Sunday, 17 February 2019 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scripture passages reminding us all of the need for each and every one of us to trust in the teachings and the ways that the Lord has shown us all, and not in our own human abilities and power, and neither in the matters of the world. All of us heard that we are called to turn towards God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. God will bless us all greatly and wonderfully if we have done so.

In our first reading today, we heard the sayings of the prophet Jeremiah, in which the prophet cursed all those who trusted in their worldly power and in their own human glory, on how those people would never find true happiness in life as long as they continued to trust in the powers of the world. Instead, all those who trusted in God and in His power would be blessed and would receive all goodness in due time, as God has promised. They would receive true joy and happiness from God Himself.

Then, in the second reading today, we heard from St. Paul in the Epistle he wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, where he spoke of the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ as the proof of the faith that all of the faithful had believed, that they had not believed in vain in the Lord, Who had overcome even death itself, our greatest enemy of all. Death is the result and consequence of sin, just as sin is caused by our disobedience against the will of God.

This is the proof that it is the faith and trust in God alone that will overcome all sorts of difficulties and challenges. There is no other foundation or any thing in this universe capable of replacing the Lord as the centre, focus and hope of our lives. Any other foundation and trust in other things beyond the Lord is superficial and illusory in nature, and we will not be able to gain true joy, assurance and satisfaction because we will never find true peace unless if we go through God.

Why is that so? Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should look upon the history of our humanity’s past, at all the various actions and things that we mankind had done and which we had experienced throughout time. We see how mankind always tried to do their best, to attain the best for themselves, to gain the most joy, pleasure, happiness, glory, fame, power, and all sorts of good things for themselves, and yet, they were never truly happy and secure in their lives.

On the other hand, instead of experiencing true joy, peace and happiness, our predecessors experienced much sorrow, agony, pain, suffering, despair and lack of peace in their lives, all because of them putting their trust and their focus on the wrong things, as they placed their trust on worldly assurances of money, of human glory, prestige, of pleasure of the body and the temptation of greatness and hubris, ambition and pride.

Everyone suffered, when those who had power, greatness, wealth, prestige and the means of worldliness oppressed those who have less, little or none, in their pursuit to gain more of those worldly desires and temptations for themselves. But they did not gain more happiness, joy and satisfaction among themselves, because by our nature, greed will only lead to even more greed and desire, and when we have something, we naturally desire even more.

That is why, we can never be satisfied by anything of this world, no matter how hard we try it. And we must not forget, just as the Lord Himself said in another parable He taught His disciples, showing the futility of those who sought to enrich themselves with many worldly things, that a rich man who tore down his many barns in order to accommodate even more goods in them, but was told by the Lord of his foolishness, as his own life would be taken away from him that very night, and none of his amassed wealth and glory would be his any longer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why as I have mentioned earlier, death is our greatest enemy, for death marks the moment when our earthly life and existence ended. And that is why, throughout history and time, men had tried again and again, futilely, in order to try to overcome and cheat death. Many spent much money and resources, efforts and trying various methods in order to attain for themselves eternal life and youth. Many tried to keep themselves alive and appearing good, without success.

People had been spending a lot on beauty products and those things that were claimed to have life-lengthening and rejuvenating effects on the body. But in the end, no one can extend one’s life even by a millionth of a second, for everything is according to God’s will, and when God calls us back, and to give an account of our respective lives, we have no way to refuse this call. And none of our earthly glories and power will follow us through.

That is why, today’s Gospel passage, in which the Lord went through with His disciples and followers a series of blessings and curses for certain groups of people, which we know better as the Sermon on the Mount or the Eight Beatitudes, we heard exactly what we have just been discussing on our search for happiness, our often futile efforts to preserve ourselves from death, by searching and desiring for more worldly things, and allowing ourselves to be tempted by the devil.

In the Beatitudes, the Lord reminded all of us His people, that unless we learn and try to let go of all these wicked desires, and restrain all those thoughts of pride, ambition, and not allowing our ego and pride to overcome us, we will end up falling into sin, deeper and deeper, and eventually, as mentioned, sin leads to death, and not just any death, but eternal death and damnation. For those who sin and does not repent, they have no part in the Covenant that God had made with all those who are faithful to Him.

Those who are proud and ambitious, those who oppress and persecute others just so that they can earn for themselves more worldly glory, power, wealth, riches, majesty, fame and all other things we often desire, all of us who choose to put our trust in all these worldly things, will find ourselves disappointed because even though now we may enjoy what we have, and indulge in the pleasures they provided us, but these things will not last forever.

The time will come when the reckoning of our lives will be upon us, and unless we have done what the Lord has commanded us to do, then we may end up falling into eternal damnation, and has no share in the Covenant, the salvation which the Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and Saviour has brought upon us by His sacrifice on the cross. Only those who are humble, those who are poor in spirit, meaning those who look at themselves not with pride but instead with humility before God, will receive the fullness of God’s glory.

And through the Beatitudes, God is calling us all to follow this path that He had set before us all. He is calling us to be faithful, in all things and in all of our dealings and actions, that we place God as the very core and centre of our lives and existences. We are called to be peacemakers, to be those who bring the love of God to one another, sharing the love and blessings which He has so generously given us, so that each and every one of us may enjoy the fruits of God’s wonderful love.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, from now on, if we have not done so, let us all grow in faith in God, and devote ourselves to love God and to turn ourselves away from the path of sin and wickedness. Let us all strive to overcome our attachment to worldly temptations and goods, and instead, make the effort to put our complete trust in God. Let us all seek the Lord with all of our strength, and let us all grow ever closer to Him, from now on, through the lessons of the Beatitudes, and bear the fruits of the Beatitudes of Christ in our daily living. Amen.

Sunday, 10 February 2019 : Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the message from the Scripture readings that we have heard is very clear, and that is, for us all as Christians, each and every one of us have been called by God to be His followers and disciples, as those whom He has willingly bestowed His love and grace to, and we have been called with a purpose and mission given to us, to become His witnesses and messengers among the nations.

But as we heard from the Scripture passages today, we saw how many of those whom God had called, felt that they were unworthy to be called by God, feeling that as they have committed sins before God, they would not be considered clean and worthy enough to become the ones through whom God would perform His many wonderful works among the people. In the Old Testament, we heard this in the calling of the prophet Isaiah as a prophet, and then in the Gospel in the calling of the Apostles.

But it was exactly for this reason that the Lord has called and chosen those whom He deemed to be worthy to become His servants and messengers, witnesses and champions among the people. Instead of boasting of their might and greatness, their abilities and their talents, they humbly admitted their imperfections, their corrupted nature due to sin, and their weak selves, as mere men amidst the Holy One of God, Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour of all.

This is why the Lord chose them, although they were sinners and imperfect, because they were willing to admit humbly of that fact, and not putting their own selfish desires and ego above their commitment and desire to love the Lord, their God. And that was why the Apostles, the prophets of old, and the many other faithful servants and messengers of God were able to give their whole life in commitment to the works of God, despite the challenges that they had to encounter throughout their lives and respective ministries.

Many of them had to labour hard and endured hardships throughout their ministries. The prophet Isaiah had to withstand the stubbornness and rejection of the wicked pagans and idol worshippers among the people of the kingdom of Judah, especially early during his ministry. In one occasion, he had to confront the king of Judah, Ahaz for his lack of faith, and openly proclaimed God’s words before him, promising the coming of the Messiah, as Ahaz showed false humility and doubt in the power of God.

And as what the Apostles themselves, St. Peter and the other of the Twelve, with the many other disciples of the Lord, St. Paul the Apostle, the many other holy men and women, many of them martyrs of the Church, had shown us through the many accounts of their works throughout the New Testament and as told to us through the tradition of the Church and the story of the lives of those saints and martyrs, we have heard how in those numerous occasions, those faithful predecessors of ours have given their all to God.

This is contrasted to the attitude of those who claimed themselves to be great and pious during the history of the people of Israel. During the time of Isaiah and the other prophets, especially that of Jeremiah, who came after the former, who had to contend with many who claimed themselves to be the Lord’s prophets and accused Jeremiah of falsehoods and lying to the king, when in truth Jeremiah prophesied the truth about the coming of the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The false prophets meanwhile wanted to gain more power, influence and glory for themselves, by trying to please the king and his nobles with false promises and lies.

And at the time of the Lord Jesus, we heard of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, two groups of people among whom, many rose up to oppose the works of the Lord and His disciples, because they saw the Lord and His disciples as rivals to their own teaching authority and positions of privilege and honour within the community of the Jewish people. They did not want to lose all that they have gained in privilege and power.

That was why they allowed their ego and pride to overcome them and to get in the way of their faith and obedience to God. In essence, they put their own ego, pride, ambition and desire at the centre of their existence, and set God aside. And when this happened, that is why they did not allow God’s truth to enter into their hearts and minds, and although they have seen and witnessed His miracles and power for themselves, they refused to believe because of their stubborn hearts and closed minds.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, for each and every one of us, we have been called to reflect on what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages, to know what it means for us to be called by God to be His servants. If we can understand our direction in life and our purpose in following and serving God, then surely we will be able to follow the Lord, and serve and love Him better than what we may have been doing all these while.

First of all, there are two important lessons that we must take from today’s words of the Lord. It is the lesson on humility and commitment, that each and everyone of us must heed in becoming God’s followers and servants. By following the examples of the prophets, the Apostles and the holy saints who have gone before us, we can find ways to be better in our faith life and devotion to God.

To follow the Lord, we must learn to trust Him with all of our hearts and with all of our effort. And this often requires us to have that humility of heart and willingness to listen, to have an open mind ready for receiving His words and listening to His will for us. Otherwise, we will be easily swayed by worldly temptations and concerns, just as the false prophets, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had shown us, in their refusal to listen to God because of their own sense of pride, ego and the greed in their hearts.

And then, we also need commitment, because a lot of the work and missions that the Lord has given and entrusted to us require us to put our hearts and minds to them, devoting our whole effort and abilities to do what the Lord has commanded us to do. And often, as the Lord Jesus said to the Apostles, as they were fishing in the lake, that they need to ‘put out into the deep’, and this means that more effort is required for us to do what we are supposed to do as God’s servants. A fisherman who could not find any more fishes to catch in the waters near the coast need to go further in order to catch more fishes in the deeper waters. And hence, it is often that we need to challenge ourselves beyond the ordinary to do the good works of God.

We often think that we are unworthy and that we are incapable of such deeds, or that the challenges that we have to face are too great to be overcome. Then we need to remember that God did not call the perfect and those who considered themselves as great and mighty ones to do His will. He called imperfect and sinful people, many of them were poor, uneducated, brash and also ambitious, filled with wickedness and unworthiness.

It was God Who made all those whom He called worthy, as we heard how the Seraph touched the lips of Isaiah with the burning charcoal from the altar of heaven, symbolically showing the divine providence by which Isaiah would speak, with the authority of God. And then the Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles and the disciples, and the same Holy Spirit came to dwell in the faithful in the Church, the fullness of His many gifts, that revealed the truth of God and guided the disciples of the Lord in their ministry.

This is a reminder to all of us as Christians, that each and every one of us have been called by God to follow Him and to do what He has commanded us to do. He will give us the necessary strength and abilities in order to be able to do what we are supposed to do, and He will be with us, guiding us on our way through the challenges and the difficulties we may encounter along the journey. We have to put our trust in the Lord and give our very best in our service to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with faith, and love Him with greater fidelity and learn to commit ourselves more thoroughly and wholeheartedly from now on, that our every words and actions, everything we say and do, will be for the greater glory and honour of God, and not for ourselves and our selfish desires and ambition. May the Lord be our guide, and may He strengthen us all in our faith, from now on, and always. Amen.

Sunday, 3 February 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the Lord speaking to us and reminding each and every one of us of what He has called us to be, to become His beloved children and as His followers, filled with His love. He has called us to be open to the love that He has shown us all, and which He has bestowed upon us. Unfortunately, many of us are often too preoccupied and distracted in life, to realise this love that God has placed in our midst, the great gift He has given to each and every one of us.

In all that we have heard today, from the readings of the Old Testament, New Testament and the Gospel passage, we heard of various expressions of God’s love, and how His servants have acted out of love for Him, and we are all called to emulate and show that same love that God has given to us, in our own lives. If we do not love each other as God has loved us, then we have not truly lived up to the fullness of our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, St. Paul wrote about the variety of gifts and wonders that God had given to us, in the various miracles, powers and talents He blessed us with, and yet, St. Paul reminded the faithful that all of those things are meaningless and useless, unless there is love in us, at the centre of our every actions and words, attitudes and direction in life.

In the first reading today, we heard of the words of the prophet Jeremiah, one of the most important and prominent prophets of the Old Testament time. The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to be His servant, to follow Him and to perform the great tasks entrusted to him, that is the conversion and repentance of the people of the kingdom of Judah, who is falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin and disobedience against God.

The prophet Jeremiah had a difficult task, and he encountered numerous challenges throughout his ministry, if we read more about his story as recorded in the Book of Kings. He had to face the wickedness of the people of Judah and their kings, together with their unwillingness to repent and change their ways, despite repeated reminders from the prophet, and the signs and warnings he gave of the inevitable coming of the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem.

He also had to go against many false prophets and lying seers and influential priests and leaders, who gave false prophecies and ideas to the people and the king, and the prophet Jeremiah was therefore seen as a crazy, unstable and unreliable madman, and worse still, some even saw him as a traitor to the nation, for having spoken such prophecies of the upcoming downfall of the kingdom of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem and the suffering of the people.

And the prophet had to endure so many sufferings and pains, incarceration and prison, on top of the rejections and other forms of humiliations he had had to endure throughout his years of ministry. Any reasonable human beings would have given up their works and efforts in the face of such enormous opposition, challenges and difficulties. But why did Jeremiah not give up? He continued on regardless, and continued to be true to his mission to the very end.

That is because of his love for God, his understanding of God’s will, and how despite all the things that he had to suffer, but God had entrusted in him a very important task, which he had to do for the benefit of his fellow men, even if those people were stubborn and hard hearted, constantly refusing to believe in the word of God that he spoke of. He put his trust in God, that God will provide for him, and if he had not done what the Lord had commanded him to do, then many of his fellow men would have fallen deeper into sin and therefore into damnation.

In the Gospel today, we heard something that is very similar, of the moment when the Lord Jesus came among His own townspeople and neighbours in the village of Nazareth, where He proclaimed the truth about Himself and about the fulfilment of God’s salvation. The people went up against Him and many doubted Him, thinking of Him as a liar and upstart, using the argument that He was merely the Son of the village carpenter, St. Joseph, whom they had known for many years.

The Lord Jesus also encountered numerous other difficulties and challenges, throughout His earthly ministry. There were many who listened to Him and followed Him, but there were equally many if not more, who refused to believe in Him, doubted against Him just as what the people of Nazareth had done, and went against Him, particularly many among the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the priests of the Temple of God. In addition, the king Herod and his supporters, the Herodians and the Sadducees were also against the Lord.

They tested Him, made His journeys and teachings difficult, placing obstacles and barriers, challenges and persecutions, all for the sake of maintaining their own authority, their own prestige and status within the community of the people of God. They did not want to lose the privileges and the good things that they have gained for many years just because of the apparent challenge from that seemingly charismatic prophet, Jesus Christ, Whom they saw as a dangerous rival to their worldly schemes and ambitions.

We see in all of these, the lack of love which many of the people of God unfortunately experienced, that they did not have that love which they ought to have for God. In them, there is no place for God, for their hearts and minds have been filled up and corrupted by worldly desires, ambitions, ego, pride, and many other forms of distractions and temptations that have often prevented us from being able to love from our hearts. Instead of loving God, and loving our fellow men as we have been taught to do, we only care about our own desires and wants.

We may have all the talents, gifts, wonders and all other sorts of amazing things in our life, but if we are unable to love from our hearts, then everything that we have and everything we possess are meaningless and useless for us. Why is that so? That is because God has created us all to love, and to exist in love with Him and one another. And love is the essence of our existence. The moment we stop loving, we end up becoming selfish, egoistic, greedy and wicked, filled with all sorts of negativities that could have been avoided if only we allow ourselves to be filled with love.

What is love, brothers and sisters in Christ? Love is what the Lord Himself has shown us, not just by mere words but also through real actions. He showed us what love is all about, and taught us how we should also love through our words and actions in life. Many of us mistook love for desire and greed, and many also mistook love for pride and ego, or lust and promiscuity. All these are false forms of love that the devil has put in our midst in order to confuse us and to prevent us from finding our way to God’s salvation.

God has shown us what love is all about. True and genuine love is selfless and sacrificial in nature, filled with commitment and giving. He showed us what perfect love is, when He patiently ministered to us and cared for us, even with all of our rebelliousness and stubbornness, refusing to believe in Him and to love Him. We even ended up hating Him and being angry with Him, when we misunderstood His intentions, will and love for us. But God still loved us all nonetheless, even to the greatest of sinners.

It is this love that is reflected in His disciples and followers, including in prophet Jeremiah, in how he still carried out his obligations and calling as prophet despite all the nasty persecutions, troubles and sufferings that he had to face for so many years. All of these allowed him and multitudes of saints and martyrs to show the same love, first for God and then second, for their fellow men, even to those who have made them to suffer and persecuted them.

All of these are caused by them being inspired by none other than the examples of true love that the Lord Jesus has shown us, by His ultimate, loving sacrifice on the cross. He emptied Himself and embraced fully all the grievous and painful punishment that should have been ours to bear. His love for each and every one of us was so great, that He was able to endure all those wounds and pains inflicted on Him. His love for God, His Father and for each and every one of us, is the same love that we must have, every single moment of our lives.

Now then, brothers and sisters in Christ, how should we then emulate and show genuine love in our actions, words and dealings each and every days of our life? It is by learning to show love, selflessness and genuine compassion for those whom we encounter daily in our own lives, to not be selfish and be filled with desire and greed. Let us be generous in our giving and in our love, forgiving those who have caused us much pain and suffering. It is when we have this love in us, and God is at the centre of our lives, that we will have found our true peace in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all pray that we will be given the courage and strength, to show love in all and everything that we say, do and act in our daily lives, that even when the world itself is against us, and even when we are tempted to give up and find another way, we will remain strong in our love and in our faith in God, and filled with this love, we will not be swayed by the falsehood of the devil, and be able to live our lives faithfully from now on. May the Lord continue to be with us and guide us in our path. Amen.

Sunday, 27 January 2019 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we are called to reflect on the important role that each and every one of us have to play as part of God’s Church, and how we can contribute, in our own unique ways, to the fulfilment of the many wonderful works of the Lord through His Church. These have been made clear to us through the readings of the Scripture that we heard today. We are all part of Christ’s one and only Church, and we all have important roles to play.

St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, part of which is our second reading passage for this Sunday spoke about the nature of the Church, as the very one and only Body of Christ, consisting of all of us, the faithful people of God, as its organs and parts, all of which are inseparable from each other, united in purpose and function, and missing even one part can cause the whole part and the whole body to falter and suffer.

In the same Epistle, St. Paul also wrote about how each different parts of the Body of Christ, the Church, were made to be different, some with greater honour and some with less, some with more prominence while others with less, not because they were to be prejudiced against one another, but rather, because the Lord intended for each part to work together, and to learn to take care of one another, as ultimately, as just mentioned earlier, everyone is part of the same Church, and missing even one part can have grave consequences.

In the first reading today, we heard of the prophet and priest Ezra proclaiming the Law of God before the whole community of the Israelites who had just returned from the exile in Babylon. It was at the time when the community of Israel had just enjoyed a newfound freedom and a new hope for a new life back in their homeland. The Law of God being proclaimed by Ezra was a reminder for all of them that God was always in their midst, and at the centre of their lives and existence.

This means that the Church is an agglomeration of peoples of various backgrounds and talents, of diverse abilities and natures, like a beutiful And through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour and God, we heard the fulfilment of the promises of salvation which He had made for His people, the fulfilment and the revelation of the true meaning and significance of the Law He has given His people, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. The Lord proclaimed in His own hometown of Nazareth in Galilee, the fulfilment of God’s prophecies and promises, in the coming of the Messiah Who would save all of the people. And He was referring to Himself.

This is the mission that the Lord has entrusted to His Church, the Body of Christ, that is to proclaim the Good News of salvation, as Ezra the priest had proclaimed it before the people, and as the Lord Jesus Himself proclaimed before His own hometown assembly in Nazareth. The primary mission of the Church is indeed the salvation of all mankind, by its faithful witness of the Lord’s truth and the proclamation of the Good News.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us are called to do the same with our own lives. By virtue of our common baptism, each and every one of us have received and shared in the priestly, kingly and prophetic ministry of Our Lord. And by the same baptism, we have also been made parts of the one Body of Christ, God’s Church. As such, our lives are meant for the glorification of God and for the proclamation of His truth, to bring the love of God into the midst of this world, into our respective communities.

But as St. Paul compared the works and the functioning of the Church with a human body, each one of us as members of the Church cannot function and work independently of one another just as much as the organs of the body cannot work independently of one another. For example, heart is the most important part of the body as it pumps the blood to the various organs and parts of the body. If the heart stops working, then the person will also stop living, and yet, the heart cannot work on its own. Its activity is controlled by the brain, and without the lungs to support its function by absorbing oxygen from the air, the heart is useless.

Therefore, each one of us as members of the Church do not exist on our own, and neither do we act only selfishly for the sake of our own salvation. It is in fact selfishness that is the root of our own downfall, as when selfishness, greed and pride, ego and stubbornness come into our midst, to the centre of our Church, that we end up causing the downfall of each and every one of us. And this has indeed happened many times throughout the history of the Church and the world.

How is it so? It is exactly because of our selfishness and pride, that we see members of the Church causing scandal and showing unbecoming attitudes as Christians by their behaviours such as gossiping against other members of the Church, by slandering against those whom we do not like, by even direct insult and power-plays that caused much grief and hurt in the community of the faithful, and more often than not, causing the tearing apart of the fabrics of the Church’s unity and existence.

We often see how the laity are divided against themselves, and also priests being divided against their brother priests, scandals and conflicts within the religious orders and communities, as well as the divisions, anger and lots of misunderstandings between the priests and the laity, between the bishops and their flocks, among many others. All of these are in fact, if we realise, the tools of the devil in trying to undermine and destroy the unity of the Church, in order to snatch as many souls as possible into damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to put an end to all of these. We are called to be more resilient in resisting the many temptations of life, the temptations of power, influence, money and many other worldly temptations present out there. These are the things which often come in the way of us realising our role and part to play as members of the Church, and the greatest obstacles that cause divisions and sufferings within the Church.

And some of us may feel uncertain, lost, unworthy or reluctant to do what we are supposed to do as members of the Church. But again, as mentioned, God made us all to be parts of this Church with all of our imperfections and weaknesses, and also our strengths. God did not make any one to be perfect, and no one can claim to be able to do everything for the Church, no matter how good or talented we are, as we are not perfect and have our own limitations.

After all, God Himself chose imperfect men to be His Apostles, and many sinners, including tax collectors, rebels, prostitutes, and others to be His disciples and followers. Many among them were uneducated and foolish, but God gave them the strength and the gift of faith to be able to perform all the things that He had entrusted to them. And we saw how all these came to be, all the wonderful deeds that the Apostles and the countless other holy men and women of God had done throughout history.

That is why it is important that we learn how to work with one another, making use of our respective strengths and abilities, to serve the Lord and perform the works which He has entrusted to us all in His Church. God has called us all to help one another and to make best use of the abilities and talents that we have been given for the greater glory of His Name and for the good of each and every one of us, and all of mankind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore, let us all renew our commitment to live our lives filled with faith, in all of our actions, words and deeds, so that in each and every single things that we do, we will work together as the members of God’s one universal Church, caring for the needs of one another, and loving our fellow brethren as much as we are able to do so. May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our works, always. Amen.

Sunday, 20 January 2019 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the wonderful works of the Lord, which He had performed before all for the first time in the flesh, as the Gospel passage today related to us the story of the miracle at the wedding ceremony held in Cana. I am sure that all of us are familiar with this miracle, how the Lord Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine, when the wedding couple ran out of wine for their very important day.

In order to better understand the significance of this miracle, we must understand the context and historical importance of what had happened at that time. A wedding ceremony is a very important event in the life of the person, according to the traditions of the Jewish people, and in fact, a wedding involved not just the two persons who were getting married, but rather, the whole community, as everyone rejoiced together when a man and a woman is joined in sacred matrimony.

On such an important day, for the wedding couple to run out of wine is tantamount to a massive embarrassment that can affect them for the rest of their lives. As the bride and the groom and their respective families were usually in charge of the celebration and festivities, and all the details with regards to the wedding ceremonies, running out of wine can be interpreted as a sign of misfortune, disgrace and lack of divine favour for the marriage.

That was why the wedding couple in that Cana’s wedding was likely to be worried and distraught, as their own reputation and families were under grave threat. Thus, they sought the help of the Lord, by the help of His mother, Mary, to whom they sought for help. The Lord Jesus was reluctant to help them, as it was not yet His time to reveal Himself before the people, but His mother Mary helped the wedding couple, by asking the servants to listen to the Lord’s words and obey Him.

In the end, the Lord commanded the servants to fill up jars of water used for purification purpose, and then bring some of the water to the steward of the wedding. Miraculously, the water has been turned into wine, by the power of the Lord. This was the first miracle that He performed before the people openly, and the wedding couple was indeed saved from the humiliation and shame that they could have endured had the Lord not miraculously turned the water into wine.

Last week, as we begun the current season of Ordinary Time, we had the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which marked the official beginning of His earthly ministry, when He revealed Himself to the greater community. And today we heard of the moment of His first miraculous deed among the people. There were many more miracles He was to perform among the people, healing the sick, casting out demons and evil spirits, feeding multitudes of people miraculously, and many more.

This is the fulfilment of what the Lord had promised to His people through the prophets, particularly the prophet Isaiah, who has spoken widely on the coming of the salvation in the Messiah Who was to come. And all of these have been fulfilled in Christ, the Messiah Who was promised, the Lord Jesus, Who came into the midst of His beloved people, performing God’s many wonderful works and miracles. And He called many disciples and followers to walk in His footsteps, to continue the good works He had begun.

The Lord had mercy on His people, because He saw how despicable the state they were in, and how great their sufferings had become, all because of their own sins and disobedience. He wants to reconcile them to Himself, to forgive them from their sins and their disobedience, because of His enduring and boundless love for each and every one of us. He showed His compassion when He decided to help the wedding couple at Cana, even though it was not yet His time to reveal Himself through His miracles. Yet, He was moved and did the miracle because of His love for them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what St. Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth spoke of the various gifts that God has bestowed upon each and every one of us, and the calling which He had made to us, to embrace those gifts and talents, which have been given to us for a purpose. And that purpose is for the glorification of God as well as for the benefit and good of our fellow mankind. For God’s works in this world are not yet completed and His mission for us is still yet in progress.

He gave His followers and disciples a very important commandment before He ascended into heaven. This commandment is that all of them must go forth and be witnesses and preachers of the Good News and the truth that He has revealed to the world. They are to go forth proclaiming the Lord’s truth and baptise peoples of all the nations in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. And thus this has been the mission entrusted to the Church, that is all of us the faithful people of God, to the end of time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, to this end, the Lord Himself had said to His disciples, that He would give them the Helper, the Holy Spirit of God Who will guide them and teach them what they needed to know. And thus the Spirit granted us various gifts, for our respective missions and roles as members of the Church of God. We cannot do everything on our own, and no matter how much we try, there are always a lot of work that needs to be done.

Some of us have been called to a greater ministry of the diaconate, priesthood and the episcopate, dedicating ourselves to the service of God. These are those of us who have been called to the consecrated life, dedicating our whole lives and energies to serve both God and His people. But it does not mean that if we are not a deacon, or a priest or a bishop, then we are less important or have less responsibilities or things to do. In fact, the laity are still called to a great purpose and responsibility as members of the same Church of God.

The priests of God serve the whole Church, ministering to us all and celebrating the Sacraments of the Church. But without the support of the laity, those who have devoted their lives as priest, deacons and bishops will have a very hard time in fulfilling the good works and missions of the Church. The laity’s support in various ways are important, as I have mentioned earlier, in how we have been given many gifts, unique to each one of us.

For example, in those who have been called to the married life and creation of families, as symbolically mentioned in our Gospel passage today of the Wedding at Cana, we have a very important role to play in the Church, as the good and faithful Christian families are the basic units and pillars of the Church. It is in the family that the children learn first of the faith, and practice that same faith. If the family is not functioning as it should have, or diverged from the true faith, then we may end up having people losing their faith, especially those who are young among us.

And to others have also been given various other gifts, as administrators, volunteers and advocates, giving our respective talents to benefit God’s people. That is how the Church is able to reach out to so many people and to so many communities, by the tireless and numerous contributions of its members, both that of the laity and the priests alike. And now, we are also called to do the same with our own lives, if we have not done so thus far.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to reflect on our own lives, and how each and everyone of us can contribute, no matter how small it is, to the whole good works of the Church, fulfilling the mission that God has entrusted to us, and commanded us to do. Just as the Lord began His first miracle at that wedding in Cana, fulfilling the will of His Father and loving God’s people, then we should also begin our own ministry, in loving God and in loving our fellow men, if we have not already done so.

Let us all pray, that in the depth of our hearts and minds, God may reveal to us and that we may discover and discern carefully what we need to do as faithful members of His Church and as His followers and disciples in our present day world, in our respective communities and families. Let us all give what we can give to serve the Lord and His people, using our own talents and abilities for the good of all people. Let us not hesitate any longer but be courageous in living our faith from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of life, and may He give us the strength to be missionaries of faith, in contributing our talents and abilities for the missions and works of His Church, from now on. May God always bless us all and our good works and endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 13 January 2019 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is liturgically marking the last day of the current season of Christmas before we enter the Ordinary Time prior to the coming of the season of Lent in early March this year. On this day we commemorate the moment when the Lord Jesus was baptised at the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist, marking the occasion when the Lord finally began His ministry in this world after approximately thirty years since His birth.

St. John the Baptist was apprehensive at first when the Lord came up tp him asking to be baptised by him. He recognised Jesus as the One Whom he had been working all the while for, in order to prepare a straight path for His coming, and of Whom he had testified before the people, that not even he was worthy of untying the straps of His sandals, and how although he baptised with water, but the Lord would baptise them with the fire and the Holy Spirit.

But the Lord insisted despite St. John the Baptist’s reluctance, for everything was to be done in accordance with God’s will. The baptism of Our Lord Jesus was a momentous occasion, in which, the Lord Himself, God Incarnate in the flesh of Man, went through the same rite of passage as all of us the faithful people of God, just as by Him assuming His humanity has united His humanity to our own human existence.

The act of baptism itself, as St. John the Baptist performed it at the Jordan River, is a powerful symbol and reminder, that the people of God have been saved and liberated from slavery, as the Israelites in the ancient times were brought out of the land of Egypt where they were enslaved by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. When the Pharaoh sent his army and chariots to chase after the Israelites, God opened the Red Sea before them and allowed them to pass through the sea unharmed.

Therefore, by the passing through the waters of the Red Sea, God’s people had been brought by the great power of God from slavery into freedom. And this is linked to another slavery by which not just the sons of Israel, but all mankind suffer from, that is the slavery to our sins. Sin is born out of disobedience and unwillingness to obey the will of God, and its consequence for us is death. Unless we are freed from the slavery of sin, we will surely perish.

This is where God revealed the great wonders of His love for each and every one of us, that even when we have sinned against Him, disobeyed His commandments and disregarded His will, but because God still loves us regardless of these wicked things we have done, He gives us a new hope and deliverance, just as He has once liberated His people from the tyranny of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh.

This time, He is liberating us from the greatest slavery that has enslaved all of us mankind, that is sin and death. And the symbolism of water that is used at baptism is indeed very profound, for water is both the symbol of death and life, as it can cause destruction by its powerful force, and yet, it is also necessary for the presence and propagation of life. Without water, life cannot exist, and water is essential for the maintenance of life.

By this symbolism of water, which is both used at the baptism of the Lord at the River Jordan, and in our own Christian baptism, the Holy Sacrament of Baptism, the Lord unites us all who have received this blessed and holy Sacrament, to His own experience of suffering and death, as well as to His glorious resurrection and triumph over sin and death itself. We share in the same redemptive experience that the people of Israel had experienced by the Red Sea and throughout the Exodus, and now we have even much more than that.

For God Himself has willingly endeavoured to save us, by His mighty deeds, in leading us out of the tyranny and enslavement by sin, through none other than His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Who is God incarnate, the Word of God made Man, through Whom God has given us our salvation. The Lord unites our own mortality to His own humanity, and gathers all of our unworthiness, our sufferings and pains, our sins and all the defilements present in us, and placing them upon Himself on the cross He bore, He became the source of our salvation and eternal life.

That is why, on the celebration of the Easter Vigil, on which day most people who are baptised as adults receive this blessed Sacrament of Baptism, we have the reading of the passage from Exodus on the salvation of Israel crossing through the Red Sea. Just as the Israelites passed on from their old life of slavery and suffering into a new life of blessing and grace with God, thus, we too, have passed on from our old life of sin and disobedience against God, into a new existence and life that is blessed and holy.

That is why, the Sacrament of Baptism is the first of the Sacraments to be received by any Christians. We received it either as a small infant, if we had been born into faithful, Christian families, or as someone who have desired and sought conversion to the true faith, and went through a period of instruction, after which we were baptised just as the Lord Himself was baptised in the Jordan.

At the moment of baptism, our old life and our old iniquities and sins are washed away and cleansed, and our existence is renewed and made blessed by God. Our old life and sin have been destroyed just as we share in the death of Christ on the cross. And through baptism, God made us all His adopted sons and daughters, just as at Baptism of the Lord Jesus, the voice of the Father was heard, “This is My Son, My Beloved. My favour rests on Him.”

This is why we have also been made the sons and daughters of God, by virtue of our shared humanity with Christ. If Christ is the Son of God, and if we are His brothers and sisters by our shared humanity, then we too can be called children of God. And because God has taken us to be His children, the fullness of His love and grace are slated to be ours. But we must also remember at the same time, that baptism is not the end of the journey for us.

Although baptism has erased the taints of original sin and the sins we have committed previous to our baptism, but this does not mean that we cannot sin anymore after our baptism. We are surely aware how many of us Christians keep on falling back again and again into sin, not listening to the will of God, our loving Father, and instead, preferring to follow the lies and falsehoods of Satan, the deceiver.

Satan knows that through baptism, he has lost his hold on us, and sin and death no longer has their grip on us. But, he still does not want to let us go, and as long as we still continue living in this world, our earthly existence, our bodies and our beings are still vulnerable to sin, and this is where the devil is trying very hard to try to pull us back into sin. And we must be careful lest we fall back into the same predicament, for if we live in a state of sin, we may yet fall into eternal damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as we commemorate the glorious and wonderful moment of the baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, let us all remember the moment of our own baptism. If we cannot remember it because we have been baptised as infants, then the least we can do is, try to remember the date and time of our baptism, by asking our godparents or parents, who surely can remember the time of that very crucial event in our life.

Let us today give thanks to God for the gift of baptism, in His willingness to take us as His adopted sons and daughters, and for the love which He has shown us, day after day. Baptism is only the beginning of a new journey in which we must make sure that we listen to the will of God. Baptism is the beginning of the time of grace and yet also struggle in which we must often face divisions and even persecutions for standing up to our faith.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us always, and may He allow us to remember the joy of our baptism, and that we may know what we need to do in our lives now that we have been made God’s own beloved children. Let us love Him more and more, each and every days of our life. Let our life and existence glorify God and let us proclaim the wonders of His love by our own loving actions to our fellow brethren. Amen.

Sunday, 6 January 2019 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate after the twelfth day of Christmas, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, which on this year happens to fall also on its traditional day of the sixth day of January. On this day, we are reminded of the moment of the Epiphany, which came from the word ‘Epiphaneia’ that means manifestation or ‘appearing’ in Greek. This is related to what is commemorated in Epiphany, in what we have as our Scripture passages today.

In the readings for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the central figure and focus is the coming of people from all over the world, which was historically represented by the Three Wise Men or the Three Magi, who came from various parts of the world, bringing gifts and paying homage to the Lord of lords and King of kings, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the whole world. In today’s theme therefore, we see the Lord revealing Himself and His salvation to the many people of various races and origins, beyond the original race of the Israelites.

If at His birth, the Lord’s coming was witnessed by the local shepherds, representing the nation and people of Israel, then the coming of the Three Wise Men bearing gifts and paying homage represent the universality of Our Lord’s salvation and His authority over all of the whole world, and not just over the people of Israel alone. At that time, the prevalent thought was that, the Messiah would come to the people of Israel, and become a King over them, excluding those who did not belong to the race and nation of Israel.

And how did God reveal Himself to the nations? His coming into the world was marked by a great star, a mighty sign in the sky visible to many in various parts of the world, which pointed to the coming of a great King and Saviour, that prompted each one of the Three Wise Men, traditionally named as Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, to come from their faraway homelands, to pay a visit to the coming Messiah of God and the King to come.

Each of them bore a gift that when inspected further, seems to be strange and unfitting gifts to be given to a newborn Baby. But, each of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men, in fact played a major part in the revelation of God’s truth, showing us all, the true nature of God and His Saviour, in His great Kingly glory and in His fullness of divinity, and in the mission which He was to embark on, in order to achieve our salvation.

First of all, the gift of gold is a gift that symbolises power and authority, indicating the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At that time, gold is reserved only for the use of royalty and the divine, as they were so precious, incorruptible and beautiful beyond compare. The gift of gold therefore reveals to us the Kingship of Christ, King of all kings, the Lord and Master of all the whole universe. The Three Wise Men came before the Lord and knelt before Him, representing their acknowledgement of Christ as their Lord and King.

Then, the frankincense is the finest quality incense used only exclusively for the worship of the divine, for only the finest is reserved for the use of divine worship. The gift of frankincense thus reveals to us the divinity of Christ, that this Messiah or Saviour Who has come into the world, was not just any mere human beings, but far more than that, as One Who is fully Man, and yet also fully Divine, the Son of God Himself, the Word of God Incarnate.

This shows that the Lord Who has come into the world, is truly the love of God incarnate in the flesh, appearing in our midst, God Who made Himself tangible and touchable, contactable and relatable, and yet, without diminishing His divinity and His Godhood. And it was interesting and remarkable, that God wanted to make Himself so small and insignificant, to put Himself in the Body of a little Child, born in a dirty and cramped stable in the outskirts of the small town of Bethlehem.

This is where the last gift of the Three Wise Men, that is the myrrh, is remarkable, as it reveals to us the purpose and meaning of Christ’s coming into the world, choosing to be born as a Man. The myrrh is a precious ointment and spice, usually used for anointing the body of a deceased person prior to its burial. Truly, it is a very unusual and some may even think, inappropriate gift to be given to a child, and less still, the Child Who is also God and King of kings.

But in truth, even at the moment just after He was born into this world, the third gift, the myrrh has revealed the true nature of His mission, the salvation of all of God’s beloved people, by the obedience of the Son, the suffering He had to endure for the sake of our salvation, the pain and the suffering of the cross of Our Lord. Christ had to suffer and die on the cross, that by His death, He became for us the source of eternal life.

That blessed myrrh is the sign of His mortality, the mortality of the Humanity that is part of His person, and yet, not the mortality caused by His own sins, rather because He willingly took up for Himself, all the sins and punishments due for those sins, so that because of this, by absolving us from our sins, we will not perish and suffer the fate of those who have disobeyed and sinned against God, but instead, have a new hope of life everlasting in God.

This is also linked to the earlier symbolism of the frankincense, as it also presents before us the symbolism of worship, both God Who is worshipped and adored in the divinity of Christ, and in the humanity of Christ acting as the High Priest of all mankind, offering Himself, the Perfect offering of the Most Precious Body and Blood, of the Son of God made Man, Whose blameless and pure sacrifice became the source of our eternal life and salvation.

Therefore, as we have discussed, the three gifts of the Three Wise Men each showed a different aspect of Christ, Who is a King, a Priest and God, and lastly, as a Suffering Servant, the One Who was to suffer and die for our sake. Through all these, the truth about Christ, Who He is and what His mission is, have been revealed to all, and represented by the Three Wise Men, the Magi, all the nations have come to see the glory of God and His salvation.

This is the fulfilment of what the Lord has revealed through His prophets, especially the prophet Isaiah, who said that a people who lived in darkness, have seen a great light. The Three Wise Men saw the great and bright Star of Bethlehem, and followed its light to find their way to the Messiah, and they found Him, after what would have been a very difficult and arduous journey of probably months and more.

Today, we ought to reflect first of all, on God’s love for us, His desire to reveal to us, the fullness of truth about Himself, of His great and boundless love to each and every one of us. And He chose to enter into our lives, humbling and emptying Himself from all majesty and dignity, being born in a place least suitable for human habitation, less still that of the King of kings and Lord of lords. He gave everything for us, even His life, that by His selfless and ultimate sacrifice, we may have new life in Him and through Him. He revealed Himself to all the peoples of all the nations, that they may know Him, and may be saved, through Him.

This is the true joy of Christmas, which is the reason why we celebrate this wonderful season and time of Christmas, because God’s love has been a part of our lives, and we have seen how glorious and wonderful is His salvation for us. And now, what we need to do, is for us to open our hearts and minds, to welcome Him and to seek Him and His love for us, following in the examples set by the Three Wise Men.

The Three Wise Men travelled from faraway countries, traversing many difficult terrains and facing many challenges along their journey, and yet, they remained faithful despite all those challenges, and completed their journey of faith towards the Saviour Who was promised to come. They believed in the Saviour of God, and came to pay Him homage, while those who have heard the message of God’s truth, such as many of the Pharisees, many among the Israelites, king Herod and his supporters, refused to believe in Him, and rejected Him.

Today’s occasion of the Epiphany calls us to turn towards God, revealed before us, His love and His merciful compassion for us, that we may see in Him, a new hope and light that dawns, dispelling the darkness of sin that have blanketed us and became a barrier preventing us from realising just how much God loves each and every one of us. We are called to walk in the footsteps of the Three Wise Men, to follow the Lord with faith, in our respective journeys of faith in life.

Are we able to make that commitment, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord with ever more conviction and zeal? It is not impossible, for after all, God Himself loved us so much, that He humbled Himself, emptied Himself of all dignity and majesty, that He, the King of kings and Lord of lords, became our Saviour, by His death on the cross, a most painful and humiliating death, out of His love for us. Nothing is impossible for God, and therefore, by God’s will, we too can love Him in the same way.

Let us be inspired by the faith of the Three Wise Men, and walk, from now on, in God’s grace, abandoning our sinful past and embracing a newfound zeal and faith in God, keeping Him as the centre and focus of our lives. May God, Our loving Father, Our Creator and Our Saviour Who revealed Himself to all the nations and to all the peoples that they may know Him, be our guide, and may He bless us in everything we do, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.