Sunday, 19 August 2018 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we continue for the third week, the discourse of the Body and Blood of Christ, which in the Gospel passage today, was mentioned by the Lord Jesus Himself, as the food and drink which He would give His people. The Jews, especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were both skeptical and even furious at such a revelation. To them, a Man such as Jesus could not have given Himself for them to eat and drink.

Why is that so? First of all, we have to understand clearly that the Jews understood what they heard from the Lord, from a completely worldly and materialistic perspective. They thought that it was completely disgusting that the Lord Jesus, as someone Who they thought as a Prophet and Holy Man of God, could have said something so unimaginable, as to say that He would give them His own flesh and blood.

But little did they realise that the Lord Jesus was not mincing His words, saying the very truth of what He would do. And this is also the very core and centre of our Christian faith, as we believe in God Who has willingly offered Himself, sacrificed Himself and allowed Himself to be lifted up high on the Cross at Calvary, so that by that offering of Himself, a perfect offering, He may become the worthy absolution for all of our sins.

In the first reading today, taken from the book of Proverbs, we heard about the gift of Wisdom to those who have none, and how Wisdom, personified as a woman, called upon the senseless and all those without wisdom and understanding to share and partake in the food and drink she has prepared. This is a premonition of what the Lord would ultimately reveal, that is the gift of His own true Wisdom, by the giving and sharing of Himself, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

In the first place, all of us do not have true wisdom in us, unless it came to us from the Lord. God alone knows everything, and He alone has all knowledge, of what is to come for us. He revealed to us all that for all that we have achieved in this world, all the glory and power we have gathered and attained, all of these are nothing without God. For we have to remember, first and foremost, that our lives came from God, and this life we owe it to the Lord alone.

Unfortunately, because of our disobedience, which led us to sin, have sundered us from this source of life. That is why, although once we have been intended to enjoy forever the wonders of the world in perfect bliss and joy, but due to sin, we have been cast out of Eden, and ended up suffering in this world. And we are made to suffer this mortal existence, having to meet with death at the end of our lives.

Because of our sins, we have been made unworthy of God’s grace and love, and we have been made unworthy of God’s holy Presence, as due to our sins, we have been defiled and corrupted. Nothing wicked and evil can stand before God and do not perish, and therefore, death and damnation are our just punishment and consequence for our failure to obey His will. But as we can see, God does not intend this to be our fate.

Instead, God loves each and every one of us so much that He Who has created us out of nothing, wants all of us to be reconciled and reunited with Him. God knows that without Him, all of us will eventually wither and perish, and separated from Him, we will suffer eternal anguish, pain and despair. That is what hell is, brothers and sisters in Christ, the state of existence, where those who have willingly and consciously rejected God, and therefore suffer for eternity the effects of their decision.

Although we mankind have been disobedient and rebellious in our actions, from time to time, day after day, but God is always patient, and He always remembers His love, the same love He has for us ever since the beginning of time. So great is His love, that He has given us the perfect means through which we may gain this reconciliation and reunion with God, and that is through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

It is by the perfect and selfless giving of Himself, the perfect offering of His own Body and Blood, on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary, that He has given us the one and only means to be saved from our fated destruction and damnation in hell. He revealed this for the first time to the people in the beginning of His ministry, by what He told them in our Gospel passage today, of Him being the Bread of Life, the Source of our salvation.

But the people and the disciples would not come understand the true meaning of these words until after the Lord has already brought everything to its full and perfect completion. It was only later on that they would realise, through the Holy Spirit, that the Lord has truly done everything He could to save us mankind, even to the point of laying down His life on the cross, and giving us the best gift of all, the Most Holy Eucharist, the proof of His perfect love for us.

And the Eucharist is the centre and heart of all of our faith and belief in God. Why is that so? That is because we believe that, in the Eucharist, which is celebrated at every occasions of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the Real Presence of the Lord, truly present in His Most Precious Body and Blood. He is truly present in the flesh, both fully Man and fully Divine as He is.

The bread and the wine offered at the Mass has been transformed completely into the substance, essence and reality of the Lord, Master and God of all. That means, although what we see is still the bread and the wine in appearance, but truthfully and we truly believe, as the core tenet of our Christian faith, that we have received nothing less than Our Lord Himself, present in Body and Blood.

Yet, there are many among us Christians who through our actions or through the way we live our faith, we have not shown appreciation, understanding and the urge as well as desire for the Lord truly present in His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We have not shown the proper respect or reverence in welcoming Him into our lives. Remember, brothers and sisters, that God Himself has given His own Flesh for us to eat, and His own Blood for us to drink, that by partaking them, we may come to share in both His humanity and divinity.

That means, all of us are dwellings of the Lord, and our bodies, minds, hearts and souls are the Temples of God’s Holy Presence. Yet, many of us treat our body, mind, heart and soul as if without care, corrupting them with sins and wickedness through our actions. How can we then be worthy of God, Who comes to us directly and dwelling in us through His Most Precious Body and Blood?

Let us all reflect on this, and think of how we can correct our attitude and actions, that we may come to be truly faithful to God, and show sincerely, our faith and belief in God, Who is truly present in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist. Let us turn to Him wholeheartedly, He Who has given us Himself that by sharing in His death, we may die to our sins, and share in His glorious resurrection as well.

The Lord has revealed this wonderful truth to us, showing us His great and boundless love. Are we able to love Him in the same manner, giving Him all of our attention, focus and our love? Let us all adore Him in the Most Holy Eucharist, His Real Presence among us on earth, and appreciate the fact that He has chosen to come into us, unworthy sinners, that we may be transformed by His Presence, and through the Holy Spirit He has sent us, we may all find true Wisdom, and turn therefore away from the false temptations of the world, and find our true treasure, that is God, and God alone.

May God bless us all, and may He empower each and every one of us, through the most wonderful spiritual sustenance we have received, the Bread of Life, that while once we were sinners doomed to die and perish, we now have the sure hope and assurance of eternal life with our loving God. Amen.

Sunday, 12 August 2018 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we continue the discourse we had from the previous Sunday, on the Lord’s words to the people of Him being the Bread of Life, giving His own Flesh and Body to all of them to share and eat. But we heard how the people refused to believe in Him and even uttered disgustingly at such a suggestion, saying, how can such a Man give them something to eat from His own Body?

That is because they did not have faith in them, and they did not believe that Jesus is more than just a mere Man like them, even when they have seen all the miracles that He had performed in their midst and despite all that He had taught them, just as the prophets had written that the Saviour would have done. They have hardened their hearts and minds and refused to believe in the Lord’s truth.

In today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Kings, we heard about the prophet Elijah who at that time was fleeing the harsh persecutions he had endured for quite a long time under the wicked kings of Israel and their idol-worshipping followers. The prophet Elijah was at the end of his wits and was in great despair, wanting the Lord to end his suffering there and then right away. It is quite understandable considering the kind of treatment that Elijah had received at the hands of his enemies.

But the Lord sent His Angel to provide food for Elijah to eat, and He commanded the prophet to eat through the Angel, for the upcoming journey He had to take would be a perilous one. Elijah was likely still hesitant, but in the end, he obeyed the Lord’s commands, and ate the bread and food given to Him. The food gave him sustenance and strength to go on a long journey of forty days and nights towards the mountain of God, Mount Horeb, where Moses once received God’s laws.

It was there that God met Elijah, and spoke to him, and strengthened his faith. And ever since then, Elijah continued his ministry, braving through persecutions and trials, carrying out what God wanted him to do, faithfully and with great zeal. This is also a reminder of God’s sustenance and care for His entire people, when He gave them manna, bread from heaven to eat for the entire period of forty years of their journey to the Promised Land of Canaan.

But as the Lord Jesus said in the Gospel passage highlighted the fact that those bread that God gave, while they gave sustenance to the physical body and made them all satisfied and filled, with strength to carry on the long journey, to the Promised Land for the Israelites and to Mount Horeb for the prophet Elijah, but eventually those bread are food that sustains only our physical flesh and body, and ultimately, they are nothing compared to the True Bread and Food from heaven that God would come to give His people, that is His own Flesh and Blood.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, speaking about going in a journey, are we all aware that each and every one of us are also currently in a journey? Our lives are journeys for each one of us, and we embark on this journey of life, with the ultimate destination of being reconciled with God and being in full union with Him, at the end of our lives, when we may be reunited with Him in full grace and love.

We have to make this journey in life because of our sins, the original sin of Adam and Eve, our forefathers, and all of our own mortal and venial sins that have caused us to be separated and sundered from God’s love and grace. Our life on earth, in this world, and all of the sufferings we encounter is this journey of life that we are taking, and we are all on our way towards God.

But on the way, many of us will be distracted and fall off the path, going to the wrong way and direction, and there are many other offerings out there that may seem to be more attractive to us than our original intended destination. That is the devil at work, together with all of his forces and allies, bound on making us to fall into temptation and therefore fall into the eternal damnation in hellfire.

That is why, just as all those who are going on a journey need food to sustain themselves, and not just any type of food, but good, nourishing and hygienic food, not rotten or useless for us in terms of nutrition. Let us imagine if one were to bring perishable food to places like a desert, where there is no way for us to preserve those food. In that case, the food will spoil and if we eat this food, we will be in trouble.

And what is the right food for this kind of journey? It is none other than the Holy Eucharist, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Himself, the Bread of Life, Who has promised all of us who share in His Body, of everlasting life and union with God. We may see that it is just a mere bread and mere wine, as others in the world would also have seen them, but what is different for us, is that we have faith.

The most important part of our faith is our belief that the priest in the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, by the power and authority given to him, has turned and transformed the bread and the wine into the very essence and material of the Lord Himself, His Real Presence in the Eucharist. It was not bread or wine that we receive during the Holy Communion, and neither have we received just a mere symbol of His Body and Blood.

Though by appearance it may seem to remain as bread and wine, but in reality, the Eucharist is the Lord Himself, fully present in our midst and within us, as the physical Body and Blood of Our Lord that has dwelled within us. The Eucharist is the sustenance which the Lord Himself has given us, to share in His Body and Blood, that we may share in His death and resurrection, dying to our past sins and rising to our new life in Him.

The Lord sustains us through the Eucharist, which is eternally linked to the same sacrifice which Our Lord had performed at Calvary, and this sustenance give us the strength and the power to go on in our faith and in how we lived our lives. But have we often taken our reception of the Eucharist for granted? Many of us have, in our attitude towards the Eucharist and in our understanding of its significance.

We still received the Eucharist when we are in a state of sin, and have not repented from our sins and confessed them, and we did not show proper deference and respect for the Lord, even though in our faith, we know that it is Him truly present in our midst. This is the attitude which we must avoid, and discard immediately should we have it with us at the moment.

Therefore, let us be sincere in our faith in the Lord’s ultimate gift in His own Body and Blood, in the Eucharist that He has bestowed upon us through the Church and the holy priests He has appointed to be our shepherds. Let us all love Him with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, and with all of our strength. Let us all turn back towards Him, with a heart that is filled with love for Him, and the desire to be reconciled and reunited with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore realise what it is that we need to do in order to reach out to the Lord from the way that He has shown us all. It is by receiving the sustenance of the Eucharist, Most Precious and Holy Body of Christ, worthily and with faith in Him. Let us grow ever stronger in our commitment to love God and to follow His path, despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 5 August 2018 : Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday of the Lord, we listened from the Scriptures, through which we heard about the Lord Who fed His people with food, to sustain them through life, beginning from the time of the Exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites traversed the desert for forty years in order to reach the Promised Land. They took so long on the journey because they disobeyed the Lord and refused to believe in Him. They made complaints after complaints, that the Lord punished them for their disobedience.

But God never intended for them to be destroyed, and He never wanted to punish them unless it was necessary for Him to do so. When He punished them, He was like a father who disciplines his children, wanting them to be developing well and not be spoilt by their own lack of discipline and understanding of what it means to grow up into a good and obedient child. God was doing what was necessary to ensure that His children would not end up falling further into sin.

The Israelites were swayed by the ways of their neighbours and those they have encountered during their journey, including that of their Egyptian former slave-masters. Although their ancestors and they themselves worshipped the one and only True God Who has brought them out of slavery, but the love of gold and worldly pleasures tempted them into sin, as they could not resist the temptation of gold and the wealth of the world, when they carried off many golden vessels and items given to them by the Egyptians.

They ended up making the golden image of a calf, likely modelled after the pagan gods of the Egyptians, and claimed it to be their god. They would rather worship an empty, human-made idol made by human hands rather than the One Who created all of them and the entire universe, the One Who had also shown His might and power before them, by His ten plagues and the many miracles which He had performed in their midst.

And that is the story behind what happened to the people of Israel, and why they constantly sinned against God, grumbling and complaining, because they sought worldly pleasures and they wanted to satisfy their body’s desires. They felt the urge of their bodies to satisfy themselves with food and sustenance of this world, and when they could not get what they wanted, they rebelled against God Who has loved them so much.

But against these people, these unfaithful and ever ungrateful children, God was ever patient and loving, and He provided them with food, food from heaven itself, the bread called the manna, as well as large flock of birds that flew into the encampment of the people of Israel. They had enough food to eat, for not just a short moment of time, but for the entire forty years period of their journey. They were well taken care of, and when they were thirsty in the middle of the desert, God gave them crystal clear water to drink.

Last Sunday, we also heard about God Who fed His people, especially the Lord Jesus Who fed the multitudes of the five thousand men and countless more women and children. He blessed and broke the bread that miraculously were able to feed all of them, despite there was being only five loaves present, and with twelve baskets of leftovers. God loved His people, and He knew of their hunger, and that was why He fed them with food, to make sure that they did not suffer from the hunger.

However, today, it is reminded to each and every one of us, that we have received an infinitely greater gift of sustenance from God, one that does not merely satisfy just the hunger of our physical bodies. On the contrary, this perfect gift from God satisfies all of our needs, fulfilling our hearts, minds, souls and indeed, our entire being. This gift is none other than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, the Most Holy Eucharist.

Today, all of us are reminded that Christ Our Lord is the Bread of Life, as He Himself mentioned in the Gospel passage we have today. And this life is not just the earthly life and existence which we have now, but true life, that is everlasting, our eternal existence with God. Just as we need to eat food in order to sustain ourselves bodily and physically, and how those who lack food will eventually die, without the Bread of Life, we will perish eternally and suffer an eternity of true death.

Now, brothers and sisters, do we all realise just how beloved and fortunate each and every one of us have been? We are truly very fortunate and blessed to have God, Our loving Father, Who devoted Himself to our care and to our whole well-being. Just as He had taken care of the people of Israel every single day for forty years in the desert, He has also taken care of every single one of us.

First of all, He gave us life, so that we can live in this world. He gave us opportunities, one after another, to find our way and path to Him. And then, He gave us the promise of eternal life through His Passion, suffering and death on the cross. He gave us nothing less than His own life, so that we can live. And not just any life, but life of eternity, and an eternity of loving existence with God, through the sharing in His Body and Blood.

The Holy Mass is as we know it, the sacrifice of the Lord on Calvary which is happening at every moment the priest offers up the bread and the wine, and relating what happened at the Last Supper, when the Lord Jesus said, “Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is My Body…” and also “Take this all of you and drink of it, for this is the chalice of My Blood…” It is the same sacrifice of Our Lord that we participate in, and the same Body and Blood which He has given to His disciples at the Last Supper.

It is the essence and reality of bread and wine that has been completely transformed by the priest, in persona Christi, by His power and through the Holy Spirit, into the Lord’s own Body and Blood, which we receive as the sign of our reception of the Lord into ourselves and our Communion with the whole body of the Universal Church. The Lord Himself has come into us, in flesh and blood, and we took Him into our own body, which has then become God’s Holy Temple.

Unfortunately, there are still quite a few of us who do not realise this truth, or that they chose to ignore this fact. Many of us do not show the proper reverence to the Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, treating it nothing more than receiving and consuming a piece of bread. And many of us treat the Eucharist lightly and even with contempt, by the way that we receive the Lord.

What do I mean by that, brothers and sisters in Christ? We all know that the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist, but yet, some of us come to receive Him when we are not in a proper state to receive Him, meaning that we are not in a state of grace. We committed all sorts of mortal and serious sins, and yet, we come to receive the Lord with our sins without repentance and without regret for them.

Now, this is a serious sin against God and a scandal for our Church and our faith. St. Paul reminded us all through his Epistle to the Corinthians that each and every one of us is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of God Himself. And it is therefore right and just for us to make sure that we keep this Temple holy and clean from defilement. Yet, many of us have defiled God’s holy Temple by our own sins and by our own refusal to repent.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore let us all reflect on our own lives. Let us all look again at all the things we have done in life thus far, both good and evil, and think of whether we have done what we should have done as the followers of Christ, or whether we have wandered off far away from God’s path. Let us all seek to rediscover the true purpose of our lives, that is to serve God and to glorify Him.

Let us all distance ourselves from the many idols and distractions present in our lives, so that we will no longer fall into the same predicament as that of the Israelites. Let us all distance ourselves from all these distractions and temptations, and do our very best to love the Lord from now on. God has loved each and every one of us so much that we could not have existed and lived without Him. We must repent from our sins and truly regret all the wicked things we have done in His presence.

Are we thankful to God Who has loved us and given us what we need in life? Have we taken His love for granted, and even betrayed Him or else abandoned Him for something we deemed to be better than Him, when He has done everything He could to provide for us and to give us His love, that He gave us nothing less than His life, bearing His cross and die for us? Should we not love Him with the same generosity and conviction in love?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are called to turn to the Lord, Our God, with a renewed sense of purpose and with a new commitment, to love Him with all of our hearts, with all of our minds and with all of our might. He, the Bread of Life, has given us so much, for our sake, that now, we have to also love Him in the same way, devoting ourselves to Him, from now onwards.

May the Lord, Who gave us life and Who loves us dearly, continue to bless us and to be with us, every single day of our lives, that we may continue to draw ever closer to Him, and to love Him with ever greater passion, through our every actions, words and deeds. Let us all have the Lord as the centre and focus of our lives, that we may no longer be separated with Him, but growing ever more intimate in our relationship with Him, day after day.

O Lord, Bread of Life, be with us always, and dwell within our hearts that we may be sanctified by Your presence. May all of us be holy just as You are holy, in our every words, in our every dealings with others, and in how we show the same love You have shown us from the beginning of time, to one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in You, Our loving Father. Amen.

Sunday, 29 July 2018 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, from the Old and New Testament, and from the Gospel passage, all forming a common theme of God feeding His people through wondrous deeds, by which He, through the prophets and His own Son, gave them food to eat, and then, how this sharing of meal and food are very symbolic to all of us as Christians.

In the first reading today, we heard from the Book of Kings of the moment when a man brought a food offering to the man of God, Elisha, the prophet God had appointed over His people. Elisha told the man to give the bread to the people, of which there were more than a hundred of them gathered. Evidently, there were not enough bread for the man immediately said that he could not have given the bread to all the people gathered there.

But the prophet Elisha told the man to trust in the word of God, and follow what He had asked him to do through the prophet. For God would indeed provide for His people, and true enough, all of the people had enough to eat from the few pieces of bread, and sharing the bread, they had even leftovers to be gathered. This miraculous event would happen again during the time of Jesus, the famous feeding of the five thousand men mentioned in our Gospel passage today.

At that time, there were five thousand men and many more uncounted women and children who were gathered at the plain where the Lord was teaching and preaching the truth of God. They had been following Him for several days, coming from nearby and even farther away towns and cities, not carrying much if any provisions or food with them. Naturally, they would also go hungry and the Lord had pity on them.

Thus, the Lord called for food to be distributed among the people, but there were only five loaves of bread and two fishes were present, brought by a young boy. The disciples doubted, and St. Andrew asked, just as the man in the story of the prophet Elisha, if there was enough bread and food to feed the huge multitudes of the people. But the Lord reassured them, and told them to do as He said. He made them all to sit down to be ready to feed from the bread and the fishes given from His hands.

The Lord blessed the bread and the fishes, and took the bread, and broke them, and giving them to His disciples, to be distributed to the people. From there, all of the people ate until they were all fully satisfied, and yet, still twelve full baskets of bread could be gathered in the end. This was indeed another seemingly impossible feat, similar to what the prophet Elisha had performed. But God’s grace was truly with His people, and God Himself, through His Son, Jesus, performed that before the people.

Then, if we read on to our second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus, what we have heard from the story of the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the food that was blessed by God, all of us can see a new significance and importance to what we have just heard. In fact, this is part of the central tenet of our faith and what it means for us to be Christians, as members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

In that Epistle, St. Paul wrote about the faithful being part of one Body and having faith in one God. This is what it means for all of us Christians to belong to the Church of God, as St. Paul further elaborated in his Epistle to the Corinthians, mentioning that ‘you are Christ’s Body, and you are individually members of this Body.’ He was referring to the Church, the united body of the faithful, which together forms the Body of Christ, with Christ Himself as the Head.

All of us are united in this same Body, the Church of God, having received the same Spirit, and united by our common identity, that is the sharing of the Most Precious and Holy Body, and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. The word Holy Communion itself refers to this sharing of the same Body and Blood of Christ, which we receive at the celebration of the Holy Mass. Only those who have been baptised as faithful and devout members of the Church can receive Holy Communion.

This is not a statement of exclusivity, but rather a reiteration of the fact that all of us who have received Holy Communion and are in the good standing of faith and in a state of grace, worthy of continuing to receive the Eucharist, are united with each other, as members of God’s Holy Church, sharing in the broken Body of Christ. And in order to fully appreciate the significance of this fact, we must link what we have heard from our first reading and Gospel passages today, with the institution of the Eucharist itself.

At the Last Supper, the Lord broke the bread and shared the bread with His disciples, and did the same with the wine, which He passed to His disciples to drink. And He said that the bread is His Body, and the wine is His Blood. At that time, the disciples have yet to understand the full meaning of these words that Christ said to them. But after the events that transpired the next day, which we celebrate every year on Good Friday, the crucifixion itself, the whole truth of the Eucharist has been made available to all of us.

For the Lord crucified on Calvary, on His cross, is the fulfilment of the breaking of the bread and the institution of the Eucharist which He had done at the Last Supper. By laying down His life and being lifted up on the cross, He offered Himself, in His Body and Blood, the bread and wine offered, both at the Last Supper and at every celebration of the Holy Mass, to God the Father, Who accepted the perfect offering of His Son, and all of us who receive this same Body and Blood of Our Lord, now becomes one Body in Him.

By partaking the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we take the Lord into ourselves, and we become united in body and spirit with Him. And it is through this union that we have united ourselves as one Church through Christ, with all of our fellow brothers and sisters in faith. And now, if we have not taken this union, that is this Holy Communion we have as good and righteous members of the Church seriously, perhaps, this is the time that we begin to do so.

What does this mean? It means that whenever we commit a grave sin, we have sundered ourselves from this union with God, and hence the Church has ruled that based on Scriptural truth and tradition of the Apostles and the Church fathers, we have to go to confession before we are to receive the Eucharist, or else, we commit an even greater sin, of ignorance of the true nature of the Eucharist, that is Our Lord Himself, present in Body and Blood.

And if the Lord Himself has come to us and is willing to enter into our lives, then should we not take our faith much more seriously from now on? Shall we not turn ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, Who has loved us so much, that He feeds us with not just bread as He had done with the people of Elisha’s time and the people of the time of Jesus? But with the Bread of Life Himself, the Lord Who nourishes us by His own sacrifice on the cross?

Shall we turn to Him with regret for our sins and wickedness in life, if we have done Him injustice and wrong, disobeyed His laws and precepts, and committed sins that were grave enough to separate us from this Communion which we have with our fellow brethren in the one Church of God? Shall we from now on, truly believe in all of our hearts, minds and in all of our whole beings, that we shall have complete and absolute faith in God and in His Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to preserve this unity, this sanctity present in the Church. And how do we do so? It is by living our faith with genuine dedication and commitment, every single days of our life. If we see any of our brethren falling away from the way of faith, let us all help and pray for them, that they may return to the true faith, and we ourselves have to be exemplary in our lives, or else, how can we convince others to be faithful to God?

Let us all renew our commitment to God, and let us all live our lives with greater realisation of our existence as members of God’s holy Church, united with Him and with one another, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. May the Lord be our strength, and may He continue to guide us and empower us, daily, that despite the challenges and the temptations to sin, we will always strive to be ever worthy of God, and of this holiness we are called to be as members of God’s one Body, one Church. Amen.

Sunday, 22 July 2018 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we focus our attention to Our Lord as our loving Shepherd, Teacher and Guide, by looking at what He had done for us, in various times and opportunities, to lead us into the right path and to the reconciliation with God, our loving Father. And this is ought to be contrasted to those who have misled and misguided the people of God, those who have made them to fall into sin.

In the first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord spoke to His people through Jeremiah, condemning all those who have misled His beloved ones into sin, and He would scatter and destroy all of those who were responsible, because they chose to disobey Him and even to teach the falsehoods and lies to the others, especially those entrusted under their care. At that time, this referred to the kings and the false prophets and guides in the society.

But the Lord ultimately did not hate His people or wish for their destruction. Truly, He had shown us His anger, in many occasions throughout the Scriptures, but all of these were directed at the wicked and sinful acts we have committed in life. In that same passage taken from the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord also spoke of the hope that He would come to gather His people once again, to bring them back to His side, and to regain what He has lost to the darkness.

And St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, our second reading passage today, made it clear how this has come about, through none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whose coming, reconciliation and healing has come upon us mankind. Once we were divided and broken by our hatred and jealousy towards each other, by misunderstandings and lack of proper guidance.

Indeed, the Lord Jesus is the One and only Shepherd and Guide, the Good Shepherd, Whom all of us ought to follow, and not those who have not been faithful to the way of the Lord. All those were the false and evil shepherds, who were not at all concerned with the fate and the well-being of the sheep, that is the Lord’s people who had been placed under their care and stewardship.

The kings and the lords of the people had abused the power and authority given to them, by being transfixed and preoccupied with power and worldly glory. They accumulated for themselves wealth, honour, prestige, fame and all things that we always desire from the world, but in the process, they oppressed the people and led them away from the path of salvation, by forcing them to worship the pagan idols and false gods.

Similarly, during the time of Jesus, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, those who were greatly revered in the Jewish society at that time, because of their role in safeguarding the Jewish laws and customs, have also abused their privileges and authority as shepherds and leaders of the people, by misguiding them away from the true path of God, and into the false ways of empty and meaningless faith as how they prescribed it.

They placed their many customs, practices and rituals, developed over centuries and many generations of the Jewish traditions, as the most important part of the Law of God. They enforced the heavy burden of fulfilling these rules and regulations to the people, while they themselves did nothing to help the people to manage their burden. In fact, they themselves did not fulfil what they have asked others to fulfil, in the obligations to the law.

This is precisely what St. Paul mentioned in the second reading passage today, about the Law that the Lord would come to repeal and destroy. It was not so much as the destruction of the laws of Moses, but rather, the destruction and removal of the old laws and customs, which had been brought about by centuries of misunderstanding and lack of insight into what the Law of God was truly given to us for.

We need to come back again to the fact and reality that God loves each and every one of us, and by no means He wants us to feel burdened in coming to Him. In the Gospel passage today, we saw how the Lord Jesus came to a place to rest, and instead saw a large crowd of people who had been waiting for Him to teach them. Jesus and His disciples were tired, as they had been going around from places to places, teaching the people and ministering to them.

Yet, the Lord had pity and compassion on His people, whom He saw as a large flock without a shepherd, that is without anyone or any guide or authority to lead them. They were clueless and lost, and they came to Jesus, seeing in Him, the hope and the guidance which they had longed for. And the Lord had mercy on them, and loving them, spent hours more to teach them all, despite Him being physically tired from all the journeys and the activities.

That is what the Lord wants to show us, Who is the true Shepherd, the Good Shepherd of all. The Good Shepherd knows all of His sheep, and He cares for all of them, that He does not want even a single one to be lost from Him. In another occasion, the Lord Jesus told His disciples about the parable of the lost sheep, in which the shepherd went all out to look for a single lost sheep amidst ninety-nine others who were with him.

And that is what the Lord Jesus had done, going all out for the sake of His people, who were lost, leaderless and without guide, or having been misled and misguided by the wrong and irresponsible authority figures, they were in real need for true guidance and leadership, which He alone could have provided. And there were so many of them, that the Lord could not have, in His most loving and compassionate heart, refused them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are called to reflect on this reality, and on the love which the Lord, our Good Shepherd has shown to all of us. And we are called to reflect the same love which God has shown to each and every one of us. He has loved us all so much that He has given us His all, even to the point of being crucified and suffer such an imaginably great agony, just so that, because He died for us, all of us may live.

This is, in essence, what all of us as Christians must be for one another. We must be like Christ in all of our actions, and it means that we must be good shepherds, in our actions and in how we deal with others around us. We must show genuine love, care and concern, especially to those whom we know, who are in difficulty and in trouble. And therefore, as we know that sin is our greatest obstacle and trouble, we must indeed be ready to help all those who are trapped in the darkness of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all today therefore, renew our conviction in faith and our commitment to God, to live our lives worthily and filled with true love and devotion, first of all to God, and then also to our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us all reach out, like our loving God and Shepherd, to those who have no one to care for them. This is our obligation and responsibility as Christians, to be like Christ and to devote ourselves as the Lord Himself has shown us.

Let us not be filled with pride and desire, for worldly things and temptations as those who have fallen into the trap of those temptations throughout the Old and New Testament had shown us. Let us all instead be filled with humility and with love, that in everything we do, we do not do it for ourselves, but instead for God and for our fellow men. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 15 July 2018 : Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we listened to what happened to the prophet Amos, whom God sent to His people in the breakaway northern kingdom of Israel, to be His spokesperson and to deliver to them what God wanted them to know, that they must repent from their sinful ways and turn away from their rebelliousness. But the prophet Amos received a cold shoulder treatment, and was contemptuously treated by Amaziah, the king’s priest in today’s first reading passage.

In order to understand the context of what happened better, we should understand the background of the events that led to that conversation between the prophet Amos and Amaziah. At that time, the northern kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel broke free from the rest of the kingdom of Israel of kings David and Solomon, because of Solomon’s sins and disobedience against God. As a result, God raised Jeroboam to be king over the northern tribes of Israel.

But Jeroboam did not remain faithful to God, and instead, he committed the same sins that Solomon had committed, by commissioning two golden calves in his kingdom, because he was afraid that as the people still went regularly to Jerusalem to worship God, then eventually the people’s heart would turn away from him and back to the family of David and Solomon, the House of David. Essentially, he was afraid of losing the power and glory that God has given him.

Therefore, in order to preserve himself and retain all worldly glory and goodness he has possessed, Jeroboam led the people into sin, and caused many more people to fall into great danger for their souls. And they hardened their hearts and minds against God’s words, spoken through His prophets, including the prophet Amos. Essentially, what we heard in today’s first reading was how they were unreceptive to the message of God, that they made the prophet Amos felt so unwelcome in their land.

Many more prophets would be sent to the land of Israel, including the famous prophets Elijah and Elisha, the prophet Hosea and many others. Yet, the people treated them with the same contempt and with the same prejudice that Amaziah and the other wicked ones have shown to the prophet Amos. They would not want to listen to reason and they closed their hearts and minds all the more, persecuting the good servants of God.

This is what the Lord Jesus told His disciples in today’s Gospel reading, showing them the truth and the reality of what it means to be His disciples and followers. They cannot hope to escape difficulties, challenges, rejection and persecution, just as the prophets of the Old Testament had faced many times during their missions. That is why He said to them, that whoever wants to be His disciples must take up their crosses and follow Him.

When the people of God disobeyed and rebelled against Him, they had rejected Him and chose other false idols and gods as their master instead. They had rejected His prophets and messengers, and therefore, whatever they have treated these servants, they would also do to others who follow God. Well, that was exactly how the Lord Himself had been treated. He was rejected by His own people, was doubted and betrayed, and ridiculed by the priests and the Pharisees.

And yet, despite all of that, He continued to love His people, even all those who have despised Him and rejected Him, by not stopping to send, one after another, prophets and messengers to call His wayward people back to Him. The reason for this is in our second reading passage, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians. From the very beginning, God has destined for us to become His beloved children.

To that extent, He sent us His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the One through Whom He made us to be His adopted sons and daughters. It was by His assumption of our humanity and human existence, that by being truly Man and truly God at the same time, He fulfilled God’s purpose and plan for us. As He is Man, He is our Brother and a fellow Man to us, and because He is God and Son, we too share in His Sonship to God, Our Father.

God, Our Lord and Father is always ever patient with us, despite our constant disobedience, whining and lack of faith. He is patient and faithful just as a good father will always be patient and committed in the upbringing and in the care of his children. And for all of this, He showed us the perfect example of His ultimate love for us through His Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, by His suffering and death on the cross.

If He had endured such great pain, suffering, humiliation and rejection by His own loved ones as the price and burden of His Cross, then why can’t His disciples and followers do the same? Suffering and persecution has been part of our Christian faith for many eras and generations. But if not for the faith and perseverance of many faithful and devoted servants of God, like the prophets and the Apostles, the messengers and disciples of God, then I am afraid many would have been condemned to eternal damnation.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been called by God to do the same work which He has entrusted and commanded His Apostles and disciples to do, that is to go forth proclaiming the Good News of God’s salvation, and calling all the people to repent from their sins and accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord, Master and Saviour. We have to continue the work of the Apostles and the prophets, as there are still yet many more people and many more souls in this world that are still lost to the Lord.

Ultimately, as the Lord had said, there will always be those who refuse to listen to Him and His words, spoken through us. This is just as how the prophets and the Apostles had been rejected before, many, many times. Those who continued to reject the Lord and refuse to repent, will then be judged and be condemned by their own refusal and stubbornness of heart. But we cannot give up, as just as there are many of those who rejected the Lord, there are also many who heard the Lord’s call, and turned towards Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we all able to show this through our lives, our dedication and desire to love and serve God all of our days? It is by our words, deeds and actions that we preach about the Lord, Our God, through our love and compassion for those who have sinned, and have walked in the darkness, our pity and mercy for those who have wronged us and persecuted us, and our care for those who are weak, poor, and unloved.

Are we able to live out an exemplary Christian life, as best as we are able to, so that through us, many more people can see God’s truth and love, and thus, be called to repentance and to the faith? Let us all therefore do our best, from now on, to give it all to God, in everything we do in our lives.

May God be with us all, and may He continue to guide us in our path. May He strengthen us with faith, resolve and courage to carry on our lives with devotion and love for Him, despite all the challenges and difficulties we may encounter along this journey. May the inspiration of the Apostles and the courageous prophets be in our minds and our hearts at all times, that we too may strive to be like them, each and every day of our lives. Amen.

Sunday, 8 July 2018 : Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we listened to the Scriptures speaking to us about the challenges faced by those who serve the Lord and walk in His path. Throughout today’s readings, the same theme is repeated again and again, that challenges and obstacles will be part of the life of those who seek to obey God’s will, particularly His servants and prophets.

In the first reading today, we heard from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, in which God through His Spirit clearly warned Ezekiel and prepared him for the task which He was to entrust to the prophet, that he would be thrust in the midst of a rebellious people, those who refused to believe in God or to listen to His words. Indeed, the Lord’s words would come true, and the prophet Ezekiel had to struggle for a long time with a people who refused to listen to him and who had hardened their hearts and closed their minds.

Then, in the Gospel today, we heard yet another rejection of God’s messenger, and this time, it was none other than Jesus Himself, the Son of God, and the Messiah of the world. It was likely, based on the context of the Gospel passage, that the incident took place either at Nazareth or near that village, in which the Lord Jesus had lived for many years, together with St. Joseph, His foster-father, and Mary, His mother.

The people questioned His power, wisdom, teaching and authority, based on what they knew of His background, most likely because they had seen Him grow up from His early infancy and childhood, after the Holy Family returned from a temporary exile in Egypt, and they must have seen the Lord growing up in the family of a simple carpenter, just an ordinary man with a most ordinary occupation.

For we have to understand that, a carpenter’s work is one that is often unrecognised and unappreciated. It was often associated with poverty and lack of literacy and education. At the time of the Lord Jesus, most of those who were educated would have been employed either in the secular administration such as the Sadducees, or counted among the religious elite of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

But Jesus was none of these, and He defied all traditional and customary definitions of a wise and educated man. This was what irritated and annoyed the people, who doubted Him and the origin of His teaching authority and miraculous powers. As for them, only people who fit the traditional and customary definition of an educated man, with power and worldly authority, with human intelligence and abilities, could have done such feats.

Essentially, what the people had done, was the commitment of the sin of pride and prejudice. They were too proud to admit that in their midst there was someone with the power and the ability to heal the sick, to perform such miracles, and to speak with the power and authority of God. And they tried to reconcile that by using their prejudice, thinking that in their limited understanding and intellectual capacity, they were able to know and presume to know everything about the Lord Jesus, and thus, were biased against Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we ought to realise that in our own lives, we are also often guilty of the same mistake and sin, as we often judge one another, comparing each other using the standards and judgments of the world. Ultimately, this came about because of the desire that is present within our hearts, the desire for worldly things such as fame, power, influence and all sorts of other parameters, by which we measure worldly success.

But when we are called to the Lord’s path, and embrace the way which God has shown us, we are called to transcend beyond all those worldly and temporary happiness and satisfactions. All of those are in truth, just merely illusions and distractions, that prevent us from finding the true happiness and joy, which we can find in God alone. True wisdom, true understanding and truth itself can be found in God.

In fact, Satan is always at work, busily trying to distract us from this truth, by appealing to our pride, to our greed and desire, twisting us and tricking us by those same pride and desire, in order to lead us further and further away from God. And now that we recognise this fact, we as Christians must be courageous in our faith, and in our dedication, so that regardless of all the challenges and temptations we may encounter, we will always be steadfast in our faith.

As St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle reading taken for today’s reading to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, all of us should in fact take all these challenges, obstacles and temptations as reminders for us to persevere in our faith and not to be complacent in living our lives. The devil will strike at those whose faith are most unstable, and who takes our faith for granted. He knows exactly where to strike, and he will strike us when we are most vulnerable.

Therefore, now, each and every one of us are challenged to live our lives with a renewed faith and zeal, through not just words but also concrete actions. Let us all persevere in our Christian faith, against all sorts of challenges, persecutions, rejections, remembering that none other than Our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself, has experienced such rejection and pain.

May the Lord be with each one of us, in our journey of life, so that we may draw ever closer to Him, with each and every passing day. May He bless each and every endeavours we do, guiding us patiently with His Fatherly love, showing us the way forward. Let us all love one another with genuine and tender compassion, and let us love God with all of our hearts. Amen.