Sunday, 20 October 2019 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us listened to the words of the Scripture in which we are reminded of God’s love and providence for each and every one of us as He has shown throughout all the time and history. And we are called to reflect on that love which God has lavished on us each and every moments of our lives. That is why He wants us to know that we are beloved and blessed because of this.

God brought His people to victory even against difficult odds as we heard in our first reading passage today how He led them to victory in the battle against the Amalekites, the sworn and bitter enemy of the Israelites, who were a powerful nation and a warlike people that could have subjugated the Israelites if not for God’s help and providence. This is symbolised by the acts of Moses who followed God’s instructions and raised his staff on a hill above the battle.

Since a long time ago, the staff is a symbolic tool used by the shepherds who took care of his many sheep and goats and other animals. As those animals often fed and grazed on hillsides and mountainous terrains as was common throughout the land, the shepherds used the staff both as a tool to guide them in their movement around as well as a visible sign for the flock of where the shepherd was and for the flock to follow. The staff guided the flock and made sure that the animals complied.

And in this case, by lifting up the staff high, visible for all the people to see, God wants all of His people to know that He was there with them, as their Shepherd and Guide, as their Master and King. Those Amalekites wanted to destroy the Israelites, subjugate and enslave them, much like the ravenous wolves seeking to hunt and consume the sheep and animals. But the shepherd is there to protect, and in this case, God Himself stood by His people.

When sheep or any other animals are in danger or are in need of something, they will make noises to alert the shepherd of the incoming danger. Then any good and committed shepherds will come and rescue their flock, and if necessary, they will even risk themselves to be hurt to protect their flock because they love their sheep and all those animals. Shepherds often spend so much time with their flock that they developed strong loving relationship with them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all God’s beloved people, the sheep of His vast and innumerable flock. He through Christ His Son revealed that He Himself is our Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, Who lays down His life for His sheep. This phrase is a very significant one, especially in the context of what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. And how is this so? That is because the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites is a mere microcosm of what the battle raging daily about us is.

For just as we are the sheep of the Lord’s flock, there are many of those seeking our destruction and suffering just as the Amalekites preyed on the Israelites. And these enemies of ours are the wicked and evil forces led by the devil, consisting of his fellow fallen angels and the demons ruling in this world. They are constantly active, waiting for the opportunity to strike at us and drag us with them into damnation in hell.

But we must not be afraid brothers and sisters in Christ, for God our Shepherd Himself is by our side, standing by us and being with us. If those shepherds can protect their sheep and their flock against those wolves and all seeking the destruction of their flock, all the more that God, the one and true Good Shepherd will be with us and protecting us, providing for us the help from our enemies because of His infinitely great love for each and every single one of us.

Now, let us all look at our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus used a parable to explain about God’s love for us, that is so great beyond anyone’s love and any other love we may have known. He compared the love of God to that of the evil judge who was pestered by a woman who wanted the judge to adjudicate for her case and to give her what her rightful claim has dictated.

The Lord used that parable as a comparison to prove the point that if that evil judge could give in to the demands of the old woman when she incessantly sought for his help, then all the more that God Who is filled with love for us will provide for us when we ask Him for help. And linking to what we have just discussed earlier on, we cannot fight alone in this constant battle raging about us, the spiritual conflict between us and the devil.

God is ever loving and generous with us, and we just have to ask and He will listen to us. But are we having enough faith and love for Him that we want to call on Him? In our Gospel passage today, we heard in the last part of that passage how God said that if we ask Him, He will listen to us and heed us. Of course whether He will act in accordance with what we have asked of Him is a different matter, as He will act according to His will and not ours, but nonetheless, God as our loving Father and Creator always listens to us, just like the shepherds are always keeping a close watch on their sheep and flock.

But this then comes to the last sentence of the Lord’s words today, that when the Son of Man comes into this world, will He find faith on earth? And this is important because unless we have faith, we will not be able to ask God or seek God, either because we are too proud to admit that we have shortcomings, that we are weak and are in need of help and therefore we try to solve everything on our own and with our own strength and judgments, or that we are too preoccupied and distracted that we cannot even recognise God’s presence in our midst.

Many times we have misunderstood God, thinking that we are perfectly alright by ourselves, or that we can do everything with our own power and ability, or that we only seek Him when we are in need of help and then forget about Him when we no longer need Him, treating Him like a means to achieve what we wanted rather than to put our complete trust in Him and to love Him just as He has first loved us.

And when we try to do everything on our own, that is when things go badly for us because we tend to make flawed judgments and choices in life, and are easily tempted by the devil and all those seeking our destruction as we are cutting ourselves off our Lord and Shepherd just as if a sheep decides to run away on its own and isolating itself from the flock and the shepherd. And that is the perfect opportunity for the wolves and all the predators to strike at the lone sheep.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all pray that God will give us the grace to have a stronger faith in Him, that our hardened hearts and stubborn minds can be softened and opened to allow Him to enter into our lives and transform us. Let us all pray for the grace of better faith and to be able to love God more in our daily lives, that we may draw ever closer to Him with each and every passing moments of our lives.

And as St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy in our second reading passage today, one of the best ways for us to move forward in faith is by focusing on the Word of God in the Scriptures, in which are contained the truth of God as He has revealed it to us. It is by deepening our knowledge and understanding of the Sacred Scriptures that we can know more about God. If we do not know a person well how can we then build a strong and meaningful relationship with that person?

In the same way therefore, unless we know God well and from then, building up a good and healthy and living relationship with Him, how can we then be close to God? How can we know what His will is for us if we do not know him well? As I mentioned earlier, we have to open ourselves up to the Lord, love Him and putting our trust in Him as our Lord and Shepherd then we can truly depend on Him and be close to Him.

The Lord knows us all very well, and He knows each and every one of us because He Himself created us all out of His great love. But do we love Him just as He has loved us? Have we spent the time and effort for Him just as He has done so for us? And how do we show that we love Him? It is by living our lives with faith and genuine commitment, by proclaiming the Word of God as His witnesses, not just by words but through real action in our lives.

That is what St. Paul had written to St. Timothy, urging us all the faithful people of God to preach the Word of God through our lives, at each and every moments of our daily living, through our every actions and deeds, our interactions and good works. This is how we stand by our ground in this ever challenging conflict with the devil and all those seeking our destruction. We have to put our focus on God, our Shepherd and Guide, and through Him, we must be beacons of light in this darkened world, as God’s warriors of faith.

This is how we will triumph in the end, like the Israelites crushing the Amalekites. We will triumph against the evil one and his forces, and God will guide us through to the eternal life and glory in Him that lies in the end of our journey. Our journey may be challenging and difficult, but as long as we stay by the Lord and remain faithful to Him, we will triumph in the end. But if we choose to cut ourselves off from God, then we will likely fall and end up in eternal damnation, something that we surely do not want.

And we must not forget that our triumph came through Christ and His act of ultimate love for us on the Cross. Just as Moses lifted high up his staff high up and bring victory against the Amalekites, Christ Himself was lifted up high on the Cross before us all, that all of us who saw Him will gain the same reassurance of ultimate victory against the devil and all of his forces. And we must remember how He went through all the pain and sufferings for our sake, and because He loves us all so much. The Cross is our hope and strength amidst even the greatest darkness, and we must always focus our attention on Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect and discern well what we can do with our lives to serve God ever better, devoting our time and attention to Him, deepening our relationship with Him by spending our time reading the Scriptures and in prayer, and living our lives as according to what He has taught us. Let us all be true disciples of Christ from now on, and be His willing and exemplary witnesses and evangelisers in our respective communities. May God bless us all and be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 13 October 2019 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we reflect back on what we have just heard being proclaimed in the Scriptures, we can see that there is a unifying theme for this Sunday’s set of readings and it is the importance of being grateful and to give thanks to God for all the wonderful blessings that He has given us all. Many times we have failed to appreciate and to thank the One Who has made everything possible for us according to His will.

We may think that giving thanks or showing appreciation to someone is something that is easily done and without the need of much effort. But through what the Scriptures are reminding us today, we are called to look deep into our own lives and realise just how difficult it is really, at times, to acknowledge, appreciate and to thank someone for the good deeds that has been done or given to us.

Let us first look at our first reading today taken from the Book of Kings, in which we heard the story of the healing of Naaman the Syrian by the prophet Elisha. Naaman was the greatest general of the King of Aram, a sworn enemy of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel because Aram had waged numerous wars for decades and centuries in contest of the lands of the northern kingdom. But this Naaman then suffered from leprosy.

We may not think that leprosy is something that is serious, but at that time, leprosy was not just a disease that can harm the body physically, but also afflict the person in mental, spiritual and in many other ways. For once, leprosy is a very highly visible affliction as it causes a visible discolouration of the skin and it affects particularly the limbs and the extremities, making it even more easily apparent.

And as leprosy can be transmitted from one person to another, although not highly contagious unlike some other diseases, the people of Naaman and Elisha’s time despised and feared leprosy a lot as a disease and even more so as a curse. For a person suffering from leprosy was often considered to be cursed by God for being sinful and for other wickedness that he or she had committed in life.

To see just how severe the affliction of leprosy was to the community, we just have to look at the numerous laws, rules and regulations listed down particularly in the Book of Leviticus where plenty of rules applied to those suffering from leprosy, those who came into contact with the lepers and even the matter of how to destroy objects and things that have come into contact with a leper. Essentially, we can see just how serious leprosy was to the community and this served its purpose right there and then when the Israelite community travelled and lived in very close quarters as they journeyed through the desert during the Exodus.

The lepers were forced to live outside the community as outcasts, and they were not allowed to return to the community until they were thoroughly clean and free from all signs of still having leprosy in their body. That was how it was even up to the time of the Lord Jesus, when He encountered the ten lepers in the wilderness as recounted in our Gospel passage today. Those ten lepers were outcasts and could not return to the community until their leprosy were healed and they proved this to the priests.

Therefore, it was in this context that Naaman the Syrian came all the way to Israel to seek healing as the name of the prophet Elisha as even though the rules regarding leprosy might have been different in his homeland, nonetheless it must have been a humiliating and difficult experience to suffer from such a disease. Thus Naaman came to Israel seeking Elisha hoping that he could be cured from his afflictions. But Naaman initially was not happy that Elisha asked him to go and bathe seven times in the River Jordan, for he thought that the prophet would have done something more amazing than such a mundane activity, and that he could have done the same in one of the rivers of his own home country.

But in the end, Naaman relented when his servant pointed out to him that he should probably better listen to the words of the prophet and do as he was asked to do in order to be healed. True enough, Naaman was healed completely right after he did all that the prophet Elisha had asked him to do. And as we heard in our Gospel passage today, Naaman wanted to thank Elisha for what he had done and insisted to give many gifts to the prophet, but Elisha rejected this offer.

In this, we can see how pride and ego often stand in the way for us to be able to appreciate what God has done for us, especially in reaching out to us and in trying to heal us from our afflictions and relieve us from our many troubles. Naaman was proud and arrogant, thinking badly at first how he could have been healed in a much better and more dramatic manner, only to realise that this attitude made him stubborn and therefore fail to recognise God’s generous offer of love and mercy.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the ten lepers who were healed by the Lord even though initially they were unaware that they were already healed by the time the Lord was with them. But among the ten, only one of them returned to the Lord and thanked Him, while the other nine lepers, probably overjoyed and too distracted by their sudden reversal of fortune, forgot completely about the Lord and did not return to thank Him.

This here is a reminder for us that, not only that we could be stubborn and refuse to accept or acknowledge something good given to us by another, but we also often forget to give appreciation, acknowledgement or thanksgiving when they are due because we are too distracted and too preoccupied with whatever it is that we are doing that we end up treating God in such an ungrateful manner. And yet, if you noticed, the Lord did not retract His healing grace from the other nine even though they did not thank Him.

Now, there are two very important things here we have to take note of, brothers and sisters in Christ. First and most important of these is that, all of us, in case we do not realise it, are also suffering from ‘leprosy’ too. And why is this so? That is because all of us, no matter how healthy we are in our physical bodies, all of us are sick inside because of sin. All of us are sinners without any exception, each and every one of us have sinned, and sin is the ‘leprosy of the soul’.

And even far more dangerous than the physical and bodily leprosy mentioned, the spiritual ‘leprosy’ that is sin cannot be healed save by the grace of God’s forgiveness alone. But as shown by the example of Naaman’s initial stubbornness and the ignorance of the nine lepers healed by Jesus, we mankind are often too stubborn and proud in refusing to admit that we have been wrong and that we have sinned.

And that is why we end up not realising just how serious our sins and our conditions are, often until it is too late for us. And God has always been generous in extending His mercy and in being compassionate towards us regardless of our rebelliousness and constant attempts in disobeying Him. Then, secondly, the second important thing I mentioned is that God’s mercy is for everyone. He extends His merciful love to all and He is not biased for or against anyone.

This may not be easily observed in today’s Scripture readings, but the fact that two person mentioned prominently in them, namely Naaman the Syrian and the Samaritan leper who returned to give thanks to the Lord Jesus, were both foreigners and were often considered as pagans and looked down upon by the Jews made it truly significant. The fact that they gave thanks to God the blessings and wonders they have received put to shame the rest of those who considered themselves as God’s chosen people and superior to the pagans.

This is a reminder for us not to ever look down on anyone or think that others do not deserve God’s love and attention as much as we do, for God truly loves every single one of His children, all of us without exception. The Lord wants all of us to be healed from this terrible affliction of sin, the ‘leprosy of our souls’. Let us all have that necessary humility in us to acknowledge first of all how we are really in need of God’s healing grace, to be forgiven from our sins. And then let us all also humbly acknowledge how great God’s love for us had been that He still cared for us all these while despite all of our waywardness and stubbornness.

May the Lord continue to guide us all through these journeys we have in our respective lives. May He continue to bless us in our every good works and endeavours as He has always done, and may He strengthen in us the courage and resolve to dedicate our lives to His cause and for His greater glory from now on. Let us also be ever thankful for His ever great love for each and every one of us, and for His ever great patience for us all, His beloved but wayward ones. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 6 October 2019 : Twenty-Seventh 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 God speaking to us into our hearts and minds, reminding us all that we must have that sincere and genuine faith in God, or else we will not be able to live our lives as how God wants us to live them. We must trust in the Lord in all things and put our lives before Him, dedicating ourselves to His cause and obeying His will at all times.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Habakkuk, we heard firstly of the supposed anger and distress of the people as voiced in conversation to God, to show how the people thought that God had not listened to their prayers and left them to endure suffering and bitterness in life. And this was made in the context of the prophet Habakkuk being active in his ministry during the early years of Babylonian Empire, which in a few decades would end up destroying Jerusalem and Judah, and brought the people into exile for many years.

At that time, the people of God were beset by many problems and were faced with many enemies, and they and their kingdom were already waning in power, far from the once glorious days of King David and King Solomon. The prophet Habakkuk as recorded throughout his book in fact spoke of the rise of the Babylonians, as a premonition for the ending days of the kingdom of Judah and the coming of the time of humiliation for God’s people, the destruction of their Temple and their enslavement once again in exile.

But this is where then God through the prophet Habakkuk wanted His people to know that it does not mean that if things did not go according to the plans of the people then it means that God does not care about His people or that He has forgotten about them. On the contrary, it means that everything is within God’s plan and will, and not how we want it to be. This is what God presented to us clearly today in that first reading passage, that if we have not received providence we need or grace we hope for, then we ought to be patient and remember that everything occurs in God’s time, not ours.

Impatience is caused by the desire in us that goes on unchecked and the temptation for us to get the right answers and things we want, which if we embrace then can lead to further impatience, unhappiness and sufferings. And why is this so? That is because we are never going to be satisfied by those things alone. They are mere distractions from the true happiness and treasure which we should see in our life, and which can be found in God alone.

It was the unbridled and uncontrolled desires of the people which led them to disobey God and to grumble against Him as mentioned in our Psalm today, where we heard that at the last part of the verses, the incident of Massah and Meribah was mentioned. At that time, the people of Israel were on their way from Egypt to the land promised by God to them. But as they continued to progress through the journey, they grumbled more and more, refusing to listen to God and even complaining that God was leading them to their deaths.

The people of Israel were impatient and they were also overcome by their own human desires, the greed and wants inside them. As a result, they sought for worldly satisfaction, wanting a good lifestyle that they could not wait to have. And instead of trusting God, they chose to turn to pagan gods and idols, and followed the words and desires of men rather than to listen to God and to the words that His servant Moses had spoken before them.

Just as their descendants at the era of the prophet Habakkuk would do, the people of God trusted more in their own human power, intelligence and strength rather than trusting in God as they should have. They wanted things to go their way and became angry and disillusioned when they could not get what they wanted. Yet in this, we can clearly see how they were imposing themselves on God and demanding things that they did not deserve in the first place.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus put it bluntly before His disciples and the people whom He taught, that truly each and every one of us, no matter how powerful or great we are, ultimately we are merely the servants of God, His creatures and people, who are at His mercy at all times. But God’s love for us is so great that indeed, He wants to take care of us and provide for us in our respective lives. Nonetheless, God does this in the way He wills it and at the time of His own choosing.

And it is a reminder for us to avoid making excessive expectations in life, thinking that things will go our way or the way we wanted it to be. If we expect too much, in the end we will be left with nothing but disappointments, regrets and anger. This is exactly what the devil wants to lead us into, by tempting us with all those temptations and desires so that we will fall deeper and deeper into our wicked ways and disobey God through sin.

Yet it is also how our world today operates, in a society often obsessed with expectations, standards and ideals. We are often preoccupied so much on what we want that we forget what life truly is all about. Our life in truth is not about trying to accumulate as much wealth, fame or other good things in life, and neither it is a way for us to indulge ourselves in the many tempting things surrounding us, the temptations of money, fame, glory and other sorts of worldly pleasures.

Instead, our life should be enriched in faith and it should be holy just as Our Lord is holy. We should make best use of our life’s existence to bear witness to the truth of God by our every actions and deeds, by our words and dedication even in small and little things in our lives. We should grow lesser in our pride and in ego, in our ambition and desires and instead, we ought to grow stronger and firmer in our humility and in our love for God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to reflect on our lives and discern how we should live our lives from now on. We are called to turn ourselves from trusting only in our own human strengths and capabilities into trust in God with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. We have to realise that ultimately, there is no way that we can survive just with our own capabilities without God.

And we also have to understand that in the end, God’s will shall be done and not ours. God is the beginning and the end for everything that we are, and everything that we are belong to God and God alone. Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live our lives from now on with greater humility and with greater commitment, turning towards Him with all of our hearts and minds? Are we able to follow Him and trust Him wholeheartedly, now and always?

May the Lord continue to guide us all in this journey, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live a good and virtuous life from now on as faithful Christians, as those whom God considers to be His own beloved children and as those whom He will bless forever with eternal glory and blissful life in perfect grace and love. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 29 September 2019 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, all of us are all called to live a holy and virtuous life that is centred not on worldly possessions and the many temptations present in this world, but rather on God alone. We have to remember this at all times, lest those same temptations pull us into the wrong path, as the evil one is always ever ready and ever busy to strike at us with all of his capabilities.

In our first reading today, we heard the words of the prophet Amos being directed at the Israelites conveying the anger of God at those people because of their refusal to believe in Him and His prophet, their refusal to listen to those whom God had sent into their midst to remind them to follow His path. They have hardened their hearts and closed their minds to God, and they preferred to live in sin and worshipped pagan idols and gods instead of the One and only True God they should have been worshipping.

The prophet Amos worked and ministered to the people during the last years of the northern kingdom of Israel, which was referred to in the first reading passage today as ‘Samaria’, which was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. It was a foreboding and warning to those people that should they continue to live in sin and refused to change their ways, they would see the end of their kingdom and had to endure exile, as how it actually happened in the end.

And this is related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus used the parable of Lazarus and the rich man to highlight how important it is for us to live a truly God-centric life and resist the many temptations found in this world. In that well-known parable we heard how the Lord Jesus told His disciples the story of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus, who was always by the gate of the house of the rich man, hungry and suffering while the rich man feasted and dressed well every single day.

Through this parable, the Lord wanted us all to know that it is not that He is against us having wealth or that being wealthy is something that is sinful and wrong, but rather, it is our unhealthy and dangerous attachment to those worldly possessions, be it wealth in any forms, in money and other goods of pleasures, even in matter of dress and food that we must be wary of. Those goods on their own are not evil or bad by nature.

In fact, having greater wealth and possessions is actually a blessing from God, that God has given us more and provided us with greater blessings in our own unique way. However, we must also remember what the Lord Himself also said in another different occasion, that ‘To those who have been given a lot, a lot is also then expected from them’. This means that the more blessings we have received from God, the more that we are actually challenged to make good use of them.

The very fact that Lazarus, the poor man stayed at the gate of the rich man’s house day after day, again and again showed just how oblivious the rich man and his household had been to the plight of Lazarus. The rich man and his household partied and celebrated without end, with all the goodness the world could have offered, enjoying to the fullest all of earth’s wonderful pleasures, satisfying themselves in great excess.

That poor man did not ask for much, just for food to alleviate his hunger and basic human needs and dignity. Yet, no one would give him what he deserved, and left him all alone to suffer until the day he died and went into heaven in the presence of God and Abraham, his forefather. Then as mentioned, the rich man also died, and he went into the eternal suffering in hell, suffering as the Lord said because during life, he had done what is wicked and enjoyed life as it was, while Lazarus suffered so greatly.

Being rich is truly not something that is inherently evil or bad. God does not despise the rich and the powerful as I have just mentioned. But when we misuse what God has given to us and blessed us with for our own selfish purposes, just as the prophet Amos spoke against the Israelites for their wicked and unjust actions towards one another, then we have committed a great sin against God.

But this is something that each and every one of us must always be wary about, as the temptations are always there, pulling us into the path of disobedience and sin. By our exposure to sin, and by the frailty of our body, mind and flesh, we are naturally predisposed to various desires, be it for wealth, money, for worldly things and possessions, for glory and power, for other pleasures of this world, to satisfy our own selfish desires.

This is where we must always stand ready to resist those temptations, which Satan and all the evil forces ever present around us are always ready to push onto us, trying to lure us away from the path of righteousness. And this is where in our second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to St. Timothy, the Apostle reminded us that each and every one of us must strive to be holy and godly, and strive to resist all the negative emotions and temptations that threaten to take us away from God.

And looking again at the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, let us remember and realise just how futile our pursuits for worldly things and glories have been. For all of his wealth and power, his popularity and all the fame he had, the rich man was left with nothing when he entered into death and thrown into hell. In the end, he was just left by himself, in despair and total hopelessness, and no matter what he is doing and how he want to get out, once he is in hell, there is absolutely no hope for him, for he has rejected God completely and refused His love totally.

Satan purposely wants us to indulge in all those wicked things, and to be tempted to sin so that we will in the end lose everything, and he will never cease to tempt us and to push us into sin, and we should resist his efforts and seek for help in this constant battle raging daily for our souls. And today, as it happens, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael.

Today, let us all ask for the help and protection from the three Holy Archangels, who is always ready to help us with the legions of Angels and our own Guardian Angels to protect us all from the attacks of the evil ones. But we also have to make the conscious effort to resist those temptations and realise that we have to hold onto the right things in life, that is not the false joys and happiness in worldly things, but rather to trust in God.

Let us all therefore make best use of whatever God has blessed us with, for the benefit of our fellow men and not be selfish like the rich man or the Israelites of the time of prophet Amos, who put themselves, their ego and pride ahead of their love for God and for their fellow men. Let us seek to be humble in all things and love God and place Him at the very centre of our lives and our existences. Let us not be ignorant of the needs and the plight of those who are less fortunate than us, but instead, let us be generous in sharing whatever happiness, joy and blessings we have received from God.

May the Holy Archangels, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael protect us all and may they intercede for us and be our guardians in this constant, daily spiritual warfare that we may emerge triumphant, keeping ourselves away from unworthy and wicked attachments to false pleasures, joys and temptations of this world so that in all things we may become ever closer to God and be worthy of His promised inheritance and glory. Amen.

Sunday, 22 September 2019 : Twenty-Fifth 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 God in the Sacred Scriptures reminding us all on the matter of being truly faithful and dedicated to God in everything. We have to trust in the Lord and follow Him with all of our hearts, with all of our minds and with all of our strength. But it is often that throughout our lives, we are distracted and tempted by various temptations present in this world.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos, we heard the Lord rebuking His people through the prophet Amos because of their wicked attitudes, in cheating others and treating others badly, in how they acted without care for the well-being of their fellow brothers and sisters. All of them were wicked and unjust, greedy and seeking only to satisfy their own selfish desires.

And God was angry at those people because of their wicked intentions and desires. He was displeased at their attachments to worldly things such as wealth, power, fame and other things that kept them distracted and prevented them from truly being connected with God. This is reinforced by what we have heard in our Gospel passage today when the Lord used the parable of the dishonest steward to teach the people.

In that parable, the Lord spoke of a steward who was caught in doing fraudulent service and was reported to his master, who then decided to dismiss him for such a dishonest and disloyal act. The steward wanted to protect himself and provide for his needs, and that was why he did all that were mentioned in the parable, as he looked for two other servants of his master who owed certain debts to the master.

The dishonest steward manipulated the details of the debt, probably because he was the one in charge of the accounts and in fact his fraudulent service would probably have been exactly what was described in his action with the two servants. By rewriting the debts of the two servants, the dishonest steward in fact cheated his own master. Perhaps the fraudulent service he had been found out earlier was meant to enrich his own pockets, but the actions he took with the two servants were no better.

Why is that so? That is because it is still cheating and being dishonest in order to protect himself and provide for his desires. The dishonest steward himself put it clearly before us just before he acted, as he thought in his mind how he was ashamed to beg for money, now that he had lost his job. This thought showed us what his attitude was, and showed us how he had always been selfish and proud, refusing to admit that he was wrong and continued to do what was wrong even in trying to provide for himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is what can happen to us all as well if we allow the temptations present in our world to affect us and to overcome us. It is very easy for us to fall into those temptations unless we consciously try to resist those temptations. Indeed, it will not be easy for us to resist because there will be many moments when we will feel pressured or pulled to follow those temptations.

Often we may end up following those temptations and fall into their snares. As long as we embrace worldly ways and think in the manner that the world approves, we will not be able to truly love God with all of our hearts and with all of our focus and attention. That is what the Lord Jesus wanted to point out to the disciples and to the people, and also to all of us when He said that “No servant can serve two masters… and that you cannot give yourself to both God and money.”

The Lord did not mean that we must avoid money altogether, or that we should not make use of worldly means in our daily lives. We still need to make good use of what the Lord has blessed each and every one of us with and not to misuse those things. However, the key here is that of self-restraint and control, which many of us are lacking or are not cultivating, which leads to us being easily tempted and led astray.

We have to be wise and discerning stewards of God, for God has indeed entrusted us with many blessings, talents, gifts and all sorts of things He has given us with, and it is our free choice and by the free will God has given us that we choose what we want to make use of those gifts and blessings for. Are we going to make use of them for our own selfish gains and desires? Or are we going to make use of them responsibly and for the good of everyone?

If we allow ourselves to be overcome by greed and worldly temptations for wealth, for power, glory and fame, that is why we can end up like that of the dishonest steward in our Gospel passage today who compromised on just principles and also like the merchants and people rebuked by God through the prophet Amos in our first reading today as those who put their own selfish and greedy wants and desires over other things.

Instead, let us all make good use of what God has entrusted to us, and heed what the Apostle St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy in our second reading today, that indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ alone is the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and us. This means that the Lord alone is the true focus and true satisfaction and destination that we should be seeking for in our respective lives in this world.

All other worldly things and desires, all those tempting and seemingly pleasurable and wonderful things are in the end, just illusions and distractions I have discussed earlier, all that can prevent us from finding the path to eternal and true joy in the Lord. We need to overcome all these temptations and all the attachments to worldly satisfaction so that we can become God’s good and worthy servants and disciples.

Let us all reflect on this and see how we can make the necessary changes in our lives, in how we live our daily lives and in our even small little actions, in our words and deeds, that we can become ever more attuned to God’s will and grow in our loving relationship with Him. Let us all strive to be better Christians from now on. May the Lord continue to guide us all in our journey of life. Amen.

Sunday, 15 September 2019 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday a very powerful recurring theme throughout the readings of the Scripture is reminding us all that God is so great in His forgiveness and mercy, in His desire to be reconciled with us by forgiving us from our many sins and wicked actions and deeds throughout our lives. There is no sin that God cannot forgive, but when we mankind refuse God’s free and generous offer of love and mercy, then we are truly not going to be forgiven.

God has always been ready to welcome us back and He has always been patient, trying again and again hoping that we will have a change of heart and turn back to Him. He knows just how stubborn and how attached we are to our sinful and wicked ways, but He also know that each and every one of us are not yet lost as long as we have not completely rejected and refused His love. God still loves each and every one of us as dearly as always.

If He has not loved us so much, then He would not have created us in the first place, as God has never had any need in His perfection and perfect love, and He created us because He wanted to share that perfection of love that is in Him with us. And that love He has for us remains even after we have betrayed Him and abandoned Him for Satan and his many temptations. Had His love been diminished or been gone after we have sinned against Him, then God would have destroyed and crushed us very easily with a mere thought of His will.

But He did not do so, and instead He gave us chances one after another, again and again despite us being so stubborn and so rebellious that we continuously disobeyed Him even after He has forgiven us many, many times and sent us reminders again and again, wanting us all to be reconciled to Him by forgiving us our sins. And there is no sinner, no man in this world that has sins too numerous or too great for Him to forgive, as after all, God is all powerful, Almighty and omnipotent, and He can do everything including forgiving us of all of our sins.

That was what happened in the time of the Exodus as our first reading passage today taken from the Book of Exodus tells us. At that time, the people of Israel had been so wicked in their actions, just right after God had brought them out of the land of Egypt and just after He had punished the Egyptians and their Pharaoh so severely for refusing to let the Israelites go free. Instead of being thankful and being deeper in commitment towards God, the Israelites became wayward.

They built for themselves a golden calf, crafted likely in the image of the pagan Egyptian idol, which they took for themselves to be the ‘god’ who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. Rather than putting their trust in God and in His servant Moses through whom He has revealed His plans for them and His assurances of the promise that He has given them, in bringing them to the rich lands promised to them and to their ancestors.

They chose to follow the whims of their desires and the temptations of worldly pleasures, worshipping pagan idols and gods, following their ways and thoughts, and in succumbing to the demands and ways of the world. They abandoned their faith in God in exchange for temporary satisfaction and joy, for worldly comfort and satisfaction of their stomachs and bodies. And even after that occasion, the Israelites would go on to disobey and betray the Lord many more times.

That is why it is understandable why God’s anger was directed at His people, for their constant faithlessness and stubbornness. Yet, He still loved them all and wanted them to be forgiven despite His anger against them. Moses was the one who also stood by the people before the anger of God and the sinful Israelites, beseeching God to reconsider when He wanted to bring destruction upon them and to wipe out the whole nation save for Moses who remained faithful.

God forgave His people and made a Covenant with them, forgiving their disobedience and sins, except for all those who willingly and consciously rejected Him totally and refused to repent. And that was in fact a prelude to a far greater act of mercy and love that God has done for us, in the renewal of the Covenant He had made, and how He established forever a New Covenant that is everlasting, by the sending of His own Son to be our Saviour.

And much like that of Moses in the time of the Exodus, the Lord Jesus also stood by the breach between God and us mankind. And just like the Israelites of that time, all of us mankind have disobeyed God and sinned against Him. Because of this, we should have been doomed to destruction and eternal damnation that was our certain fate, for because of sin we have been cast out of God’s grace and love.

Yet, it was His constant and infinite love for each and every one of us as illustrated in our Gospel passage today which allowed Him to continue to love us and to forgive us, and through what He has shown us by the sending of His own Beloved Son, He wants to forgive us and to be reconciled with us just as what Christ Himself has revealed to the people through the use of the parable of the prodigal son in our Gospel passage today.

In that parable, which we are surely quite familiar with, the prodigal son left behind his father after demanding his portion of the inheritance and squandered off all of his wealth and possessions in sinful living, and only when he had nothing left then the prodigal son came to realise just how meaningless and useless all of his pursuits for worldly things had been, as all those who were his friends were only befriending him for his money and possessions.

In the end, in the midst of his suffering, the prodigal son remembered his father and the love which he used to enjoy from his father, and comparing it to the then miserable and despicable state he was in at that time, having to stoop down to the worst possible condition, being a helper in a pig farm, feeding food to the pigs, food that not even he could take, essentially being treated less in importance even to the pigs, an animal which was already treated badly in the Jewish traditions.

It was at that time when the prodigal son was at his lowest that he decided, definitely after going through a lot of thinking and struggles, to go back to his father and humbling himself like a servant, beseeching and begging him to take him in not as a son, but rather as a servant and slave. He would rather be taken in as a servant and slave rather than to suffer forever in the distant place away from his father.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the prodigal son is a representation of all of us, each and every one of us who have sinned against God. The father of the prodigal son is God Himself, Who constantly loves His beloved children, but truly is saddened to see the prodigal son going off with his inheritance, tempted by the temptations of worldly goods and things, fame and glory, wealth and pride. This is what we have experienced ourselves, as those temptations pulled us away from God and His righteous path.

But this is then that we have to realise through the story of the prodigal son, and also looking back at the story of the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, when they built the golden calf idol for their own, on how we should proceed from now on, in our journey to be reconciled back with God. As I mentioned earlier, God, our loving Father and Creator is always full and rich of mercy and love, compassion and tenderness. He is just like the father who immediately embraced the prodigal son the moment when he saw the son returning from the faraway lands.

In that same passage we also heard of a similar comparison with that of the lost sheep, whom the shepherd naturally looked for, leaving behind the other sheep which were already safe in the flock. That He was willing to go all out looking for us is proof enough of His dedication and love for us all. Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often we who reject His generous offer of mercy and love, and that is because of the ego and pride within us.

Look at the prodigal son again, brethren, and let us all discern why he did what he had done. He could have remained proud and stubborn even in his moment of distress, thinking that he could not have done anything wrong, and he could have tried to resolve everything by his own power. Yet, he chose to humble himself and throw away all of his ego and pride, and returning to the father in shame, he won for himself instead true and lasting happiness.

And this is where Our Lord Jesus Christ comes in again. Remember that God has sent Him into the world to be our Saviour? He was in fact assuming the role of the prodigal son in the moment of His Passion, death and resurrection, and this whole parable is in fact a premonition of what He was going to do in order to save all of us. Through the humanity which He has assumed in the flesh, He took up upon Himself, all of the punishment and sufferings due for our sins, and put it on Himself through the Cross.

He emptied Himself of all glory and dignity, power and respect, and became the lowest of all beings, treated far less than that of a human, rejected and made to suffer the most humiliating and painful death. He was stripped almost naked and made an example before all who saw Him, a bloodied and battered Body, as the ultimate supplicant on our behalf before God His Father in heaven.

It is then by offering Himself in perfect love and humility that Christ won for us, like that of the prodigal son, a reconciliation between us and God our loving Father. Through His Cross, Christ has rediscovered for us the path that lies between us and God, which had once been destroyed by our sins and rebelliousness. Through Him, God has restored hope for us and showed us the path to full reconciliation and true happiness in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all ready to follow the path that Christ has shown us all? Are we ready and able to follow Him in all humility and throwing away all of the ego, pride and greed in our hearts and minds just like what the prodigal son had done? As I mentioned at the start of today’s discourse, God is always generous with His love and is always willing to forgive us, and yet, unless we truly repent from our sins and desire to turn away from those wickedness, we cannot be truly forgiven.

Let us all spend some time to think about this and discern well what we are going to do from now on. Let us all remind ourselves if we are still living in the state of sin and doing whatever it is that God has forbidden us to do or taught us to avoid, all sorts of fornications and sinful conduct, all sorts of selfish and immoral behaviours, and all things that are against His truth and His love. God has given us all these many opportunities again and again and He is always ever patient in waiting for us to return to Him.

Thus, what are we waiting for, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is indeed easier said than done for us to humble ourselves and to throw away the great ego and pride in our hearts, but let us all begin from those small sins and all the hurtful and wicked things we have done in our daily lives. Let us all recognise that through these and many other sins we have committed, we have been made corrupted, dirty, unworthy and deserving to be destroyed, and yet, God through His infinite love for us continues to love us all the same.

Let us all renew our conviction and faith in God from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ. And let us all turn our hearts, minds and indeed our whole being towards God with love, devoting ourselves wholeheartedly from now on to Him. May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us all in our daily lives, and may His loving mercy continue to come down upon us, His beloved children. Amen.

Sunday, 8 September 2019 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are called to reflect on the importance of trusting and putting our faith in the providence of God, and all of us are encouraged to discern more deeply about how we can be better disciples and followers of the Lord in our daily living. We are called to discern carefully what it truly means for us to be a disciple of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

To be a disciple of Christ, which means as Christians, all of us must be willing and committed to accept the cross of Christ as He Himself mentioned to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that those who follow Him must carry their crosses in life. This cross that they carry is the cross of suffering united to the cross of Christ’s suffering, on which He has borne all of our punishments for our sins and died for our sake.

Through all of these that God had spoken to us through His words in the Sacred Scripture today, God wants each and every one of us to know that following Him is not going to be something that can easily be done or something that will be all pleasant and good. In fact, the reality is such that to be a follower of Christ will often mean that we will endure the same kind of rejection and suffering that the Lord Himself has suffered.

And that is why He put it plainly before all of us without sugarcoating any of the details. He put it clearly and plainly that being His disciples will often lead us to be in difficulty, in moments of trials and challenges, in rejection and persecution, all of which will lead us to doubt, or question or even wanting to give up our faith entirely. But we must not give in to those temptations and pressures, and instead we must learn to put our trust in God.

In our second reading today, in the letter which St. Paul had written to Philemon, this servant of God addressed himself as a prisoner of Christ, which highlighted the plight and suffering that he was then going through as someone being persecuted for his faith and dedication to the Lord. St. Paul has endured a lot of trials and challenges throughout his ministry as an Apostle during his evangelising missions.

He has been rejected by many people just as there were many others who accepted him and listened to him and his message of God’s truth. He has been cast out of towns and cities, ridiculed and almost stoned to death, persecuted and almost killed by his enemies and those who despised the Lord and the Christian faith. He has been betrayed and made to suffer pains in the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions, and yet, he remained true to his faith.

And why is that so? That is because St. Paul united his sufferings and trials to the very sufferings of Christ. He did not carry his cross all alone by himself, or just by carrying them with some others. In fact, as I have mentioned earlier, he carried his cross in union with Christ Himself, knowing that for everything he had suffered, the Lord has suffered infinitely a lot more, having had to endure the punishments for all of our sins.

There were also many other saints and holy servants of God who have suffered in the same manner as St. Paul or even more. Throughout the history of the Church there had been countless men and women who endured willingly those many pains and sufferings in the defence and witnessing of their Christian faith. They committed themselves to God, again knowing that they carried out their crosses in their respective lives and circumstances being united with Christ’s own sufferings.

There must have been a lot of questions that would have arisen amidst all those sufferings. Just as is in our human nature, it is bound for us to doubt, or to question or to wonder why is it that we have to suffer in this world, especially as those who believe in God and considered as God’s own beloved ones. It is common for us to hear questions such as ‘Why is there suffering if God is so good and loving?’ or ‘Why does God let His people suffer if He loves us all so much?’

This is where then we need to understand first and foremost why we have to suffer and carry our crosses in life as we follow the Lord in His path. Our sufferings come about because of the abuse of human freedom and our own stubbornness in refusing to listen to and to accept God’s truth. All of us are all beloved by God, every single one of us without any exception. Thus, by that nature, all of us ought to enjoy God’s full grace and love for eternity as He has intended.

Unfortunately, because we refuse to obey Him and chose freely to embrace the tempting fruits of sin and wickedness that Satan has presented to us, that we become corrupted and attached to those sins and temptations. And therefore suffering comes because we willingly chose to abandon God’s fullness of grace, love and providence, and preferred to walk down our own path to ruination. We chose the path of sin and disobedience and in doing so, we become reluctant to follow the Lord.

That is also why those who remained in sin and refused to believe in the Lord ended up persecuting their brethren who chose to believe in God. They refused to listen to the truth often because the truth pointed out to the defects and what are lacking in their hearts. Their pride and ego, their greed and desire for acknowledgment and superiority and unwillingness to let go of those negative things led them to persecute those who believe in the truth, that is us as Christians.

But, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where then each and every one of us must truly contemplate what we should be doing with our lives from now on. Again in our Gospel reading passage today, God spoke to the people with regards to a parable He chose to portray and deliver His message to them. He spoke of a person building a house who ought to be thinking of what would be needed in order to build the house and complete it thoroughly or else, the house cannot be completed and the builder would be shamed.

Similarly then, the Lord spoke using the example of a king who was about to go into war with another king, who ought to discern and examine carefully the prospects of victory before engaging each other in battle. Essentially, using these two examples, the Lord wants us to discern carefully on our own respective lives as well, given that He has presented to us the truth of everything, and how each and every one of us have been given the free will to choose between following Him or to follow the path of the devil and the world.

Following God, as I have mentioned earlier, will often mean for us to suffer and to have to endure difficulties and challenges for His sake. Of course the extent of sufferings, trials and challenges will be different for each and every one of us, and no two same people will encounter the exact same conditions and sufferings as each other. Nonetheless, it is a fact and reality that the path that we have to take as faithful Christians will be an uphill one.

On the other hand, it is often so much easier for us to take the other path, that is the path of disobedience and sin, the path which Satan and his fallen angels, our tempters have presented to us all the time. This path is likely to be much more appealing and enticing to us than the path that God has shown us. Yet, the Lord also made it very clear and had revealed to us, that those who choose the path of sin and willingly and constantly going down that path has nowhere else to go but the damnation in hell, while those who persevered in the path of faith will receive the eternal and true glory of God.

Now, all of us have been given the wisdom and the ability to discern carefully what our course of action in life should be, that we have known what the two possible ultimate outcomes are. But a lot of times, we end up being distracted and fall into indecisiveness because we tend to worry, be concerned about ourselves and our worldly well-being, about being accepted by others and by the community.

This is where our first reading passage today from the Book of Wisdom should enlighten us and help us in our decision, as it was mentioned there that ‘our human reasoning is timid and our notions are misleading’ and how our ‘physical body weighs down on the active mind’. All of them reminds us of our own mortality and our own vulnerability to the temptations of the body and the flesh, the weakness of our body that become obstacles in our journey of faith.

That is why, because of our own weaknesses and inability to understand many things around us that we have to learn to put our trust in God and to focus our whole attention and our whole being on Him. The more we try to comprehend things or make decisions by considering all the concerns and thoughts we have, the more we will be confused and easily be trapped by the devil and his snares.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all pray and spend more time building a healthy and good relationship with God from now on, and trust in Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength, knowing that He has provided us with everything that we need, and despite the sufferings, trials and challenges we may encounter in life, let us remember that He Himself has endured those same sufferings and worse, all for the love He has for each and every one of us.

Let us all therefore spend this time and moment to grow ever stronger in our faith, and to walk ever more faithfully in the path towards God. Let us be ever closer to God with each and every passing moment. May the Lord continue to guide us and journey with us, as we strive to carry up our crosses with Him, entrusting ourselves completely in His hands. May God bless us all and all of our good works and endeavours. Amen.