and Judah have both fallen, and its people humiliated and brought into exile in far-off lands, all because of their constant refusal to obey God or listen to Him.

But through His prophet Ezekiel, God expressed great sorrow at this, showed metaphorically with how He would darken the sun, the moon and the star, and veil everything in darkness. All of these attribute to mourning attitude, and God rightfully did so, because a people whom He loved, had been lost to Him and suffered as a consequence of their own disobedience and delinquency. Had God not loved or cared about His people, we would never have heard such sorrowful expression from Him.

That is why He wants all of us to be reconciled to Him, as rebellious and delinquent children to be reconciled to their father, so God is our loving Father Who desires above all else, our redemption and liberation from the tyranny of sin. We have been enslaved by sin, and through sin we have been brought low and we ought to have been crushed and destroyed. Yet, this is not what the Lord wanted to happen to us.

For we all must remember that God created us all with a reason, and that reason is love. God creates us all because He wants to share His love with us, and it was because of that love which allowed Him to forgive us when we come humbly before Him, honestly and genuinely seeking His mercy and forgiveness. The Lord reaches out to us as a loving Father, Who wants us to recognised our errors and the mistakes of our ways.

It was this great love God has showered us with, from the very beginning which gave us that ‘gift’ of love which we spurned through sin. And thus because of our sins, we became indebted to God, the debts of our sins, all the evil and wicked things we have done to God Who loved us so much. St. Paul spoke of this in his Epistle to the Romans, our second reading today, when he exhorted us not to be in debt to anything, but to the debt of love. Essentially, he exhorted all of us the faithful to abandon our sinful ways and to avoid evil and wickedness.

And he also reminded all of us of the Law and Commandments of God, which are essentially about love, and to live righteously and justly, free from the shackles of sin. But in this world, there are indeed plenty of temptations that can lead us astray and prevent us from finding our way to God. And to this extent, God did all He could to give us chance after chance, opportunity one after another, calling us through His messengers and servants, to turn us into His righteous path once more.

He has also laid it out clearly in our Gospel passage today, as He mentioned how the Church and the community of the faithful had very important role to play in all of these. The Lord Himself said that all of us the faithful has the responsibility and obligation to help, seek and assist our brethren who have erred and fallen into the wrong path in life. He said that if our brother or sister in faith erred and walked down the wrong path, then we ought to persuade him or her, to abandon the path of sin and return to the faith in God.

But as mentioned, although the Lord has generously extended His love, mercy and compassion to sinners and all those who have abandoned Him, but it all depends on our acceptance and willingness to cooperate and receive that offer of mercy. If we are stubborn in refusing God’s mercy and forgiveness, and are unwilling to abandon our path of sin, our attachments to the wickedness of this world and to the temptations of Satan, then it is by our own conscious choice that we reject God and His salvation.

The Lord gave great authority to His Church, in the hands of St. Peter, His Vicar as the first Pope and his successors, and together with his brother bishops, the authority to bind or loosen the bonds between mankind and the kingdom of Heaven. Through this authority, and by the conferral of the Sacrament of Baptism and other Sacraments of Initiation such as the Confirmation and Eucharist, the Church has called many to the Lord, and many had indeed responded to the call, received the faith and be united in the Church, as we are.

And to those who constantly and persistently refused to repent and be converted to the truth, the Church has also been given the power to loosen, which is most evident in the practice of ‘excommunication’ that had unfortunately been imposed on some of those who persistently refused to turn to the faith. But all these were done, by casting them out from the Communion of the Church, with the intention that this is temporary, and as a ‘wake-up call’ to encourage and persuade the offender to return to the Lord, repent and change his or her ways.

Thus it is also a constant reminder that we must not take God’s love for granted, His patience and compassion for us. Many of us Christians tend to take our faith lightly and even lived in ways contrary to our faith, and doing so means that we choose to disobey God and sin against Him despite of our faith. What is faith if we are not faithful? And many of us yet still live our faith in a very lukewarm manner, treating it as merely a formality and even as a chore. And that is the sad reality of the state of our Christian faith these days.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday therefore, through the readings of the Scriptures we have just heard today, all of us are called to do a deep self-introspection in our lives, looking at how each and every one of us can turn away from sin and from our wicked past and embrace instead the path of God’s love. And this is not easy, as following God’s path often requires us to make self-sacrifices, sacrifices of time and energy, and a lot of effort that often can be thankless and difficult.

Yet, as members of the Church, as Christians, this is what we are expected to do, to be bearers of the true faith, and to show love in all and every one of our actions in life. This is why we are called to show the ‘debt’ of love instead of having the ‘debt’ of sin. Let us all love each other, forgive one another our trespasses and faults, just as we ask the Lord to forgive us our sins, as we often say it in the Lord’s Prayer or Pater Noster we pray.

Let us be thankful to God, our loving Father for His constant love and providence, for His enduring compassion and His persistent mercy showed towards us. Let us all, in these difficult moments and times, show the love of God, our loving Father, through our actions and interactions with one another, that more and more people may come to know of the love of God, be touched by His love, and grow to have faith in Him just as we have believed in Him.

Let us bring forth the light of God’s hope and providence to this darkened world, giving hope and strength to our brethren who are suffering amidst all the effects of the continued global pandemic, economic instability and the collapse of many sectors of our world economy, the loss of many jobs and the loss of many sources of income for countless people all around the world. Let us share one another’s burden and bring some consolation, hope and love to each other, that through everything we do, we become true disciples and witnesses of Christ’s love in our world today.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us all to be His faithful disciples, to love with all of our hearts and strength, loving Him and loving our fellow brothers and sisters, all brethren in the same Lord, helping and reminding each other to be faithful at all times by our actions and deeds. Let us never take God’s love for granted anymore and appreciate the love that He grant us each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, in our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 30 August 2020 : Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are reminded that being Christians, and indeed, faithful Christians is not going to be easy for us. On the contrary, to be a faithful Christian, we must always be prepared to endure rejection and even persecution for our faith. We must not expect that becoming Christian is the path for good life and happiness to be enjoyed right here in this world, without the need to suffer.

In our first reading today, we heard the anguish and sorrow, the emotions and indeed the stresses faced by the prophet Jeremiah, the prophet sent to the kingdom of Judah during the last days of the kingdom, just before it was to be destroyed and conquered by the forces of the Babylonians. Jeremiah was sent to a people who had largely abandoned God and ignored His Law and commandments, disobeyed His precepts and ways, ignoring and persecuting His prophets and messengers.

And among them all, the works of the prophet Jeremiah was particularly difficult as he had to contend alone against not just the people and their king who hardened their hearts and minds against God, but also against the many false prophets and leaders who used the opportunity to twist the minds of the people and the king further, by saying that the Babylonians would be destroyed and defeated, while some of them said that by depending on the power of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, Judah would be saved.

Against all these, the prophet Jeremiah stood alone and defenceless, speaking the words of God to the people, until he was labelled and deemed as a doomsayer or even a traitor to the nation and the people for speaking of the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, for speaking out how the kingdom and its cities would the destroyed and the people brought into exile just as how the Lord said it would, due to the sins and disobedience of the people who refused to believe in God.

Jeremiah alone spoke of all these and he faced most bitter persecution, challenges and trials for doing so. He was reviled, hated and made to suffer, even had his life threatened on many occasions by his many enemies who wanted him to be dead. He was in the most difficult spot all the time and as we heard in our first reading passage today, it was no wonder that Jeremiah at times was tempted to forget God and abandon his mission and calling as prophet and messenger to the people of Judah.

This is then related to what we heard in our Gospel today, we heard from St. Peter the Apostle, who had just proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, and thus entrusted with the leadership of the Church and the keys of the kingdom of Heaven as we heard in our last Sunday’s Gospel. In today’s occurrence however, when the Lord Jesus then foretold of His upcoming suffering, persecution and eventually death on the Cross, St. Peter rebuked the Lord and disagreed with Him.

St. Peter said how this could not happen to Him, and He could not and should not meet such an ignominious fate, to die in such a way at the hands of their enemies. For the context, at that time, many if not most of the Jews believed that the Messiah promised by the Lord through His prophets would be a great King like king David, the Messiah’s predecessor, and they thought that the Messiah would lead them to freedom and defeat those who have subjugated and conquered them, such as the Romans.

By that time, the Jewish people had lived for six centuries after the time of the prophet Jeremiah as conquered nation and people, passing on from the hands of one ruler and overlord to another, from the Babylonians to the Persians, then to the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great and his successors, the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt and the Seleucid kings of Asia and Mesopotamia, and then short while of independence under the Maccabees or the Hasmonean kingdom, before once again subjugated by the foreign rulers such as the Herodian dynasty and their overlords, the Romans.

It was therefore not surprising that many among the Jews, including the Apostles and many of the followers of Christ who viewed Him as the coming King Who would lead them to victory in the battle against the Romans and made them all independent once again, and become a great kingdom again just as in the days of David and Solomon, when the kingdom of Israel was mighty, great and respected all over the land.

This was where then the Lord Jesus immediately rebuked St. Peter back and pointed out the true culprit behind all of these, that is none other than Satan, our great enemy, the tempter and the one who is always very hard at work in trying to crush us, defeat us, mislead us and bring us to our damnation. He has tempted the prophet Jeremiah as I mentioned earlier, persuading him to abandon his efforts and ministry, and forget about God. Fortunately, Jeremiah had a strong faith in God, and his love for Him helped him to endure through the devil’s temptations and pressures.

St. Peter had faith in the Lord, and that faith allowed him to publicly proclaim the Lord and His truth before others. It took genuine faith and real courage to speak up in such a way, especially when it could be considered a great sin and blasphemy by the Jewish authorities and shunned by others in the community at the time. St. Peter was therefore, just like the prophet Jeremiah, speaking the truth of God, even though that truth might not be popular or acceptable in the community.

But that was just the beginning for him and the other Apostles, as they would encounter more and more occasions when they would need to stand up to their faith and to remain faithful even though they had to face trials and tribulations. Although they were faithful, but they too were humans, just as the prophet Jeremiah and the other prophets were. They might also experience sorrow, fear, uncertainty and worry over themselves, just as they encounter all those terrible oppositions and persecutions.

What is important here is, brothers and sisters in Christ, is that we must not give in to the temptations of the devil. We must be strong and we must dedicate ourselves to the Lord, just as the Lord Himself showed us. For you see, the Lord Himself had been tempted by the devil when He was fasting and spending forty days in the desert. And although Satan tried his very best to tempt the Son of God, he failed to do so, because the Lord Jesus was firm in His commitment and conviction, and He showed us that through faith, the devil can be defeated.

And on the very last moment, He was tempted a final time in His agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane, when just before He was about to be arrested, betrayed, condemned to death, suffer and die a most painful and humiliating death, Jesus in His humanity, felt anguish and the fear that is also common to all of us. In His agony, it was so much that as He prayed to His Father, His sweat dropped onto the ground as if they were blood.

A hint of this is when the Lord said, ‘Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.’, as a brief reference to just how terrible an anguish it must have been, for Him to bear the combined weight and burden of all of mankind’s sins. But the Lord remained firm even so, in His obedience to His Father’s will, with the words, ‘But let it be according to Your will, not Mine. Let Your will be done!’ And this is what each and every one of us as Christians are called to follow, the very examples of our Lord Himself, which His Apostles also followed.

In our second reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans nicely summarised all of these into these, ‘Do not let yourself be shaped by the world around you, but be transformed, by the renewal of your spirit.’ Through these words, St. Paul reminds and calls all of us Christians to dare to be different from the norms of the world and to stand up for our faith, to proclaim the truth of God even when the truth is not something that is favourable, preferred or desired by the society at large.

But we cannot do this alone, brothers and sisters in Christ. In order for us to be able to stand faithfully for our faith, we need God’s support and strength, and we must always be attuned to Him and commit ourselves to Him. As humans, it is likely that we will encounter fear, uncertainties, worries and concerns, when things start to go bad, when we face trials and challenges, and the devil knows this very, very well. He will use whatever is within his disposal in order to tempt us, persuade us, and even coerce us to abandon our struggle and our journey of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why as Christians we must be prayerful people, so that the Lord, our loving Father will always help us find the way, for it is through prayer, genuine, deep prayer in our hearts that we can understand God’s will and His plans for us. It is often that we are blinded by our own fears, deafened by our own uncertainties and doubts, that we cannot see, hear and perceive God showing us and telling us that He is with us, and therefore, we have no need to fear at all.

And we must also be a charitable people, people living our lives with faith and filled with genuine love for one another. When we love God, as well as loving each other, even when we are difficult times, then the devil has no room in our hearts. Satan loves only himself, and he hates genuine love, selfless love, sacrificial love, the kind of love that Christ has shown us on the Cross. If we fill ourselves with love, brothers and sisters in Christ, then naturally, we will draw closer to God and we will not allow the devil to have any of his means with us.

When we hate, we allow Satan to enter into our hearts, after which he will sow even more seeds of fear, distrust, anger, jealousy, greed, pride and many others. The Lord told us, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” And throughout the history of the Church, even persecutors and enemies of the Church have repented and became Christians, when they saw how the Christian martyrs acted with love, forgave them and had such great faith in God. Not few of these persecutors-turned-converts became martyrs themselves.

Now, brothers and sister in Christ, today therefore we are all challenged by God, to embrace the fact that becoming His followers do not necessarily mean glory and joy in this life we have in this world. On the contrary, challenges and trials will likely come our way as we have likely suffered and endured these earlier as well. But are we willing to take up our crosses in life with Christ, and carry them with faith, hope and love? These are the important questions that we need to ask ourselves as we go forward in life.

Let us all be ever more prayerful, dedicating special time constantly to speak with God, to be more attuned to His will and to follow His path. Let us all be more loving and compassionate towards one another, that by our love, others may truly know that we belong to God, and so will Satan, our great enemy. Let us place our faith in God and fear no more. May the Lord bless us all and each of our endeavours, good works and actions, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 23 August 2020 : Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are all brought to attention that the Lord has entrusted to His servants in His Church, the authority and power over the faithful, through His establishment of the Church and the authority He granted to His Vicar in this world, St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of all the faithful and the first Supreme Pontiff and Pope. Through his successors, the Popes as the Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome, the Church has remained as the firm anchor of faith and the deposit of faith throughout the past two thousand years of its history.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord spoke to Isaiah regarding the man named Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, whose background was in fact the financial manager of the kingdom of Judah and also the royal steward of the palace, as recorded in the Book of Kings. Eliakim took over the duties of managing the finances from a man named Shebna, also another servant of the then king of Judah, Hezekiah.

As the royal steward, the manager of the finances of the palace and the kingdom, Eliakim truly held a very powerful position that is comparable in power and responsibility as a modern day Prime Minister or Premier, definitely the second most powerful person in the entire realm after the king himself. From what the Lord spoke of through Isaiah, although details were scarce, we can conclude that Eliakim was a righteous person and was also a dutiful servant.

Eliakim was entrusted with the treasury of the kingdom and the management of the palace, and this is symbolically presented with the entrustment of the keys of the house of David to Eliakim himself, as he was given the authority of the king and to be even like a father to the kingdom of Judah, its people in Jerusalem and the whole realm. This was truly a position of great honour that spoke of the historic events behind the actual appointment of Eliakim, but then at the same time, God was in fact also revealing a prophecy of what would happen in the future.

For this story of Eliakim, the royal steward entrusted with authority and keys of the house of David is a clear parallel of what happened at the time of the New Testament, specifically referring to our Gospel passage today, in which we heard the Lord Jesus, our God and Saviour, entrusting to His chief disciple, St. Peter the Apostle, then known as Simon, son of John or Simon bar Jonah, the keys of the kingdom of Heaven itself, as well as the foundation of His Church on earth, as Peter, the ‘Rock’.

Thus, as we can see the clear parallel between the past occurrence of Eliakim in the kingdom of Judah and the story of Simon Peter, the disciple of the Lord, Eliakim, the royal steward was the precursor and the prefigurement of St. Peter, who was appointed therefore as the even greater ‘Royal Steward of the King of Kings’. Just as Hezekiah was the king of Judah and the lord and master of Eliakim, thus the Lord Jesus, King of Kings and the Son of David, inheritor of David’s Kingdom, is the Lord and Master of St. Peter, the new steward appointed by God to oversee His people, His Church.

This is a very significant event, as to St. Peter had been granted the authority by the entrustment of the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, that whatever he opens shall be opened, and whatever he shuts shall be shut, as the words of the Lord clearly presented it, ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.’ This is the royal authority the Lord entrusted to His Church, and invested in St. Peter and his successors, the Bishop of the Papal and Apostolic See of Rome, right from St. Peter himself up to our current Pope, Pope Francis, the 265th successor of St. Peter.

And there are also other significance of the key of the kingdom of Heaven, for the Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is composed of all the faithful and baptised people of God, all united in the Communion in the Body of Christ, under the leadership of the Pope, successor of St. Peter and Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ much as Eliakim was the vicar or the most trusted and right hand man of the king of Judah. And the Pope is the chief guardian of the treasure of the faith, the deposit of faith in the Magisterium of the Church and Sacred Tradition.

A key unlocks a door, and without a key, a door cannot be unlocked. Thus, this key is very symbolic of the opening of the doorway to salvation to God, that exists only through God’s Church. And from St. Peter, this authority is passed down to his successors, the Popes, and to the bishops, to the priests, who are the ones who conferred the Sacraments to the faithful, who first received Baptism, and therefore, is welcomed into the Church, in a moment likened to the opening of the gates of the kingdom of Heaven.

And yes, the Church of God itself is the earthly and heavenly manifestation of the kingdom of God, for in the Church, all the faithful are united, both the Church Militant still living on earth, the Church Suffering in purgatory, and the Church Triumphant, our holy predecessors, the saints and blesseds and others now enjoying the glory of heaven. Through Baptism, all of us enter into this great kingdom and receive new life, to which all of us have been called by God.

St. Paul said in his second reading today, in the Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, of the great and immensity of the wisdom and the knowledge of God, which is in fact referring to the fullness of truth and the wisdom of God, that God Himself has revealed to His Church through the Holy Spirit. And the Apostles, having received the Holy Spirit, preserve this wisdom and all the truths, passed on to their successors, the bishops led by the chief of all the bishops, the Pope himself.

From the earliest days of the Church, the Church fathers have spoken on the faith and truth preserved faithfully by the Church, especially by the Apostolic See of Rome, the See of St. Peter, universally viewed as the leader and preserver of the Sacred Tradition of the faith and also the authentic Magisterium and authority on Church matters and all matters of the Christian faith. St. Augustine, one of the most renowned and important Church fathers spoke of ‘among these Apostles, St. Peter alone almost everywhere deserve to represent the whole Church.’

And from the Eastern Church, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, one of the most renowned leaders of the Church in the East spoke of the primacy of St. Peter among the other Apostles and highlighted how he led the other Apostles and disciples during the times of crisis, against the divisions in the Church, against the enemies of the Church and those who opposed them, as he stood by his faith devoutly throughout his ministry.

The Ecumenical Council of Ephesus also formally declared, ‘There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors.’

The declaration of the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, which was also supported by the other Ecumenical Councils before and after showed the nature of the Church and how through Peter, the chief of the Apostles, the Vicar of Christ, the Lord has laid down the framework of His Church, united as one Body, one Church, under the authority and primacy of St. Peter and his successors, the holder of the keys of the kingdom of Heaven.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, we are all part of this one Body of Christ, and through baptism, we have been brought into this treasure of faith, preserved by the courageous efforts of the leaders of the Church, the successors of the Apostles, our bishops, and especially the successors of St. Peter, our Popes. But it is sad to see how we often do not appreciate just how fortunate we are to be sharers of the Lord’s truth, His wisdom and His love. And we are often divided in the Church, amongst ourselves as we bicker with one another, frequently due to selfish reasons.

The devil knows well that the Church and indeed, a holy and united Church is the greatest obstacle in his efforts to lead us to destruction through sin. That is why, throughout time, as it is today, the Church and its leaders have always been under attack constantly, by those who seek the ruination of souls, and our priests and bishops have been constantly tempted, attacked and had challenges and obstacles put in their path to make them give up the fight against these wicked forces.

As God’s Church and the members of His Body, all of us must stay united and support one another in the constant struggle against evil. We must not allow ourselves be divided and be set up one against another. And first and foremost, our Pope and our other Church leaders, the bishops and the parish priests, all of them need our prayers and our support. We trust in God that His words are truth, that not even the gates of hell can stand up against the Church, for as long as we remain firm in our faith in the Lord and stay within His Church, then we are safe from any harm.

Now, brothers and sisters, we have received the gift of God’s wisdom and truth through His Church. Let us therefore make good use of these gifts and become faithful and genuine witnesses of our Lord and Saviour in the midst of our community today, by obeying Him and His teachings as faithfully preserved in His Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us entrust ourselves to the official teachings and the truths of God as held and espoused by the Church, and help one another to remain faithful.

Let us then also be active as good and contributing members of the Church, in our respective calling and vocation in life, be it as those who have been called to the holy orders, to be shepherds of God’s people, or those who have embraced the call of religious and consecrated life, and even as active members of the laity, as good husbands and wives, as members of faithful and committed Christian families, which are in themselves, the domestic Church where the faith is first nurtured in our young generation.

May the Lord God, our Saviour and our loving Father continue to watch over us and protect us and His Church, protect and guide our Church leaders especially the Pope, His Vicar in this world, and the successor of St. Peter the Apostle to whom He had given the keys of the kingdom of heaven as well as great authority and responsibility. May our Pope Francis, together with his brother bishops, continue to preserve faithfully the whole treasure of the wisdom of God and the truth of God as maintained in our Sacred Tradition, the Scriptures and the Magisterium of the Church, all united in St. Peter and his successors. May God bless us all and be with us always, now and till the end of time, until the day He brings us all into the eternal glory of Heaven. Amen.

Sunday, 16 August 2020 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday each and every one of us are called to listen to the Lord and to open our hearts and minds to welcome Him, for He has indeed called all of us to follow Him, from all the nations, without bias and without prejudice based on race, culture, or by any other parameters and traits we often categorise people in. God wants us to know that we are all equally beloved by God, without exception.

In order to appreciate better the significance of our Scripture readings and the context of our reflection today, we need to understand that for many of the Israelites and their descendants, up to the time of the Lord Jesus and beyond, they saw themselves as God’s chosen ones, as the only ones who deserve salvation and the glory of God, while other peoples, the pagan nations and peoples, all of them would be destroyed and crushed, unless they accepted the Law of Moses in its entirety, essentially becoming one with the Israelites in culture and way of life.

In our first reading today, we heard the words of the Lord spoken through His prophet Isaiah, in which it was explicitly mentioned that the Lord has called foreigners, those so-called pagan people to follow Him and to walk in His path, to preserve His Law and commandments, and how His House will become the house of prayer for all the nations. He spoke of the time where people from all the places and from all countries will come together to glorify God, no longer divided by the mark of their race, origin or by any other parameters.

In our Gospel today, we heard something related when we listened to the story of the Lord Jesus and His interactions with a Syro-Phoenician woman, a non-Jew and Gentile, who came to Him begging Him to heal her daughter who was tormented and suffered from a demonic attack. But the Lord strangely seemed aloof and ignored her pleas saying that He was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel, and even sounded very patronising to her and said bluntly, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and give it to the puppies or dogs.”

This has the strong connotation and example of how the Jewish people looked at their neighbours and treated them, so much so that the non-Jewish people were even treated as less than human and insultingly referred to as dogs. But the Lord did not intend to hurt or humiliate the woman when He said such things, rather He actually wanted to make an example of just how terrible were the prejudice and biases that existed in the community at that time.

And the Lord also wanted to show all the people and His disciples that the woman, despite the supposed ‘humiliation and degrading treatment’ still had faith even more powerful than the faith of those who called themselves the children of Israel. She trusted the Lord and had faith in Him and even humbled herself before Him and everyone saying, that even puppies and dogs eat of the crumbs of the bread that fall from the master’s table. This is a faith that surpassed the lack of faith showed by many among the Jews who had witnessed the Lord and His works, and refused to believe or even opposed Him.

Then, in the second reading today we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome, of the Apostle speaking of his calling as the Apostle to the pagan nations and peoples. St. Paul is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles precisely because of this, as he put his emphasis in evangelising to the pagans, in reaching out not only to the Jews, but also the Greeks, the Romans and all the people to whom he had ministered during his many years of travel all around the Mediterranean region.

St. Paul spoke of how he called many among the pagans to embrace the ways of the Lord, and the frustrations he had in the refusal of many among God’s own people, the Jews and the others living in Judea, Galilee and the Jewish diaspora to believe in God and in His truth. Some among the Jews became the earliest Christians and they, indeed, the Apostles and many of the important disciples of the Lord, were the first foundations of the Church.

But there were great opposition from the chief priests, from many among the members of the Sanhedrin, that is the majority of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who were opposed to the Lord Jesus, His teachings and works, who adamantly refused to listen to the words of the truth, and preferred to oppress those who spoke of the truth, that is the followers of the Lord. And it was these things that truly frustrated St. Paul, as it was also evident that many among the Jews took great pride in their status as a chosen race as mentioned earlier.

This prevailing attitude made it difficult for the early Christians as if we read the Acts of the Apostles, as the Jewish converts to the Christian faith initially demanded that all the observances of the laws of Moses and the rigour of the Pharisees’ way of observing the Law be kept as a fundamental aspect of the Church teachings and laws. The problem being that to demand of such imposition to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people were impractical and impossible.

For example, the practice of circumcision and dietary restrictions would be very difficult to implement among the non-Jewish peoples, as the former in particular was seen as a barbaric practice by the Greeks and the Romans, and which in fact had caused tension between the two peoples in the past before. And the strict dietary restrictions of the old Jewish laws were often not compatible to the practices and customs of the Gentiles.

To demand that the Gentiles adopt the practices of the Jewish people wholesale was in fact tantamount to the lingering feeling of superiority that the Israelites and their descendants had in relations to the other, often considered pagan peoples. They argued that unless they adopted the ways of the Jews, then the Gentiles were not worthy of the salvation and grace of God. And this is what St. Paul wanted to dispel, and the whole Church agreed under the leadership of the Apostles, not to impose the excessive old Mosaic laws, but only the most fundamental aspects of the Law, as revealed to the Church by Christ.

And St. Paul also did not condemn his people, the Jews, unlike what many Christians later on would wrongly practice. Many misunderstood the context of the Church teachings and the words of the Apostles into actions against the Jewish people which resulted in centuries of suffering and oppression for many among them. Instead, as he said in our second reading today, that his people, by their ‘jealousy over the the success of the ministry of St. Paul and the Apostles in bringing to righteousness the pagan peoples’ might themselves be saved as well.

Yes, and this means that while the people of Israel were the first ones called and chosen by God, they are by no means the exclusive benefactors of God’s grace and blessings. God created the entire human race because He loved all of them, and through and from the people of Israel, He therefore raised His Saviour, His own Son, Jesus Christ, to be the bearer of the Good News of salvation, calling everyone, all the children of man, to the reconciliation with God.

One fundamental value that we must always keep in mind is the fact that each and every one of us are equal before God and are equally beloved by God. It is therefore not right for any one of us to be prejudiced, to be biased and act in ways that cause hurt and suffering for others just because we consider ourselves as superior or better compared to the other person, race or nation. And it is especially all the more important that as Christians, as God’s own beloved children, we put this as one of the cornerstones of our lives and actions.

This means that as the followers of Christ, we must treat one another equally, with love and with genuine concern for each other. We must not fall into the temptations of pride, ego and greed, all of which encouraged us to look inward, being selfish and self-promoting, seeking our personal joy and satisfaction over that of others. And it is sad indeed to see the history of our world, how people have acted unjustly on one another, persecuted and oppressed others, manipulated and extorted others.

Many people had suffered and died in the various racial and ethnic genocides that happened, wars and conflicts fought over our preference to focus on our differences and disagreements. People hurt one another because they deemed themselves to better and looking down at the others. In such a condition, obviously how can anyone expect to live peacefully and harmoniously with each other? As our long history has proven it, there had been so much sorrow and pain suffered all these while.

And in our world today, it is sad to see a rising tide of intolerance and selfishness once again, worst still at a time when we all need to be more united than ever. When the terrible pandemic swept all over the world, killing many and ruining many people’s livelihood, we saw how people are attributing blame on each other, and targetted people who had historically been discriminated against, and blamed or even attacked those who are different from them, deemed inferior and less worthy.

We heard how communities were threatened with rifts and disagreements, riots and troubles that occurred, when historic hurts and pains of unequal treatments, of prejudices and biases came to the surface again especially when everyone is under great pressure during these days. At the time when we need to be more united than ever, the devil is reaping dividends by sowing seeds of dissension and conflict among us. And unfortunately, many of us Christians are part of these as well.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as we reflect upon the passages of the Scripture and internalise their message, we need to re-evaluate our lives and way of living, especially if we have discriminated against others before, looking down on others and thinking highly of ourselves and our faith. Let us first of all remember that the Lord loves every one of us equally and without bias or distinction. If God has done so, then why can’t we do the same then?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all as Christians be exemplary in our actions, in genuinely loving and caring our fellow brothers and sisters without bias and prejudice. Let us all seek the Lord with all of our hearts and minds together, that we truly may serve Him with faith, and together as one people, one Church of God envisioned by St. Paul, let us all go joyfully to God and His heavenly kingdom. May God, our loving Father continue to love us and bless us, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 9 August 2020 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are presented with the reminders that God has always been faithful and He will always be by our side no matter what, and although we may not perceive it or realise it, but the fact is that God is ever present in our lives and as we heard last Sunday from the words of St. Paul, ‘Who can separate us from the love of God?’ And therefore this is why we must all realise just how fortunate we are to be God’s beloved people.

Unfortunately, many of us often do not realise this truth, and we are often ignorant of the rich and wonderful love that He has given us all these while. The Lord has always been patient in loving us, but too often, we are too preoccupied and busy, and especially we are often blinded by our fears and uncertainties, our doubts and lack of strong faith and trust in God. And that is why we have often failed to recognise God when He had been there for us, and with us all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the moment when the prophet Elijah came to meet with the Lord at Mount Horeb, after a long journey of forty days and forty nights from the land of Israel. At that time, for the context, the prophet Elijah had laboured among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel for some time, and went up against the king Ahab of Israel, his wicked queen Jezebel, and the many priests of Baal who all pushed for the worship of the pagan idols and gods.

The prophet Elijah stood alone in his struggle against the many enemies he had, and he often had to suffer and endure difficulties throughout all the years of his ministry, and even after he showed the might of God by the miracle of the fire on Mount Carmel, in which he humiliated the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal by their failure to prove the existence of the false god Baal, he was then hunted and persecuted especially by Jezebel who despised him and wanted him dead.

Elijah chose to flee into the wilderness and escape in hiding from the persecutions and the threats to his life. And the Lord for a time gave him food and water to drink, to give him the strength and called him to His mountain in the desert, and when he reached the mountain of God, as we heard in our first reading today, the Lord revealed Himself before Elijah, and this began with a great and mighty windstorm that came before the Lord, a great earthquake and then a great fire, and yet all of these were not where the Lord was.

Instead, God came after all of these mighty conflagrations and events, as a gentle breeze, or what some translations call as a ‘great silence’. The Lord came to Elijah in a moment of quietness, stillness and silence, as a reminder for us all, that first of all, amidst all the great challenges, trials, difficulties and ‘noise’ of this world, in the end, we will still find God in our midst in the depth of the silence of our hearts. Had Elijah fled from the great windstorm, the earthquake and the fire, he would not have perceived God’s presence.

This is echoed in what we heard in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the miraculous appearance of Jesus walking on the water in the middle of a great storm, with very strong winds and waves striking against the boat which the disciples were travelling in. The Lord was not with them because He sent the disciples ahead of Him while He went to pray alone to the Father in the mountains by Himself. And it was then that the Lord appeared to the disciples in the middle of the storm.

Although the disciples had seen all the miracles that the Lord had performed up to then, performing the impossible tasks of healing those who were sick, opening the eyes of the blind, loosening the tongue of the mute, opening the ears of the deaf, casting out demons and evil spirits from the possessed, and even raising up those who had been dead back into life, and heard all the words of wonder and wisdom that He had taught all of them, they still did not have firm faith in Him.

That was why they were very afraid when they saw Him in the middle of the storm, thinking that they had seen a ghost. They thought of this because they did not truly trust the Lord yet with all of their hearts and minds, and they still had those fears and uncertainties, probably thinking that as they feared for their lives because of the storm, they might have hallucinated and saw visions that were not there, and that was why, they thought they had seen a ghost. Indeed, when someone was about to die or experience similar kind of near-death encounters, history had shown that people could act erratically or hallucinate.

But in this case, it was truly the Lord Who appeared before them, walking on the water towards the disciples’ boats. He said to them all, “Do not be afraid! It is I!” And this is exactly what would also happen later when the disciples again saw the Lord suddenly appearing before them just after His Resurrection. Again that time, they thought that they had seen a ghost, but the Lord again told them, “Do not be afraid! It is I!” and showed them that He was not a ghost by eating before them, for ghost had no physical body and could not have eaten.

In both occasions, as we can see from our viewpoint of those who looked back into history, we see the doubt and fears in the hearts of the disciples and the uncertainties in their minds that kept them and prevented them from truly having a complete faith in God. They doubted and thought that, ‘No, the Lord could not have done that, or that could not be really Him, or how can He be there? I thought I was all alone in this suffering’ among other thoughts possibly running through their minds.

And St. Peter showed this sentiment further when he asked of the Lord, that if that was really Him, that He would enable him to walk on the water just as He did, and that he could come to Him through the water safely. St. Peter in this sense had more faith in the Lord because he still wanted to try and trusted in Him enough to want to walk on the water. And as he did miraculously walk in the water, it was later then the waves and the wind that returned the fear in his heart and mind, and as his resolve faltered he began to sink.

Yet the Lord reached out to St. Peter and helped him up, after a light rebuke of his still lacking in complete faith, to show that first of all, again, God will never abandon His beloved ones, all of us to fall and suffer alone in the darkness. He will lift us up, strengthen us, rescue us and empower us. This is what He had also done with the prophet Elijah from earlier on, when the prophet was also despairing over the toughness of the challenges of his work and ministry, how he was hated and persecuted, and even had his life clearly threatened.

The Lord reassured and strengthened Elijah, and gave him a new command, to return to the land of Israel and follow in whatever He would command him to do, to continue in reaching out to the stubborn people of the northern kingdom and call more of them back to be reconciled with God. And the Lord also reassured St. Peter and the disciples, both on the occasion in the middle of the storm, as well as at His appearance just after His Resurrection, that He was always with them, guided them along the way, and although they might have been shaken in faith, but He would never abandon them, and sent them to carry out His will, to spread the Good News to all people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord wants us all to remember through all of these that even in our darkest moments, when we think we are all alone and without hope, He is still there for us, and will help us to get out of our troubles and trials. However, we need to realise just how the fears, uncertainties, doubts and all these obstacles in our hearts and minds often keep us from seeking the Lord and working with Him to get on the right path, and we need to overcome these, and grow in faith that we may trust the Lord ever more and put our faith more in Him.

This year, more than ever, our faith and resolve had been tested to the maximum and even beyond by all that had happened. Not only that we have this terrible pandemic that still continues on claiming lives and causing many more to suffer in the hospitals, but all the collateral damages it caused to the economy by severe and almost complete disruption to the economy, supply lines and transportation, travel and hospitality industry, businesses and others caused so many among us to lose our source of income through unemployment or through severe pay cuts or pay freeze, and many others also suffer mentally from the combinations of these issues.

Amidst all these challenges and troubles, do we still have faith in God? Do we even still have hope in our hearts? Or have we instead been filled with fear and doubt, uncertainties and concerns? As I said earlier, many of us are inundated with all these obstacles that prevented us from appreciating and knowing just how close God is to us, and how He has always been with us, even through these most difficult moments of our lives. Many of us continued to fear and worry for the days to come, because our faith in God is not strong, and we allow the devil to sow even more fear within our hearts, that led us to act irrationally and selfishly, that inadvertently led to even more fear and suffering.

Take for example, the actions of many people who wanted to take care of themselves first amidst these terrible problems, as we saw people who tried to hoard essential goods for themselves, or important items like masks and gloves, and also those who allow their fear to turn into anger, and lash out on others, being uncaring and even violent when everyone are supposed to be helping one another in overcoming these difficult situations together. We must not allow fear, uncertainty, all the ‘storms’ and ‘waves’ in our lives from distracting us and being obstacles in our trust in the Lord’s providence.

Instead, brothers and sisters, as Christians all of us are called to be the beacons of God’s light and hope, His guiding light and strength, that through us, our words and actions, in how we interact with one another, we should help one another, awaken the hope in those who have been despairing and without hope. Let us all remind one another that God is always with us, ever faithful to the Covenant that He has established with us, and that in the end, all those who remain faithful in God will rejoice.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that we are all God’s beloved people, the descendants of the holy patriarchs and all those holy men and women, saints of God and more, as St. Paul had said, and we will always be beloved by God. Let us all be inspired and strengthened, encouraged that God will lead us and He has called us to do His will. Let us all glorify Him by our deeds in life, and let us bring hope and light to this darkened and suffering world. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 2 August 2020 : Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us heard one clear message from our Scripture readings today, that God is Love, and God loves each and every one of us so greatly and so wonderfully that we must really appreciate all that He had done for us all these while. Too often we mankind have ignored God’s love, rejected His compassion and mercy and preferring to do things our own way. Imagine how terrible it is for to be so stubborn and to rebel against God Who has loved us all so very much.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord spoke to us all, calling on us to look for Him, that He will provide for us whatever we need, be it food or drink, be it sustenance in other form, as well as love and care, and He will fulfil the Covenant that He had once made with our ancestors, and which He has renewed again and again throughout time, and which He made one final renewal for all eternity in the New Covenant that He has established through Christ, His Son.

And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, as the Lord was faced with five thousand men and thousands more of women and children, their family members, who followed Him as He taught them and spoke to them of God’s truth and love. As we all know, the Lord miraculously fed all the multitudes of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, blessing them and breaking them for all the people to eat until they were all satisfied.

The Lord fed His people who hungered for food, and not just the physical food as we heard how they all ate of the bread and the fish, but in fact also, the food of the Word of God, as the people listened to the Lord teaching to them. The Lord said, that ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from the mouth of God’. It is there then the Lord, the Divine Word Incarnate in the flesh, became the Bread of Life for all of His people.

Thus, from what we have heard in today’s Gospel and the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of just how God fulfilled His promises and words, that truly, He meant every single words that He had said, and gave us the ultimate gift and the perfect manifestation of His love in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. For through Him we received the guarantee of eternal life and glory with Him, that by our living and genuine faith, we are to be part of this Covenant He has made with us.

As I said earlier on, God is Love, brothers and sisters in Christ, and God’s love is the very reason why the world and all of us exist. God is perfect in all things, and His perfection means that He does not have need for anything. Yet, in the overflowing love that exists between the members of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, God Who is Love created all of us to share in this wonderful love, for that is what love is all about, to show care and concern, passion and desire for the best things for one another.

And God’s love for us is so powerful, great and all-encompassing that St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans in our second reading today said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ and he also said how no power, no matter how great, be it on earth, in heaven or hell, or from wherever in the universe or beyond, will be able to separate us from the love of God, the wonderful, gentle and all-encompassing love of God. God’s love has been provided for us so generously, and which He has shown again and again through the generations, just as our Gospel passage today is just one small example of this Love.

Yet, the question that often then comes to our mind is that, ‘Lord, if You love me so much, why is it then I have to suffer in this world?’ And this question is often the number one reason why we doubt, why we are unsure of God’s love, why we even become angry at God and refuse to believe in Him. We see suffering all around us, and which we also see in ourselves, and we doubt God’s love and even existence, for after all, if God does love us, then shouldn’t all of us be happy and good?

This is then where we need to understand that while God’s love for us have always been genuine, unconditional and true, the same often cannot be said for us. Our love is often conditional, selfish and self-centred, tainted with desire and greed, with jealousy and even with hatred. And that is why we have not been able to experience the fullness of God’s love as all the many temptations and obstacles present in our lives prevented us from truly experiencing this true love.

For example, on the matter of hunger and food, sustenance and providence that we have focused on a lot today, a lot of people may ask, if God truly loves us, then why is it that people are suffering daily from hunger, from famine, from lack of food and from impoverishment? Should all these things be absent if God truly loves us? These are definitely questions that run through our minds if we look at the situation all around us. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the answer is actually simpler than what we think.

God’s love has been abundantly given to us, and He has blessed us wonderfully. In the optimal and expected condition, this would have meant that everyone has enough for themselves, and yet, if we look around carefully, don’t we see plenty of inequalities, as some people dined in great excess and how food wastage is common in many countries, just as others suffered from hunger and famine in other countries? It was in fact our greed that had led to this sad and unfortunate situation.

What do I mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was our misuse and indeed, abuse of God’s wonderful love and also freedom given to us that led to much suffering of all forms all around the world, in the past as it is in the present now and how it will also be in the future. As people succumbed to their greed and the temptations in desiring for more good things for themselves, this led to oppression, manipulation, extortion and even exploitation of others just so that some people can enjoy benefits at the cost to others, those who are less powerful, less wealthy and less privileged.

Alas, this is exactly what I meant when I said that the way we mankind has loved is imperfect, conditional, selfish and self-centred. We allow our ego and pride to mislead us, and greed to pull us into the trap of selfishness and self-centredness, and we have not loved as God loved us, as we were so preoccupied with ourselves and our desires that we ended up hurting others, being unfair, selfish and wicked in our actions in life.

That is why today, all of us as Christians are reminded that as God is Love, and as He has shared His love with us, we too shall love just as the Lord has loved us, in an unconditional, selfless and sincere way. This is true, genuine love that all of us must have within us, and which we must aspire to and spread in our practice towards one another. As children of humanity, and as God’s beloved children, and all the more, as Christians, we need to walk in the path of God’s love.

Therefore, we need to show this love through our every day actions, through every little gestures and interactions we have with one another. We must remember how God fed His multitudes of thousands and everyone had enough, just as in the past, during the Exodus, God fed His people with manna and everyone had enough to eat, with no one lacking or had excess, and as proven by the twelve baskets of leftovers that God had given His people more than enough.

As it was our selfishness and greed that caused hunger, suffering and sorrow for many, then it is our responsibility and calling to be the ones leading the way and show everyone the path of God’s love. Are we willing to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to show God’s wonderful love to our fellow brothers and sisters, and are we willing to challenge the customary ways of this world by rejecting the inherent selfishness and greed present in our current way of life?

As we all share in the one Body of Christ, let us all remember that we are first and foremost brothers and sisters, one family in the same one Lord, and through Him we have been united and have a share in His infinite and amazing love. Let us share God’s blessings by being more generous in giving, in whatever means we are able to, in order to help those who are less fortunate and suffering in our midst, especially this year as we have seen so many people suffered the extended effects of the pandemic and economic troubles in the past few months.

Many people have suffered, lost their jobs and getting retrenched, lost their pay or got their wages and salaries cut or suspended. Many people have fallen sick and suffered, not just from pandemic but also from various other health problems and are facing issues because of the strain being experienced by healthcare systems worldwide. And many lost their loved ones from these illnesses and from other reasons.

And we have seen how during these difficult and challenging times, the stresses and trials caused great friction and conflict within our communities, that we saw all the civil disturbances, riots and troubles that occurred between the divided members of our communities, as people fought one another over matters of racial divisions and prejudices, economic imbalance and insecurities, biases and intolerance. We have seen how people acted selfishly in trying to protect themselves, hoarding for essential goods and items that created scarcity for others who really needed the supplies.

Unfortunately, Christians were among many of those who participated in these actions, these selfishness and lack of compassion which caused even greater anguish and suffering for those who have already suffered. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on this and discern in what way that we can share the love of God in our communities beginning from now, if we have not done so yet. Let us all be filled with God’s love and love Him first and foremost, and love one another with genuine love, now and always.

May the Lord, our loving God and Father continue to love us as He has always patiently been doing all these while. May He grant us the strength to continue to show the same love, and the perseverance and compassion in our hearts, to reach out to our less fortunate brethren all around us, to those who were unloved and poor, those who had been marginalised and suffered, especially during these difficult days and times. May God bless us and our good endeavours and works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 26 July 2020 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, all of us are called to reflect on what we have just heard from the passages of the Sacred Scriptures in which we are reminded of this question, ‘What is our precious treasure in life?’ This treasure that we seek in life, is it the treasure of worldly material goods and possessions, or fame and influence, or earthly pleasures? It is important that we reflect on this matter so that we will know what it is that we are seeking in life and we can then plot the right path going forward in life.

In our first reading today, the Lord appeared to the young king Solomon in his dream not long after he had succeeded to the throne of Israel following his father, king David. And the Lord told him to ask of Him anything he wanted and it would be given to him. King Solomon was still young and new to the throne, inherited a great kingdom, wealthy and prosperous, mighty and powerful in arms. And he asked not for more power, glory or wealth, but rather for wisdom, the wisdom to discern the good from the bad, and to be able to lead the people of Israel wisely in the ways of the Lord.

And God Who was pleased with this request of king Solomon, gave him not just the great wisdom of which Solomon would forever be known for, but also even more glory, wealth and power in his kingdom that surpassed greatly his father, king David’s kingdom. Through this, we can see how the Lord is truly generous and kind to those who trust in Him and we are also reminded that the true treasure we should seek is not in any worldly matters and goods, but rather, in trusting in God.

For Solomon had great faith in the Lord, and even as he asked for wisdom from God, he did so not to glorify himself and for his own selfish purpose, but rather to be able to govern the people of God entrusted to him effectively and well, and to lead everyone to God. This shows how Solomon during his early and younger days in particular, had the Lord as the treasure of his life, his focus and emphasis that kept him in the right paths.

Unfortunately, if we are to dwell further into the life and reign of king Solomon after what we have heard in today’s Scripture passage, as Solomon grew older, he began to be swayed by the many worldly matters, pleasures and temptations, with his hundreds of wives and concubines, many of whom began to lead Solomon away from the Lord. They reintroduced pagan worship and wicked practices, and Solomon began to act more tyrannically towards those who disagreed with him.

This is what happened when we allow the false treasures of the world to sway us and tempt us, and unless we resist those temptations, as we saw how even someone with great wisdom and knowledge like king Solomon had fallen, we too will likely end up going down the wrong path in life. Solomon’s glorious reign, his vast wealth and fame all over the world, his immense stature and the wisdom he had made him proud in the heart, and in turn, made his path in life to begin to veer away from the Lord.

In our Gospel passage today then, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples regarding the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven, using parables to explain to His disciples and followers what the kingdom of heaven is like and what we need to do in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. In the Gospel passage we heard firstly the parable of the treasure in the field, using the simple example of how someone discovered the treasure in the field and sold everything he had that he might buy the field and thus own the treasure.

And then, we also heard another parable in which the Lord compared the kingdom of heaven to a most beautiful and magnificent pearl of great worth and price. In that parable, again, the one who found the pearl of great price sold everything he had and buy the pearl as his true treasure. This is similar to the story of the treasure in the field, and the essence of the story is that the kingdom of heaven is so precious and great, that it is worth our entire existence to own it, and its value is beyond all that our earthly possessions and wealth can be compared to.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, the question that all of us need to answer then is, ‘What is our treasure in life? What is it that we have been looking for in life all these while? If our answer is wealth, worldly joy and pleasures, glory and fame, influence and power, then we must realise and understand that all of those things are superficial in nature and that they will also not last forever. None of them will endure and persist for long, and as easily as we gather them and accumulate them, we will also lose them.

Let us also keep in mind these words of the Lord in another part of the Gospel, that I feel is truly related to today’s passage, namely ‘What good is it for man, for him to gain the whole world but loses his soul?’ Through this phrase, the Lord wants us all to know that the world and everything it can offer us, all the ‘treasures’ and goods we may see and find attractive, all of these can lead us into losing our soul, meaning by falling into sin, and from sin into death and damnation.

Now, we also have to understand that the Lord does not ask us to sell everything we have and abandon all of our worldly dealings, wealth, possessions and all other things we have. If we read at His words and understand them literally, then it is what we may wrongly perceive and understand. What the Lord truly meant is that we have to get rid from ourselves all the unhealthy attachment, desire and obsessions. It is not wrong for us to possess material goods and to have worldly happiness, but we have to draw the line between having and being possessed and filled with desire for more of them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to detach ourselves from the unhealthy obsession and unbridled desire for the false treasures of life, and instead, seek for the true treasure that we can only find in God? Let us all heed from the examples of king Solomon, both his good example in his humility in asking for wisdom from God, the wisdom to be able to lead his people and rule with justice, and not seeking for worldly matters, and also his faults in the latter part of his life when he was overcome by the tempting power of the pleasures of life.

Are we able to resist these temptations to walk the path of sin and evil? Are we courageous and strong enough to reject these attempts by the devil to lead us astray and to distance ourselves from God? The Lord has called us to follow Him and He has shown us the way to reach out to Him, and now it is just for us to embrace this path that He has shown us. But it is easier to be said than done, as it will indeed prove a lot more difficult for us to seek the Lord’s path than the path of worldliness.

We live in a world inundated with plenty of materialism and even hedonism. We are flooded each and every day with subliminal messages encouraging consumeristic lifestyle, putting material wealth and goods first and foremost in our lives, and the prioritisation of self over others. The nature of our world today, our society and others emphasised to us a lot on selfishness, individualism, the pampering of the self and the pursuit of self-fulfilment and self-satisfaction.

And we need to know that we are up against all these in life, in our every living moments. Unless we strive hard to resist, we are bound to fall to the temptations that are indeed hard to escape from, especially if we have known many comforts in life. Once again, it is not wrong to have these comforts, but we must not crave or desire for these things in expense of finding our true treasure in life, that is God. Yes, in God alone we can find the true treasure that will last for eternity.

Ultimately, as our experiences and human history had shown us, we are usually never easily satisfied by what we already have in life, and we always desire for more, and many of the conflicts that happen in our world past and present, as it will also be in the future, are caused by these conflicting desires and by our greed. In the end, indulging in these false treasures will lead us nowhere but destruction, emptiness and pain and suffering.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these readings today, let us also heed what St. Paul told us in his Epistle to the Romans in our second reading today, that God has called us and those whom He had called, He will make righteous and He will bless us in everything we have and do. We are indeed so fortunate to have such a loving God and caring Father by our side at all times. However, it is too often that we have ignored Him, refused to admit His love for us, and even rejected His generous offer of forgiveness, mercy and compassion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all need to reassess how we have lived our lives thus far. If we have not placed God at the centre of our lives and existence, then we seriously need to consider what we have just discussed earlier on. Is God at the centre of our lives and existence? And is He our focus and direction in life? Let us all seek the Lord from now on with renewed vigour and spirit, knowing that in Him alone that we will be able to find true joy and everlasting happiness. May the Lord be our guide and help us to find the right path in life. Amen.