Sunday, 24 June 2018 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the occasion on the twenty-fourth day of June, the Solemnity of the Nativity or the birth of St. John the Baptist, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and cousin of the Lord Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist was the one who was prophesied by the prophets to be the one who would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah and God, Jesus Christ.

As such, he was the Herald of the Messiah and the one who announced the imminent coming of God’s salvation and kingdom into this world. This he did say, by calling the people to repent from their sins and to be baptised by him in the River Jordan, and hence, his name, St. John the Baptist. He announced that the coming of the kingdom of God was near, and that he was the voice calling out in the wilderness, just as the Scriptures had predicted.

St. John the Baptist was God’s servant from even before he was conceived in his mother’s womb, just as the Lord had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. This prophet would be God’s instrument to speak to the nations, through whom the people of God, all mankind would come to hear the Good News of the coming of His salvation, which has finally arrived after the long awaited and expected Saviour has been prophesied for many ages.

St. John the Baptist is the one who had done all the difficult tasks in order to prepare for the Lord’s coming. Why is that so? That is because many of the people were not ready for the Lord’s coming, and in fact, if we read throughout the Gospels and the New Testament, we should be able to see just how many among the people of God refused to believe in the truth that the Lord Himself had brought them, and stubbornly continued to live in their old ways of sin.

It was told that St. John the Baptist was the prophet Elijah who was sent again into the world to complete his mission. The prophet Elijah was taken up into heaven by God on a flaming chariot, and it was this that made the people to believe that the prophet had once again come into the world. However, whether St. John the Baptist was truly the prophet Elijah sent into the world, only the Lord knows, and is immaterial.

What is important is that, because of St. John the Baptist, many of the people turned to the Lord and sought genuine repentance, coming to him to be baptised and to listen to his teachings. And even in fact, some of Christ’s earliest disciples, including those among His Twelve Apostles, were the disciples of St. John the Baptist, such as St. Andrew and St. John the Evangelist, if not more others from among those earliest followers of the Lord.

It was to St. Andrew and St. John the Evangelist that St. John the Baptist told, “Here is the Lamb of God!” when the Lord Jesus Christ came to the River Jordan asking for baptism from St. John the Baptist. Those two disciples of St. John the Baptist and probably some others henceforth followed the Lord Jesus, and St. John the Baptist let them go on their way. This is one of the many great qualities of St. John the Baptist that all of us Christians must take note.

St. John the Baptist was a humble and devout worker of the Lord, devoting his entire life to the service of God. His holiness and commitment was likely noted since early in his life, not less because of the amazing manner of his birth as we heard in the Gospel passage today. An Angel of the Lord himself told Zechariah his father, of what St. John the Baptist would become, and he lived in the desert, preparing for the day of the Messiah’s coming.

St. John the Baptist did not seek glory and power for himself, and he did all the work for the greater glory of God, and not for his own. He could have declared that he was the Messiah or Saviour long awaited by the people of Israel, but he did not do so. When the Pharisees came to ask him about this, he openly said that he was not the One Whom they were waiting for, but that He would come soon.

And this must be understood in the context of the history of the time, as at that time, there were several influential and charismatic people among the Jewish community who rose up in rebellion against the Romans, claiming that they were the Messiah who was promised by God. But all of their uprisings and rebellions failed, as God was not with them. Yet, if St. John the Baptist wanted, he could have seized the opportunity and claim fame and glory for himself.

St. John the Baptist openly said that, while his disciples asked him what he would do about Jesus, Whose star was rising and more and more came to see Him instead of him, that he was in fact pleased with it, as it was how it was supposed to be, as he was merely the servant of God, awaiting for the coming of God’s Saviour to come, and was not the Saviour himself. He did not seek anything more beyond fulfilling what he has been called to do.

And then, St. John Baptist was also a fearless and committed follower of God, who did not shrink from his obligation and responsibility to the people of God, by even standing up to those who would cause others to lose their faith in God, as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done with their actions and their behaviour. St. John the Baptist called the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as brood of vipers in front of the people to show this disgust at their self-serving activities.

When king Herod, the ruler of the land, behaved wickedly by committing adultery with the wife of his deceased brother, Herodias, St. John the Baptist openly and fearlessly chastised the king for his sinful behaviour and attitude. He was imprisoned for that, and even when he was in prison, he would continue to chastise the king and rebuke him, not fearing for his life. In the end, he was martyred when Herodias, having grudge on St. John the Baptist, arrange for him to be killed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should follow in the examples of St. John the Baptist, just as today we rejoice celebrating the birth of this great messenger and servant of God. Have we been as devout and as courageous as St. John the Baptist in his faith and dedication to the Lord? Have we been as humble and as selfless in how we lived our lives as St. John the Baptist had been? Or have we instead been tempted by worldly temptations of power, wealth, glory and others?

Let today’s commemoration be a reminder for us, that each and every one of us as Christians are also called to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist, in declaring the truth and the Good News which we ourselves have received from those who have shown them to us. We have to carry on the truth and the Good News with ourselves, and pass them on to more people, to others who have not yet received them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then follow in the footsteps of the great St. John the Baptist? It is by being honest and sincere in our faith, putting God at the centre of our lives, instead of our ego, our pride, our ambition and greed. These are obstacles that commonly become stumbling rocks in our path towards God and righteousness in Him. And if we do not remove these obstacles, it is likely that we will stumble and fall, and that is sin.

But when we encounter these challenges in life, do we then fear of failing or stumbling? It is part of our learning process to fail and to stumble. Certainly, St. John the Baptist himself had encountered many challenges, and even he, as a man, also had his doubts and fears. While in prison, as the Gospel recorded, he sent one of his disciples to the Lord Jesus, asking Him whether He was truly the Messiah or whether he should wait for another to come. But, in the end, he remained faithful and true to his calling, right down to his martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all be inspired by the life and the dedication of St. John the Baptist in our own lives, and in how we devote ourselves to God from now on. If we have not been truly faithful in how we lived our lives, now is the time for us to turn ourselves wholeheartedly to God, doing our best to be faithful from now on, becoming worthy and good bearers of His truth, through our actions and deeds, by loving one another and loving God to the best of our abilities. May the Lord be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 17 June 2018 : Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday of the Lord, we gather together listening to the word of God through the Scriptures, hearing the readings from the Old and the New Testament, and from the Holy Gospel. In all of these readings lie important teachings and truth about our faith in God. And then, we listen to the priest speaking to all of us, explaining the meaning and the importance of the word of God we have just heard, and how we ought to apply it in our own lives.

This is in essence what we have heard in the Scripture passages we have for this Sunday. In the Gospel passage today, written by St. Mark, we heard the Lord Jesus teaching the people using parables. He told them about the kingdom of God, using the parable of the sowing of seeds and the parable of the mustard seed. But why did Jesus use parables in His teachings?

That is because we have to understand that most of the people during the time of Jesus was illiterate and uneducated. They were simple people, carrying out professions such as farmers, shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, servants, and many others. These occupations do not require them to be able to write or understand complicated philosophies or science. Yet, in each of their professions, they certainly have great knowledge and experience pertaining to their respective professions.

By using the parables, which is actually approximations and summaries of the actual content that the Lord wanted to deliver to the people, something like a metaphor, comparing those content with familiar concepts to each of the professions present at the time of Jesus, such as mentioned earlier, farmers, shepherds, fishermen, and many others.

The parable of the sowing of seeds for example must be familiar to the farmers, as is our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel. We should realise that even parts of the Old Testament showed us that God spoke to us through His prophets in terms that are just like parables! He spoke of the kingdom of God in both cases, comparing it to the growing of seeds and the prospering of its branches, bearing fruits and crops ready for the harvest.

The farmers among the people, and even shepherds and others who lived in the community where agriculture was for most, the main staple of the economy and livelihood, will be able to understand better what the kingdom of God is like, by using those parables that the Lord told them. The parable of the mustard seed is also similar in that sense, as they would be familiar to what kind of tree the mustard seed would grow into, a tiny seed that grows into a large and prosperous tree.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now let us all see how God made everything known to us, the truth He had brought with Him and now shared with us. It was mentioned in the Gospel passage today that while the Lord always spoke in parables to the people, but in private He explained everything to His disciples, the Apostles and many of the first leaders of the Church.

And through the Holy Spirit that He sent them, He reaffirmed His truth in them, and gave them the divine Wisdom, that they might be able to preach those same truth to many more people, even after He had died, risen from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, no longer physically walking among us. The Church of God, of which we are a part of, is the custodian of that truth, the Good News that God had revealed to the whole world.

Through the many generations of bishops and priests, the truth present in the Church is kept and passed on, from generation to generation. Our bishops and priests are the successor in the unbroken link of continuity from the disciples of Christ themselves, and therefore, they were the ones who in the Mass, explain the truth espoused in the word of God, the Scriptures, through the homilies as well as through various other catechetical opportunities.

Now, all of us know that the truth of God has been given to us. And we are part of God’s Church. This is in fact, the living and active kingdom of God that the Lord had mentioned in His preaching, that we are part of this kingdom of God. Let us now recall what He has taught us using the parables mentioned just earlier.

The seeds sown in the field represent this truth, the seeds of faith, hope and love that God had sown in us. We are the field of God, the whole race of humanity living in this world. However, seeds need good soil to be able to grow, or otherwise, they will not grow, or else, even if they manage to germinate and grow, they may wither, shrivel up and die.

This is a reminder to each one of us, that our lives must be fruitful and rich in faith. Yes, all of us are sinners, and we have committed in one way or another, deeds and actions that are against God’s teachings. But no one should be sinners forever, and no one was born a saint. Even saints were themselves sinners, but they made the commitment to turn away from their sins, and they repented from the wickedness that came between them and God.

If we are faithful to the Lord, then we will grow and prosper in our faith. This was shown by the Lord through the parable of the mustard seed, in which the small mustard seed could grow to be one of the largest trees in the garden. Sometimes we may be wondering if we are people of little faith, but remember, brethren, that whatever little faith we have in our hearts, we must treasure and cultivate.

How do we do this? First of all, we must show genuine Christian love and compassion in our daily lives. We must do what the Lord has commanded us, that is to love one another just as much as we love ourselves. The problem that many of us currently have, is that our selfishness and pride come in between us and the ability to love as true Christians.

We are often too engrossed in our career, in our pursuit of worldliness, of power, glory, wealth, influence, fame, and many other worldly things that we mankind often crave and desire. It is even quite often that we end up sidelining or cause harm to our fellow men just so that we can satisfy our own desires and wishes. And in the same manner, we end up sidelining God Himself, putting Him far away from our minds and hearts.

How can we then call ourselves as Christians? It is not enough for us to be Christians just by attending the Holy Mass every Sunday. For some of us, we even only come to the Holy Mass during Christmas and Easter. However, what is important is that, when we come to the Holy Mass, we fully immerse ourselves and participate in the Holy Sacrifice offered by the priest at the Mass.

This means that we must be fully centred and focused on God, first of all at the celebration of the Holy Mass, and then, to our own daily lives, every day of our lives. First of all, many of us were regularly present in the Mass, and yet our minds were not filled with the right thoughts and intentions. Some of us grumbled that the priest’s homily was too long, and we could not wait for the Mass to end, before continuing with our own routines.

Is this the love and the faith that God wants each and every one of us to have? No! God wants us to be filled with true and genuine love for God, and this means that we must put God as the priority and as the very focus and centre of our lives. And we do not have to be ambitious, as what is important is the progress we make. Sometimes we are too preoccupied with the results that we forgot to take into account good progress that we have made.

Once again, let us look at the parable, a seed does not grow into a tree in one day. The growth process is slow, but as long as we ensure that the right condition for growth is present, growth will take place for sure. Therefore, it is the same with our faith. We have to nurture our faith, step by step at a time, by doing things little at a time, by extending our love and also forgiveness even to those nearest to us.

We will be surprised at the kind of impact that our little actions may have, but the ripple effect can be enormous. Now, more importantly, let us make the effort to be better Christians, devoting ourselves, our time and attention to the Lord. May the Lord be with us in this journey, and may He strengthen our resolve, and give us the courage to be ever more faithful, day after day, despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 10 June 2018 : Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the account of mankind’s fall in the Scriptures, when Adam and Eve, our ancestors were tempted by Satan, in the form of a serpent, to disobey God’s commands, and ate from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Due to that disobedience, we have sinned against God, and the punishment for our sins, was exile from Eden, where we should have lived an eternity of joy with God.

And yet, God did not seek to destroy us. If He had wanted to destroy us because of His anger against us, He could have done so from the very beginning. After all, He Who has created us, could definitely also unmake us by His will alone. But, God loves each and every one of us, without exception, and therefore, as a result, God’s great love for us made our salvation possible.

Indeed, God is angry with us because of our sins, as sins are abhorrent and wicked in His sight. However, He did not hate us, as people as who we are, because He Himself has created us, out of love, and God desires to love each and every one of us, and share the love that He had within Himself. And love was why, God sent us His salvation, through none other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord, His own beloved Son.

Why do we need to be saved? That is because sin is truly a wicked thing, which corrupts everything it touches. Sin was born out of disobedience against God, and therefore, sin is caused by our pride, our ego, our desire that go against the Lord’s wish and will. And sin corrupts the body, the mind, the heart and the soul. Essentially, it makes us unworthy of God, just like our ancestors Adam and Eve.

When we sin, we cannot stand before God and we cannot be with Him, as God is all good, and sin is evil and wicked. Our sins will destroy us and crush us before God, and we will be judged for those sins. Sin separates us from God, and hell should have been our due, as hell is the complete absence of any hope of salvation and a state of total separation from God’s love.

But God desired otherwise, and He gave us Jesus, to be the One through Whom we all have a new hope in our lives. Through Jesus, a bridge has been established, spanning the gap between us and God, Our Lord and Father. He is the Mediator of a new Covenant that has been made between God and us mankind. He has shown us the perfect and selfless love that God has for each and every one of us.

Yet, many of us behaved like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who obstinately refused to believe in the Lord and opposed Him at every possible opportunity. They doubted and questioned Him, and this made the Lord very angry, especially when they doubted the work of God made through the Holy Spirit, when clearly God was at work. Instead, they alleged that the Lord had made His works through the power of Beelzebul, a prince of demons.

What we must realise here, brothers and sisters in Christ, is that God’s mercy and forgiveness is vast and great, and as long as we are willing to repent and to believe in Him, we shall be forgiven from our sins, and we will be reconciled with Him. Yet, if we constantly refused to repent and believe, and even reject the good works of God and considering them as falsehood and wicked, that is what the Lord mentioned as the sin against the Holy Spirit, which will not be forgiven.

God does not throw us mankind into hell, but rather, it is we ourselves who warrant ourselves hell for eternity, because of our pride, ego, greed, desire and all the things that prevented us from finding our way to the Lord, and from being forgiven of our sins. We falter in our ways, and we fell into sin, but it is up to us to accept God’s rich offer of mercy, turn ourselves to Him and be forgiven.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to love us despite our many trespasses against Him. Let us all renew the commitment to live worthily and to be devoted to Him, each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us all and our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 25 March 2018 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we begin the celebration of the most important events in our faith, that is the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His final earthly mission, to complete everything that the Lord has planned for mankind, the salvation of us all, by the suffering and the death of the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus, on the cross at Calvary.

This Holy Week of important events of our faith begins today with the Palm Sunday, celebrating the moment when the Lord Jesus entered in glory into the Holy City of Jerusalem on a donkey, as we heard just earlier in our Gospel passage at the start of today’s celebration of the Holy Mass. The people welcomed the Lord Jesus and hailed Him as the Messiah and King Who was to come to His city in glory, saying loudly, “Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to the Son of David!”

They waved palm branches and placed their cloaks and clothes in front of Jesus, welcoming Him as if He is the King of Israel. Indeed, He is King and Lord of all, and among the people at that time, as mentioned later by the disciples who walked to Emmaus just after Jesus’ death that they had hoped that He was the One Who would have restored the Kingdom of Israel.

Yet, it was the very same people who would shout loudly in just a matter of a few days, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” The same people who cheered and welcomed the Lord with much energy and spirit, were the same ones who would reject Him and call for His death, death at the hands of the Romans and a most painful death on the cross. How could this have happened, brothers and sisters in Christ?

The Scripture readings today show the nature of Our Lord’s plan of salvation, that He must suffer at the hands of His enemies and bear the cross on His own accord towards death and punishment for the crimes and sins that He Himself did not commit. But all of these are ultimately meant for our own good, for our salvation and liberation from the bondage to all of our sins.

The cross of Christ is the cross of our sins and faults, all of our shortcomings and rebellious attitudes against God. When the Lord Jesus bore that cross, He did not just bear the physical weight of the wooden cross, which according to historical data and research was already quite formidable in itself, but even more so, it was the massive and unimaginable burden of the combined weight of our sins, our shortcomings, our trespasses, our faults and all other things that should have been ours to bear.

All of us, each one of us are sinners, brothers and sisters in Christ. All of us have disobeyed God in one way or another, in small sin or in major sin. And each and everyone of us should have endured the consequences for all these sins and faults we have with us. What is the punishment of sin? Death, and also separation from God and eternal damnation in hell. That is what we should have suffered.

But God, Who loves each and every one of us, His beloved children so greatly, did not want this fate to befall us, as ultimately, as mentioned, He loved us all greatly, though not our sins and disobedience that creates those sins. Thus, He promised us all since the beginning, that He will save us, by the sending of a Saviour, or Messiah, He Who would reconcile all mankind, God’s beloved people with Him.

All of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Whom the prophet Isaiah prophesied in the first reading we heard today, about the Servant of God Who would suffer, be rejected and be persecuted for doing God’s work. The prophet Isaiah prophesied about the Suffering Messiah Who would suffer, and it was this suffering that the prophet was speaking about. Christ was obedient that He took up His cross for our sake, for the salvation of His own beloved people, that because He died, we may live.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into this most important moment in our liturgical year, the Holy Week, how are we preparing ourselves that we may worthily commemorate the events that will come in a few days’ time? This is where we need to spend time to reflect on our own lives, on our actions and how we have lived our lives thus far. Have we been living our lives in disobedience and sin, and have we refused God’s rich offer of mercy and forgiveness?

We should use this time and the opportunity given to us, to reflect on our lives and on our actions. Have we had a good relationship with God? And indeed, how much time in a day that we actually spend with Him? Or have we instead forgotten about Him in the midst of our busy schedules, in the midst of our pursuit for power, prestige, honour, worldly comfort, money, and many other worldly desires we have?

Instead of spending so much of our time in these ultimately meaningless pursuit, shall we then turn ourselves towards God and learn to put our trust in Him? Shall we spend more time with the Lord Who loves us so much that He gave us His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour? Remember, brothers and sisters, that if not for the cross of Christ, all of us would have lived our lives with no meaning, as everything would have ended in the eternity in hell.

But because of Christ, and His loving sacrifice on the cross, by His willingness to endure the effects and the consequences of our sins, all of our punishments, all of us who believe in Him and who are willing to put our trust in Him will receive pardon from our sins and justification before God, that we who were once unworthy because of our sins, will be worthy of God’s grace, and be able to receive the eternal life He has promised to us all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let this day be a reminder for us all, that whenever we sin, we inflict the wounds and the pain on Our Lord Jesus, Who willingly bore those sins with Him on the cross. Let us all remember that we should turn away from sin, repent from all of our past wickedness, and ultimately, return to the Lord with an open mind and heart, that all of us will be reconciled completely with Him, and receive eternal life from Him.

May God be with us all throughout this Holy Week, and may He continue to guide us and bless us all the days of our life. Amen.

Sunday, 18 March 2018 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, which is the fifth and the last one in the season of Lent before the beginning of the Holy Week, we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the coming of a new Covenant forged between God and His people, which would come to be realised during the events of the Passion of Our Lord that we commemorate in this upcoming Holy Week.

For the past few weeks, we have been discussing about the Covenants that God had made with His people, which then ended up being broken by the same people with whom He had made those Covenants with. Now, what is a Covenant in the first place? A Covenant is not just like any promises or pacts, even though it may sound very similar to a promise or a pact between peoples. A Covenant is a very formal agreement and contract between two parties, where each party is expected to obey to certain rules of the Covenant.

And it is God Who made His Covenants with us, with God as one party of the Covenant, and us mankind as the other party of the Covenant. But while God has always been faithful to His part in the Covenants He made, it has always been us who failed to honour our part of the Covenant. The descendants of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and all those with whom God made His Covenants had sinned, by disobeying His laws, worshipping pagan idols and committing wicked acts such as murder, adultery and simony and many more.

A prominent part of the Covenant in the past during the time of the Old Testament was the sacrifice of animals such as lambs or bulls or pigeons, which blood was then divided into half, half poured onto the altar while the other half is sprinkled onto the people as a sign of the renewal of the Covenant. They were always conducted in the most formal and solemn circumstances to highlight just how serious God is at establishing a loving relationship with us.

Whenever we disobey God and do what is wicked and against His ways, we sin before Him, and by that sin, we have been disgraced and sundered from God’s love. And therefore we break the Covenant that God had made with us by our sins. When that happened in the past, the people who sinned must come to a priest, who would then sacrifice the animals brought onto the Temple, and sprinkle the blood on the sinner as a sign of God’s forgiveness.

Essentially, this is a very symbolic gesture of God’s forgiveness of our sins, which is then linked to the renewal of the Covenant He had established with us. But as we can see, mankind is a very stubborn race of people, who often failed to resist the temptation to sin, and we continue to do what we prefer to do rather than to obey the ways and the laws of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to realise the extent of the love which God has shown to us all, to each and every one of us, from the least among us to the greatest and the mightiest among us. All of us are equally loved by God, and none of us can say that God does not love us or hate us. He loves each and every one of us for who we are, His beloved children and creation, but it was our sins that He despised. It was our sins which come in between us from our loving relationship with God.

It was never in God’s intention to punish us or to make our lives miserable. If souls fell and ended up in hell, in the state of eternal despair and hopelessness, that was not God’s doing, but the mistakes committed by the fallen beings themselves. God has always offered His love, forgiveness and compassion freely without the need for us to pay for them. But it is us mankind who have willingly refused to accept God’s offer of mercy, love and compassion.

For the love of worldly things, our greed and ambition, our ego and desires, we have chosen to walk in our own path, instead of obeying and following God. We ended up disobeying God and living in sin, and that is why many of us mankind, throughout the ages are truly in a sad state, defiled and corrupted by our sins and wickedness. Had the Lord not done anything to help us, hell would have been full with all of us and our ancestors.

No, that is not what God wanted to happen, and that is why, He resolved to end the continuing cycle of sin and damnation once and for all, by forging with us a renewed Covenant, the greatest among all the Covenants, one that will never end and will never be broken, because it is sealed not with any animal sacrifices or any forms of animal blood, but by the most precious Blood of all, the Blood of Our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, it was by His ultimate and most loving sacrifice on the cross, that Jesus Christ Our Lord sealed the New Covenant which He made with us all, as the Mediator of that New Covenant, between God and mankind, His beloved ones. Christ’s loving sacrifice and His voluntary shedding of His Blood from the cross, on the perfect altar that is Calvary, marks the beginning of a new era, of reconciliation between God and His people, all of us.

Before Christ, we mankind and Our Lord have been separated because of sin, such that in between us and Him there is an uncrossable chasm and sundering, that prevented us from being able to be with Our God. Our sins should have merited us eternal damnation and suffering in hell, separated forever from God. However, as mentioned, God did not want that to happen to us, because of His love, and thus, He gave us Christ as our Saviour, that all of us who believe in Him will be saved.

Through Christ, Who is both God and Man, all of us find a new hope, by the bridge that Christ Himself had built through His cross, to bring man back to the loving embrace of their Creator. This new and everlasting Covenant will never be broken, for God Himself guaranteed it by His own Most Precious Blood, sealed for all eternity. Now, it is the matter of whether we are willing to be a part of that Covenant or not.

God has always given us the freedom to choose whether we want to obey Him or not. However, the consequences of our choice is ours alone to bear. If we decide to follow the examples of the Israelites of the past, who disobeyed God and preferred to live in sin, enjoying all the good fruits and the desires of this world, then we have to know that we have chosen all these over all that God has offered us.

But if we choose to be faithful to Him and partake in the Covenant He had made with us through Christ, then we can call ourselves as Christians, in body, heart, mind and spirit. Yet, we cannot be half-hearted in our faith and commitment, or else, it is likely that we will be tempted and fall. Being a true Christian requires effort and commitment from us, as the Lord Himself said, that in order for us to follow Him, we must take up our crosses and follow Him.

Therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, reflecting and remembering upon all the good things that God had done for us, His insistent love and compassion for us, and all that He had given us, even to the point of giving us His own beloved Son, to be our Saviour and to die for us on the cross for our salvation, just so that He can bond us all to a new and everlasting Covenant that superseded all previous ones, then we should indeed think of how we can be part of this wonderful Covenant.

As we approach the Holy Week beginning next Sunday with the Palm Sunday, let us recall the Passion of Our Lord Jesus, Who took up that cross and suffered for us, so that by gathering all of our sins to Himself, He might redeem all of us, His beloved people. Let us all shun all of our past sins and wickedness, all the things we have done in disobedience against God, and walk from now on in His ways.

Let us now be an active partner of the Lord in the Covenant He made with us, by devoting ourselves, our time, our effort, our actions and our words for the greater glory of God. And how do we do this? First of all, we need to put God as the priority in our lives, by obeying His laws and commandments, and by doing our actions with our love for God in mind. That means, we should not treat our brothers and sisters with contempt or hatred, or selfishly trying to preserve our own needs and attain our desires over the sufferings of others.

Let us be more charitable in all of our dealings, in our every actions and deeds. Let us all have pity and compassion on those who are not as fortunate as us in our midst, and do whatever we can to help, or to alleviate their sufferings, or to share our joy with them. This is how we show others the same love that God has shown us, a selfless and compassionate love.

Let us also draw closer to God, by deepening our relationship with Him through prayer, that in everything we do, we do it prayerfully, knowing that God is with us, and that we exist to be with God, to love Him and to serve Him with love. Let us all show our commitment to Him by devoting our lives more wholeheartedly to Him. May all of us find our way to reach God’s saving grace, and receive the gift of eternal life and glory, as part of the Covenant He has established with us.

May all of us be more committed to live up to the Covenant God made with us, by proactively seeking to be righteous and just in His presence, by our compassion to the poor and to the needy around us, by listening to the pleas of the hungry and by showing comfort and love for the lonely and for those who were without love. May God be with all of our actions and endeavours, and may He bring us ever closer to Him, and bless us all of our days. Amen.

Sunday, 11 March 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, as we approach quickly the coming of Holy Week and Easter, we recall with joy the salvation which God had brought upon His people, time and again, throughout the history of our salvation, how He renews with us His promises and the loving relationship we ought to have with Him, through the Covenants He made with us.

That is why today rose vestments are used, as we mark Laetare Sunday, with the word Laetare coming from this Sunday’s Introit, ‘ Laetare Jerusalem, remembering that in the midst of difficulties and challenges, we ought to rejoice because of the salvation and consolation that has come upon us from God. This is the time in Lent when we do not just focus on our sinfulness and our regret for those sins, in penance and almsgiving, but also look forward to the joy which is to come, when we are fully reconciled with God.

In the first reading today, we listened to the tale of destruction of the last remnants of the kingdom of Israel, when the southern kingdom of Judah centred in Jerusalem, ruled by David’s descendants, was destroyed by the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar. That was because of their lack of faith and commitment to the Lord, even though the Lord had commanded them to obey His laws and commandments.

They have installed foreign and pagan gods and idols in their midst, and even desecrating the sanctity of the House of God, the Temple in Jerusalem on occasions. Thus God punished them for their refusal to obey His will, and for their wickedness and their sins. But what God truly hated was their sins and disobedience, and not their persons. God still loved them all dearly even though their sins were numerous.

It is proven by what God subsequently did for His people. In the same first reading we heard today, even though we heard to a story of despair and humiliation, but the subsequent passage in fact spoke of hope and gladness, relief and happiness, when God called upon Cyrus, the great King of Persia, to let the people of Israel go back to their own land, after he conquered the Babylonians in the year 538 BC.

And that is the reality of God’s love, that even though we mankind have sinned many, many times and refused repeatedly to follow Him, preferring our own sinful ways and habits, but the Lord is equally generous with His mercy, love and forgiveness. He is always ready to forgive us our sins and trespasses, but more often than not, we are unwilling to accept His generous offer of mercy, because we are often too proud, thinking that we are in no need for forgiveness or healing.

And we are often too preoccupied by the many temptations in life which swayed us away from the ways of the Lord, and we end up falling deeper into the trap of sin, which the devil is pulling us into, through his many persuasions and temptations. We often put our priority in our worldly cares and concerns, worrying about money, about having financial security, about our relationships and how we can maintain a good and comfortable lifestyle, about having career advancements, or having a good house to stay in, and many more.

But in the midst of all that, we often ended up forgetting about God, as we become too focused on satisfying our needs and wants, our desires and ambitions. We no longer put God as the priority of our lives, but instead we glorify and idolise money, worldly possessions, fame, prestige and many other worldly glories. We may think that we obey the laws and rules of the Church by coming to Sunday Mass regularly, but are we truly having a genuine faith in God?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why do we come to the Mass and celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? Why do we spend our time to do the devotions and the prayers? Is it because we truly want to be with God and to communicate with Him? Is it because we think that we have to do it because the Church commands us to do it, or because we are afraid of the punishment God will inflict on us if we do not do what the Church asked us to do?

Do we realise that God has done so much for us, trying to call us to Himself and to reconcile us to Him? He has done His very best, even to the point of giving us the best and the ultimate of all gifts, namely the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord. That is what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus. St. Paul wrote about God’s rich grace through Christ, by which many people are saved.

In the Gospel today, the Lord Himself made it plain to us, that because of God’s great and everlasting love for us, He gave us His own beloved Son, by Whom and through Whom we are saved, and by Whose sacrifice and death on the cross, all of us are made whole again and be made worthy of His eternal life and the inheritance and glory He has promised to all of us. He came into this world not to condemn us, but to save us, and that is the reality that we must be aware of.

Again, I want to emphasise that God does not hate us and neither is He angry with us in person. Rather, He despises our sins and our disobedience. Those sins and disobedience are the obstacles that prevent us from being able to achieve perfect reconciliation with God. As long as we continue to sin and refuse to repent from those sins, we will continue to be separated from God, and the eventual consequences may be dire, as we may end up falling into eternal damnation in hell.

He has given us very generously the gift of His Son, because of His love for us, that all those who believe in His Son, will receive true joy, happiness and salvation, freed from the sorrows and the sufferings caused by our sins and disobedience against God. But now, it is up to us, whether we want to embrace His loving mercy and compassionate heart, or whether we arrogantly reject His offer of salvation and forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to progress through the season of Lent, let us rededicate ourselves to live our lives according to God’s will, if we have not done so. Let us develop a strong relationship with God, through our commitment to prayerful life, and also to deepen our efforts in various charitable activities. Let us remember how God has loved us so much, that He should indeed be the centre of our lives, and not all the worldly temptations of power, ambition, glory, wealth and many others.

Let us have a genuine faith in God, shown through our loving devotion, as well as by sharing the love He had shown us and blessed us with, with our brothers and sisters, especially those who are poor, weak, oppressed, lonely and unloved. May the Lord be with us, that in our Lenten journey, we may draw ever closer to Him and be ever more righteous and just in all the things that we say and do. Let us truly rejoice because of all the wonders that God has done for us. Amen.

Sunday, 4 March 2018 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third in the season of Lent, we have come to the midway of this season of preparation for the coming of Holy Week and Easter. And from the Holy Scriptures we continue to hear about God’s wonderful works among His people, especially with regards to the Covenants which He had made with us and our ancestors.

In the first Sunday of Lent, we heard of God’s Covenant with Noah, who have been saved from the great flood that cleansed the earth from all the sinful man, descendants of Adam and Eve who have disobeyed God. With Adam and Eve themselves God had made a Covenant, that they and their descendants would be blessed and be given the rule over all the earth. Yet, they have fallen from grace because of sin.

And thus through Noah, the Covenant was renewed, and yet, broken once again, as the people of God continued to sin, and therefore fell into the darkness once again. Then, last Sunday, we heard of the Covenant which God made with Abraham His servant, as shown through the obedience that Abraham had, in offering even his own beloved son, Isaac, to the Lord as a sacrifice when He asked for it in a test of Abraham’s faith. God rewarded Abraham for his faith, and renewed His Covenant with him and his descendants.

Now, this Sunday, we listen to the continuation of that Covenant story, with the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, who have been brought out of their enslavement in Egypt. The Lord renewed the Covenant which He had made with their ancestors, and made them His own people. And He showed His love towards them by giving them His Laws and Commandments, the Ten Commandments that we heard in our first reading passage today.

The laws which God gave to His people were meant to guide them to Him, to show them the way to obey the Lord and to be righteous and just in His presence. But unfortunately, the people refused to obey and fell into sin and disobedience just as they have done before in the days of their ancestors. As we all know, Moses received the Ten Commandments above the Mount Sinai, where God spoke with him and revealed to Him all that He wanted His people to know.

But before Moses even came down from the mountain, the people abandoned God and established a horrible, pagan idol to be god over them, the golden calf which they have built using the gold and other goods they have brought over from Egypt. They refused to trust in God’s providence and love, and instead, they took matter into their own hands and decided to walk down the path of sin.

Why did they do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is because they trusted in their own human intellect and understanding, in their own desires and strengths that led them to disobedience and to sin. Ever since Adam and Eve chose to trust in Satan and believed in him, desiring the knowledge and understanding like God, they ate from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil, mankind have fallen into sin because of their unquenchable desires.

They trusted in their own wealth and power, and thus worshipped beings of this world, glorifying material goods and wealth. The golden calf itself is rich in symbolism, and the reality of how mankind’s greed can lead to its downfall. A calf is an important commodity in those days, especially because the people of Israel were mostly farmers and shepherds by occupation. A calf can fetch a lot of money when brought up properly and later sold in the markets.

Meanwhile gold has been used for many millennia as the most precious among all noble metals, used since the earliest days of our human civilisation as the means of financial transactions and exchanges, as sources of wealth and possessions. The more gold a person has, the wealthier he or she was and the more prestige and glory he or she possessed in the community. People desired for gold and other precious goods greatly.

Thus the symbolism of the golden calf is indeed very powerful, as the epitome of the people’s greed and worldly desires. They worshipped what they desired, and as we all know, when we desire something, we cannot be satisfied until we have what we wanted. And indeed, when we already have what we wanted, we still desire to have even more and can never be satisfied.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where we need to take a step back in our own respective lives, and reflect on whether we have been living our lives in the right way thus far. Have we been seeking the glory and wealth of this world, like our ancestors often had been, and disobeying God in the process? Have we lived well in accordance to the laws and commandments that God has given us?

Let us look deeper into the Ten Commandments God has given to His people Israel. The first three set of the Ten Commandments remind all of us that we have to love God, with all of our hearts, with all of our efforts, and we have to give Him the best of our attention, and not to have any other gods beside Him. He alone is worthy of worship, glory and honour.

Then, the other seven sets of the Ten Commandments remind us that we need to love our brethren, our fellow neighbours, relatives, family members and indeed, all those whom we encounter in our own daily lives. We are called to love our parents, and respect each other as fellow brothers and sisters, children of God. We should not covet what others have, or steal or kill.

This is against what the world has exposed us to since our youth. In a world filled with greed, desires, and all other worldly pursuits, of power, ambition, glory and many others, it is difficult for us to love others, as we are bound to put our own interests ahead that of others, and when interests clash, more often than not, we are willing to sacrifice others, or even hurt others in our pursuit to satisfy our desired and ambitions.

That is why we easily became jealous at others for what they have which we did not have ourselves. We desire and covet others’ possessions, and for that reason, man has caused hurt on other man, or kill and murder in some cases. And wars and conflicts have risen up because of the insatiable desires of the rulers and kings of this world. And we put those desires above everything else, above all sense of respect and love for others, and even above God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all during this season of Lent rediscover our faith and grow stronger in it. Through what we have reflected thus far today, let us see how we mankind have fallen again and again into sin, simply because we are so stubborn in our hearts and minds, that we refuse to allow God and His love to be in our hearts, just because of our pride and ego.

We are so full of desires and ego, that we want everything to go according to how we want it to be, and we are not happy when others get ahead of us. As long as we are filled with these desires and the ego in our hearts, we will not be able to proceed further in the way to achieve salvation in God. In order for us to be better Christians, thus, it is important that we walk through this season and time of Lent with greater understanding of what we need to do.

We need to get rid of all of our pride and ego, and die to ourselves. I am not referring to the killing of oneself, but rather, to our desires and wants, to all the mentality of putting ourselves above others. And in this, as Christians, we should be following and imitating the example of Our Lord Himself, who in the Gospel passage we heard today, is the perfect fulfilment of all the prophecies and the promises God had made with us and our ancestors, the New and Everlasting Covenant.

Yes, through Christ, He has renewed the Covenant He made with us mankind, but this time, it is one that will never end, everlasting in nature. He sealed this Covenant with His own Blood, and being both equally Man and God, He became the bridge that bring together once again God and His people, who have long been separated because of disobedience and sin. By His cross, and by His selfless and loving sacrifice on that cross at Calvary, He has become the perfect obedience and the perfect Man, our role model. And by His Blood, a New Covenant had been made, one that will never end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Our Lord Jesus emptied Himself from His glory and divinity, as He took up that cross, which is our sins and the sum of all our disobedience and wickedness. He willingly made Himself to be punished for our sins, so that by that action, we may be brought to reconciliation with God. He has obeyed the Father’s will in everything, so that by His obedience, He may erase from us the disobedience we have in our hearts.

And He showed us all, that the essence of the Law and the Ten Commandments, is love. Pure love for God, and pure love for one another. As I have mentioned earlier, this is what the Ten Commandments is truly about. It calls upon us to love God and our brothers and sisters around us, at least as much as we love ourselves. Therefore, during this season of Lent, let us strive to live our lives filled with love, with greater charity and compassion for one another.

Let us all look around us and see if there are those who are in need of our love, care and attention. Let us no longer be blind and deaf to the cries and the pleas of the poor, the weak, those who are oppressed and without help, those who are lonely and without hope. Let us do our best, in whatever way we can, to help them, to show them love, that by doing so, we may indeed be like Christ, and through His example of love and obedience, we may find for ourselves, the way forward to reach out to God and to His salvation. Let us sin no more and be forgiven from our sins. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.