Sunday, 14 October 2018 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are reminded of the Lord Who has given us His wisdom and His words of truth, as He revealed through His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who came into this world bearing the revelation of the divine truth, and then later on, by the sending of the Holy Spirit into this world, to be with the Apostles and the disciples, and therefore, to be with His Church.

God’s wisdom and truth are indeed so wonderful, that He has desired to give us this wisdom and truth, because of the great love which He has for each and every one of us. Through His wisdom and truth, God revealed to us what it is that He desires from each one of us, and how we should live our lives, in accordance with His will, and with the way that He has shown us. And that is what He presented before us through our Gospel passage today.

In that Gospel passage, we heard of a young, rich man, who came to the Lord Jesus, with the desire to gain eternal life. The Lord then told the young man first, whether he has obeyed and fulfilled the commandments of the Law as revealed through Moses. The young man replied that he has fulfilled the many commandments and kept them closely throughout his life, having been an obedient member of the Jewish community.

But then, the Lord asked him to do something that he could not bear doing, that is, to sell away all of his riches and to give them all to the poor, leaving everything behind and follow Him as His disciple. The young man immediately went away in sorrow, not being able to do what the Lord had asked of him, because he had great amount of wealth with him. It is likely that he could not bear to be separated from all those worldly achievements that he had gained and possessed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what is then the significance of what we have just heard in the Scripture passages, particularly that of the Gospel? First of all, we must not interpret the meaning of the Scripture literally, thinking that we should equate following the Lord with the total abandonment and selling of all of our worldly possessions and goods, for this is called interpreting God’s words without understanding the context.

Yes, indeed, there are those among us who are called to do so as part of their vocation, as religious nuns and monks, who left behind everything to live a life of total commitment to God, but that does not mean for the rest of us, we should just follow what we heard to the letter without understanding its meaning. Instead, we are called to listen to the word of God, speaking in the depth of our hearts and minds, and discern carefully on what it is that He wants us to do in our lives.

The issue which the Lord brought up in our Gospel occasion today, is that we mankind, even though we may be able to fulfil our obligations and our duties in our faith in God, but we can precisely do such efforts even without truly appreciating the true purpose and intention of why we do what we are doing, as part of our faith. The young and rich man fulfilled all the obligations of the Law, but in truth, he was not able to dedicate himself fully to the Lord, as shown when he was called by the Lord to dedicate himself fully to Him.

He was not able to commit, and left in sorrow because ultimately, he loved his riches and goods more than that of the Lord, and given the choice between those things and God, ultimately, God was secondary in importance to him. Then, if we carefully scrutinise what the young man said, he asked the Lord Jesus, “Good Master, what must I do in order to gain eternal life?”, in this question lies a desire from the man to want something for his own satisfaction.

What do I mean by this? The man asked Jesus in that manner, out of desire to gain for himself eternal life, and probably not because he truly loves God. This is a reality that exists even within our Church, where there are many among us faithful who have our faith and practice things within our faith, the various devotions, prayers and actions, because we want something for ourselves, be it for personal glory and fame, or for personal salvation and benefit.

It is not wrong that we want to be saved, for indeed, if we want to be saved, then we must seek it and desire it, otherwise, how will we then attain salvation if we ourselves do not want it in the first place? But we must not let that desire to supersede first and foremost, our love for God. Ultimately, we want to be saved and gain eternal life, not because we are afraid of hell or punishment from God, but rather, because we want to be together again with God and be reconciled with Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to rediscover this purpose of our faith and our lives. If we have been wayward all these while, failing to recognise these shortcomings of our lives, and if we have been disobedient and been unable to give our best in serving the Lord, putting Him in secondary and even worse places in our hearts and minds, then perhaps, we should really consider spending some time in prayer and in the quietness of our hearts, in order to find out what it is that we can do, in order to become closer to God.

The Lord reminds us through the same Gospel passage, that the path to enter the kingdom of heaven is narrow and difficult, but at the same time, also manageable and accessible, given that we put our trust not in the human wisdom, power and intellect, but instead, in the wisdom and the power of God. Many of us failed to make progress because we are not having the correct focus in life, and we are easily distracted, as we depend too much on our worldly possessions, power and other achievements, and we end up becoming too attached to all of them.

Let us look at these examples, brothers and sisters in Christ, beginning with those who think that just by doing what we are supposed to do for our faith, by coming to Mass every Sundays, and yet, we are not focused at all on the Lord and become easily distracted, because instead of focusing our attention on God, we cannot wait for the Mass to end so that we can go back to our various worldly commitments and activities.

And then, some of us profess to believe in God and followed all obligations of the Church, coming regularly for Mass and also become active part of various ministries in our parishes, but then, in how we behave towards one another, towards our fellow Christians, we scandalise our faith by our actions. Many of us brought slander and gossip into our interactions, even within the ministries and Church groups we are part of. We bicker and fight even over the smallest of matters and over trivial things.

That is exactly what happens when we allow our so called human wisdom, intellect, power and ability to take over and control us in what we say and do. The clashes and incompatibilities between our varying human desires and wants will end up tearing us apart and causing divisions among us. This is what we cannot and should not do with our lives. And as the example of the young and rich man in the Gospel passage today has shown us, we should strive to overcome our human desires and attachments to all sorts of temptations present in this world.

And this means that we must resist the temptation of worldly pleasures, power, prestige, honour, fame, glory, wealth and all sorts of things that can bring about unhealthy attachment and desire. It is not wrong for us to possess wealth or possessions, or to achieve something in our lives, but we cannot be overtaken and swallowed by our desires for those things.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today, the Lord has called us all, each and every one of us, to be His true disciples. And that means, each and every one of us should respond with a thorough and genuine conversion of heart, changing our attitudes in life, from one that is world-centric and self-centric into one that is centred on God alone. Let us all turn towards God with a renewed faith, and with a renewed zeal, from now on. May the Lord be our guide in our journey towards Him and His everlasting life. Amen.

Sunday, 7 October 2018 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings from the Scripture, we are reminded of the gift of blessings from God, in the form of holy matrimony, which God had decreed from the moment that He created us mankind, man and woman, to complement each other and to be united with one another in a holy union blessed by God. This union was mentioned in the first reading we have today, in the Book of Genesis.

The Lord created mankind first with a man, Adam, who was all alone among his race, while God created all creatures male and female, according to their natures. And that was why, God created a woman, Eve, who was taken from the man, in a very symbolic act of taking the bone and the flesh from Adam when he was in a deep sleep, and God made woman out of man. Regardless whether it was how God actually created us mankind, the truth and reality remains that God made us man and woman.

And the act of taking the bone and the flesh from Adam is in fact God’s reminder for us that we were created to be for one another, to share the love that God has given us, and to complement each other. And our relationship and union, in the sacred bond of matrimony, between a man and a woman, is in fact a reflection and imitation of God’s own perfect union of love, which is present in the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Through the sacred bond of matrimony, God also blesses us with children, as His gifts of love for us, to be fruitful and bountiful just as He has commanded us man at the beginning of creation, and to multiply and to fill the earth with our kind. This was the foundation of families and the foundation of our human communities, and indeed, the foundation of our faith and our Church.

For all of us have been born into this world as a small, little baby, each one of us, growing up in a family, where God’s love was given to us through our fathers and our mothers. And it is in the family that all of us learn what it truly means to be human beings, to be those whom the Lord has given intellect, wisdom and the ability to survive in this world. Without our families, then our human society will eventually perish and be destroyed.

Similarly, the family is the foundation and the core part of our Church and faith, as it is through the family that the faith, which has been preserved by the Church, is imparted at the beginning to the small children, baptised and raised in good faith by their parents. If the children were not raised well by their parents, ultimately, not only that they will likely lose faith, but they will also grow to be people who are without love in their hearts, capable of committing all sorts of wickedness and atrocities.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, the reality is such that, the foundation of our family and marriage life has always been shaken very badly right from the beginning of time. Throughout the Bible, in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament, there had been cases when the people who have agreed to be joined in blessed union of matrimony, sought instead to break that bond for various reasons, that is divorce.

First of all, we must understand that the Church does allow for certain exceptional cases where the marriage was not consummated and with various other valid considerations and conditions where the Church decided that the couple can be granted an annulment. An annulment is different from the case of divorce, in that the marriage was considered to have never taken place at all in the eyes of God and the Church.

However, what the Lord Jesus was referring to, in our Gospel passage today, when the Pharisees looked for Him and tried to test Him on the matter of marriage and divorce, was that of validly contracted marriages and unions which were deliberately sought to be broken by the desires of man. And the Pharisees argued that they were allowed to divorce as according to the Law of Moses, as long as settlement has been made and documents have been signed and agreed on, the marriage can be dissolved easily.

But God made it very clear to the people, that the matter of marriage is in fact not just a formality, which can be easily overwritten and overridden by the statutes of human laws, customs and practices. Instead, as mentioned, the bond of marriage is a matter of divine law, a divine union blessed by none other than God, Who has decreed that a man and a woman are united in the same love that unites the Holy Trinity together, and what He has united, no man should divide.

This, in truth, is the foundation of our marriages and families, and why we should indeed put a lot of attention to them. The devil knows this as well, and that is why, he is always on the offensive, trying to strike at us, God’s children, in our marriage and family life, that by destroying this important unit and foundation of our Church and faith, he can lure more souls into the damnation in hell.

In many cases of divorce, it was caused by our human frailty and inability to resist the temptation of the pleasures of the flesh, as well as other desires. Many people fell into adultery because of their inability to resist the temptations of their flesh, which are constantly persuading them to turn away from the Lord’s path and into the path of debauchery and unfaithfulness. Many have not been faithful to their respective spouses, and this resulted in the breaking away of families.

And when we become divided, we end up losing our faith, and the children are also badly and negatively affected. The devil then has a great time trying to pull us into ever deeper trap of his temptations and false promises of pleasure, of glory, of material goods and other things that have become thorns in the body of our family and marriage. We find it hard to restrain the temptation to sexual pleasures, to materialism and many more things that made us to desire separation and ending of the sacred bond of matrimony.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, at the same time, we need to realise that there are just a lot of things that each one of us as Christians can contribute to help all those who are troubled in their family and marriage life. Even there may be those who are in our midst, and among those whom we know, that are currently suffering in their family and marriage. Are we then going to ignore them should they come to us seeking help, advice or assistance? Or are we going to lend them a listening ear and to extend our hands to help wherever possible?

Today, all of us also celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, on the seventh day of October every year. This feast was once also known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, commemorated after the great victory of the Christian army and forces at the Battle of Lepanto against the enemies of Christ and His Church. At that time, the enemies of the Lord and His Church mustered a massive and overwhelmingly powerful forces, that threatened the very existence of Christendom, but through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, the Christian forces managed to obtain a decisive victory.

The significance of that event and this celebration then goes beyond just the historical importance of that victory to the survival of Christendom and the Christian faith as we know it. All of us must realise that we are in a constant battle, every single day and every single moments of our lives, against the devil and all of his evil forces seeking our downfall and damnation. He is the source of all of our troubles, including all the current forces and efforts aimed at the dismantling of our institution of sacred matrimony and the family.

That is why, at this moment, it is all the more important that we seek for necessary help in order to prevent us from falling into the temptations and into threat of eternal damnation. And the Lord has provided us a very good source of help, in His beloved mother, Mary, and through the rosary which she has introduced to us, through St. Dominic, and many other saints, through whom she revealed to us the rosary as a means by which we can come closer to God.

Why is that so? That is because the rosary is a series of prayers, which prominently involved the Hail Mary, a prayer invoking the prayers from Mary, the Blessed Mother of Our God, and also extolling the virtues of her life. Far from being a meaningless and repetitive prayer as many of its opponents and detractors often claimed, the rosary is a very effective weapon in our battle of life, against the forces of evil.

Many of us do not realise that we have often been lacking in our prayer life and in our spiritual development. And through the rosary, we are in fact reminded of the need to reorientate our lives to the Lord, by following the examples and the inspiration of Mary, the Mother of God, who is the perfect disciple and follower of God, in how she obeyed the Lord and put her trust in Him so completely, allowing God to do His wonderful works through her.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all keep the sanctity of both our married life and family life, by putting God at the centre of our lives, by devoting ourselves more to His mother, Mary, that in this month of October, month of the Holy Rosary, we should spend time to pray together, as a family, together between husband and wife, and the children, asking for the intercession of Mary, that she will continue to pray for our sake and ask her Son to help us in our battle against evil.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us sinners and help us that we may imitate your examples in faith, in your obedience and devotion to your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, 30 September 2018 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures speaking to us first about the calling which the Lord made to the seventy elders of Israel chosen from among the people during the time of the Exodus, in which He put in them their Holy Spirit, and they began to be inspired by the Spirit. But there were then two others who were also given the Spirit in the camp of the Israelites and were not among the seventy-two.

Joshua, the one who would eventually succeed Moses as the leader of Israel saw what happened to the two other people receiving the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and he wanted to stop them. But Moses forbid him from doing so, and in fact he was pleased at the fact that God sent His Holy Spirit to even more people, and wished that He would send the Holy Spirit to all of His people, and not just the elders chosen from among them.

In the Gospel passage today, we also listened to something that is almost the same in occurrence, when the disciples of the Lord Jesus wanted to stop some others who were not with their group, and yet spoke about the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, and preached in His Name, using His Name to heal people and perform miracles. The disciples did not like this and wanted to stop the work of these people, only to be rebuked by the Lord, just as Moses rebuked Joshua.

Why did the disciples of the Lord did what they have done, and why did Joshua want to stop the two people from receiving God’s Holy Spirit? That was likely because of their inner pride and the desires within their hearts. Even though the disciples had followed the Lord and even though Joshua was likely quite a righteous man, considering that only he and another one of God’s follower survived the forty years of Exodus, but ultimately, all of them were still mortal human beings.

And that means, all of them are still subject to the same frailties and weaknesses that we encounter through our humanity. This is what the Lord said when He told His disciples who were sleeping when they were supposed to accompany Him and keep watch during His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, ‘While the spirit is strong, but the flesh is weak.’ Temptations and allures of worldly pleasures are always by our side.

This is what St. James also wrote about in the second reading passage we have today, taken from his Epistle. He wrote about all those who have lived in riches and pleasures of life, and cheated others from their money, treated others badly and showing no regards for the needs of the hungry, the poor, the weak and the oppressed. This is truly mankind’s wicked side, which all of us unfortunately have. For even the poor and the hungry can oppress those who are even less fortunate from them, and not just the rich and the well-endowed.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord also mentioned something that seemed to be quite radical. He mentioned that should a part of our body cause us to sin, for example, our hands, which caused us to steal things and therefore made us to sin, then we must chop whichever part that is off. He even mentioned how we should pluck our eyes off whenever we have our eyes to blame in causing us to sin, when we look upon someone and lusts over that person.

But is that what the Lord truly meant and is that what the Lord wants us to do with our own lives? This is where we cannot take the Scripture passage literally and at the surface level, but we must understand the key message, purpose and intention of the Lord, the context in which He made such a strong-worded remark and comment on the behaviour of the people. The key message is that, each and every one of us mankind must turn away from sin, and we must know the urgency for such an action, for otherwise, what awaits us, is nothing else but eternal suffering in hell.

We know just how much God loves us all, that He gave us none other than the perfect gift of His own Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received a new hope of salvation and liberation from our sins, and from all the things and obstacles that have prevented us from truly being able to find our way towards the Lord. And this is where we need to listen to Him with an open mind and with an attentive heart.

What the Lord meant with what He said, is that we need to firmly reject sin, in all of its forms, and even the desire and intention to sin, before we commit it in the first place. In another occasion, the Lord also said to His disciples, that even when someone is angry with his or her brother or sister, before he or she took any action to hurt or to strike at the brother or sister, he or she has already committed sin in the heart.

Likewise, should someone look upon another person with lust and desire, then the person had committed adultery and therefore sin in his or her heart, even before that person actually committing any form of real or bodily adulterous action with the person mentioned. Sin is indeed so dangerous that even its allures and temptations can bring us down to damnation, and unless we actively reject sin, before we even commit something sinful, we are in great danger of falling into deeper and deeper sin.

Yet at the same time, we also have to realise that while we are all sinners, but God has also given us the means and the ability to break free from those sins that have plagued and troubled us all these while. God does not actually ask us to do what He said to the people, cutting off our hands, legs, or plucking out our eyes, tongues and all that. The hands, the eyes, the tongue and all these by themselves are without blame.

For the hands, the eyes, the tongue, the legs, all of our limbs and organs cannot function by itself without the working of the brain, that is our mind, and the mind in truth cannot function without the command and the will that comes from the heart and the soul. But how can we take out our heart and soul and still live? Surely we cannot do so, for our heart and soul are integral parts of our life. Sin corrupts these very depths of our inner being, and that is why, when sin entered us, it corrupted us from the inside out.

The Lord spoke of this, when He criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their obsession with the maintenance of a clean and pure exterior, and yet, failed to look and discern at the state of our interior cleanliness and purity. That is why, it is important that we understand what the Lord intended when He spoke of cutting off the hands, the eyes, the legs and all sorts of extreme and graphic language He was using. What He truly wanted to say is that, we must immediately and urgently cut off our ties to sin, starting from the depths of our hearts, minds and souls.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is where the Lord has given us many opportunities and avenues to help ourselves in our journey towards His salvation and grace. First of all, we should repent from our sinful ways and recognise just how weak we are in our battle against sin, and we should make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation available for us, by the means of frequent and genuine confessions, made regularly with the desire for us to change our lives.

And then, we should also deepen our spirituality and prayer life, by spending more quality time with Our God. Many of us did not spend good, quality time with God, and when we do so, we are often tempted and distracted by the many things and concerns we have in life. That shows clearly in our attitudes in the Mass, when many of us cannot wait but to end the Mass quickly and go back to our daily businesses and works.

That is why many of us have not spent time to be with God and to open ourselves to Him, heart to heart, that we may come to know what His will is truly for each and every one of us. Instead, we were so busy with ourselves, that we ended up getting more and more distant from Him, and we ended up falling deeper and deeper into the traps and temptations that the devil has placed before us.

Then lastly, our hands, our feet, our eyes, our tongue, and all of our limbs and organs have their particular purpose and uses. They can indeed be used for something vile and wicked, but at the same time, they can also be used for good things and for the good works of God. Now, we need to ask ourselves, if we have made good use of our body, our talents and gifts for the good of our fellow men, showing true Christian love and charity in all of our words, deeds and actions?

If we have not done all these or any of these, then perhaps it is now time for us to take action before it is too late for us. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that all of us are mortal, and our existence and time in this world is truly limited. If we do not make good use of the time and opportunity given to us in this world, and instead continue to live in sin, then I am afraid that when the time comes for us to give an account before God, we will not be ready to defend ourselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us from now on turn towards the Lord with a renewed zeal and spirit, committing ourselves ever more to a life filled with prayer and devotion, with genuine love for God and with compassion towards our brothers and sisters, our neighbours and all those who are in need of our help. There are still many things that we can do in life, and let us all strive to make use of the gifts and blessings given to us, for the greater glory of God. Amen.

Sunday, 23 September 2018 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are presented with the sad reality of our world today, and especially within our Church itself. It was the sad reality of the conflict, infighting and divisions that often plague our human communities, the clashes between our human pride and ambitions, our desires for worldly glory, wealth, power, fame, influence, and all sorts of things that end up becoming stumbling blocks in our communities, including even within the Church itself.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard from the event during the Lord’s ministry, when even in that early stage of God’s work of salvation, there has been divisions and rivalries among the disciples, especially those who were the closest to the Lord. They were bickering, arguing and quarrelling among themselves, about who among them was the most preeminent, greatest and preferred by the Lord. Each of them wanted to be that special disciple whom the Lord treasured and praised to be His best.

This is also linked to what two of the disciples, St. James and St. John did together with their mother, in another occasion, when they came up to the Lord and asking for His personal and exceptional favour. They wanted Him to grant them the favour of being able to sit at the right and the left hand side of the Lord in His triumphant and kingly glory. At that time, as is often still today, to be able to sit beside a lord or a king is considered as a tremendous honour and privilege.

In what St. James himself mentioned in his own Epistle which is our second reading today, all of these reveal to us the ugly nature of human ambition, pride, desire and greed, for worldly power, for wealth, for privileges, for fame and glory, which end up in causing divisions and hatred, anger and jealousy, because of the clashes and frictions between each person’s different desires and ambitions.

This is the way of the world, the way of those who followed the desires and the paths of Satan and his evil allies. This is the way of those who succumbed to the temptations of their greed and their pride, which had indeed led many to fall into sin and disobedience against God. And it is the source of much pain, suffering and sorrow in the Church, and as well as in the human society in general.

There had been many occasions in this world, of how mankind have been greatly scandalised by the actions of some, who in the pursuit of worldly glory, power, wealth, recognition and fame, ended up causing others to suffer in order to satisfy their own selfish desires and greed. This is what happened when men tried to prop up their own ego and pride, and refused to look beyond their selfishness.

Many wars, conflicts and persecutions have occurred because of the desire which some of those in power had, for more power, for more honour, for more glory, for more riches, for more resources, for a place of honour in history, for glorification and worship and praise by the people, and many more. And millions and more had died in the process, and many more suffered and endured hunger, pain and loss, because of the actions of those who thought only of themselves and their own wants and desires.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of Wisdom, we also heard another example from long ago in Biblical history, of the time when the people of God persecuted the prophets and messengers that were sent to them, in order to remind them to be faithful and to turn away from their sins. Instead, the people hardened their hearts and kept doing what were sinful in the sight of God. They plotted to silence the prophets and made them suffer for having rebuked them for their wicked ways.

Again, this is another example of how we mankind are often tempted by our own desires for worldly things and glory, and how easily we can slip into this wickedness if we are not careful or if we are not actively restraining the pull of temptation on us. And still, it is, as I mentioned earlier, very sad to see how all these things happened even within our Church, and how it had caused even people to lose their faith in God, and leave the Church.

How many of us have experienced being treated badly or unequally within our Church ministries, or when people gossiped behind our back or played for power and influence within the ministries and within the parishes? How many of us have seen people being discarded and rejected, from within Church groups and ministries just because they were deemed to be rivals and threats in the battle of influence within the groups and ministries?

All of these things are too real for us to ignore or to pretend that everything is good within the Church today. The Church has experienced many of these unfortunate occurrences throughout its history, when even the leaders and elders of the Church vied for power, glory, political and worldly influence, even for wealth and all other things that we think should not have happened to the Church, but they did.

There had been many occasions when the faithful, even within the priesthood, who were wounded, disheartened and even scandalised by what they have seen and experienced, the kind of treatment that they have received, and often when they were speaking the truth and the right thing. There had been many occasions when this led to unfortunate divisions and sufferings within the Church, and caused many to lose their faith in God and His Church.

But if we look carefully into this matter, and reflect again on the Scripture readings we have read today, we will see just how all these have been foretold to us, as I have mentioned on what was written in the Book of Wisdom. All of these bitterness and unbecoming attitudes of Christians ultimately came from our own frail humanity, where we have been often tempted and pressured to turn towards these ways of sin and disobedience against God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to realise that while the Church is indeed a divine institution established by none other than the Lord Himself, but it is also made up of human elements, all of the people that are part of the Church including each and every one of us as Christians. And as humans, it is part of our imperfect nature for us to be tempted and to be corrupted by these sinful ways.

However, it does not mean that we should allow these temptations of pride, of greed and of human and worldly desires to run rampant without control. We must instead do our best to get rid of all these wicked and sinful temptations, by turning ourselves wholeheartedly towards God, and by truly living our Christian faith with genuine dedication and devotion to God. The Lord Himself has shown us how we should do this.

He mentioned in the Gospel today, that if someone wants to be the first, he must be the last and the servant of all. And then, He also took a child and put the child in their midst, saying that, if they welcome the child, they are welcoming Him, and the One Who sent Him into the world. What does this mean? The Lord wants each and every one of His disciples to be true in their faith and in their dedication, like that of a child, pure and humble, innocent and genuine in all things they think and do.

Are we able to follow that teaching which the Lord had taught and shown us? He Himself showed the example, by how humble and dedicated He was to the mission entrusted to Him by His Father. He did not allow pride or greed to overcome Him, when Satan tempted Him with all sorts of worldly pleasures and glories. When the people wanted to make Him as their king, He walked away and secluded Himself in a secret, quiet place.

Are we able to follow Our Lord’s examples? And indeed, are we willing to do so? It will require our effort, willpower and the commitment which we need to give, if we decide to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. And we must realise that all the troubles and wicked things that happen around us will not disappear, but unless we begin from ourselves, and be role models for our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, how can we encourage all Christians to abandon their sinful attitudes in life?

Let us all renew our efforts to live our lives with faith, and that is, with genuine faith and dedication. We must be filled with sincere and strong passion in our lives, to be ever more faithful and to be ever more humble, no matter what we have achieved in life, for in everything we do and say, we are in fact glorifying God, and for all of our successes and blessings, we owe it to God, the One Who made it all possible for us.

May the Lord continue to guide us on our way and in this journey of life. May He continue to provide for us and may He remain by our side as we continue to walk down this path of life, each and every one of us, that as members of the Church, we may overcome the sin of pride, the sin of greed and all sorts of wickedness that remain with us. May God bless us all and bless His Church, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 16 September 2018 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we listen to the readings taken from the Scriptures, surely we will realise that being Christians does not seem as easy as it seems to be. Being Christians require us to be committed and to be ready to face challenges, difficulties and even persecutions for what we believe in, and often times, we will encounter these challenges from even those who are close and dear to us.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we listened to the prophecy which Isaiah spoke on the suffering of the Servant of God, which would later on be interpreted as the prophecy which he made on the coming and the future works of the Messiah, the One Whom the Lord sent into the world in order to bring the long promised salvation to His people.

The Messiah of God would suffer greatly, suffering rejection and even physical blows and being spat on, being humiliated to such a degree that not even His humanity was preserved. This is what the prophet Isaiah prophesied regarding what the Lord Jesus would face during His ministry, all the pain and rejection He would receive from His people. The Lord was rejected by His own hometown neighbours in Nazareth, hounded on by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law throughout His journeys.

And in the Gospel passage today, we listened to the Lord Jesus speaking about His own impending suffering and tribulation at the hands of His enemies. It is essentially an affirmation of what the prophet Isaiah had mentioned in his Book. The Lord would suffer persecution, and then death at the hands of all of His enemies, those who rejected Him and wanted Him to be killed. That was the stark reality which the Lord Jesus presented before His disciples, in fact, not just once, but a few times.

But then we heard of how the Apostle, St. Peter pulled the Lord aside and rebuked Him for saying such ominous and bad things. The Lord rebuked St. Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan!”, implying that it was under the influence of Satan and his temptations that St. Peter had made such a remark. The Lord also mentioned that he was thinking not as God does, but as man does. This is representing us the nature of human and worldly temptations that often get in the way of our true devotion and dedication to God.

The same temptations had been presented before the Lord by Satan himself, just after the Lord was baptised by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan. In the desert, Satan came to Jesus and tempted Him three things, firstly with the temptation of hunger and food, and then with the temptation of pride and worldly glory, when he asked Jesus to jump from the top of the Temple of Jerusalem, and lastly, the temptation of desire and greed, when he presented the whole world’s wealth and glory, if only Jesus would worship Satan.

In all of these temptations, Satan was speaking through himself and through some others, including that of the Apostles, as recorded in today’s passage, and in another, when during the Transfiguration, St. Peter asked the Lord that they remained on the Mount Tabor and not to go down away from the Lord’s Transfigured glory. But the Lord again spoke to His disciples, by means of a voice from the Father, “This is My Son, My Beloved. Listen to Him.”

And Jesus therefore mentioned it again and again to His disciples, that He needed to suffer, to endure pain and trials, to be rejected and to be humiliated, to be crushed with the burden of our sins, and gathering them all on the Cross which He was about to bear. Of course that burden of the Cross was so great, and so unbearable, that in His humanity, the Lord Jesus endured a final temptation at the hour of His agony, when He was in the garden of Gethsemane, praying to His Father, even asking Him to take away the cup of suffering away from Him.

But in the end, the Lord Jesus was perfectly and completely obedient to the will of His Father. He was tempted through the flesh of His humanity, the vulnerabilities of His human existence and nature, but He did not sin because He completely trusted His Father’s will, and He surrendered everything to Him. That was why the Lord Jesus took up His Cross willingly, bearing it all the way to Calvary, being nailed on it and died on it.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on what Christ has done, His actions and commitment to the will of His Father. And let us all remember what St. James mentioned in His Epistle, which is our second reading today. Faith, according to St. James, without works, is dead. Faith without the evidence of good works, done according to that faith, is meaningless and empty, and is useless for us.

What does this mean? It means that we may have faith in God, but we will not be saved and will not be worthy in God, unless our faith is truly real and genuine. There are those who have wrongly thought that we mankind are saved by faith alone, that our works have no part to play in our salvation, but they are wrong. For the Church has taught that, by the teachings of the Apostles, including that of St. James, good works must accompany our faith.

The Lord Himself showed us by the perfect example of His crucifixion and death. He has such great and deep love for us, such devotion and dedication to the will of His Father, that He willingly took up His Cross and did all that was necessary, in order to save us from the impending destruction caused by our sins, through His own death on the cross. He showed us that His love for us is not just empty and meaningless words, but also real and true.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is also what the Lord meant, when He said that for all those who want to follow Him, they must take up their crosses and follow Him. If we truly are faithful to God, then we must substantiate that faith through our actions, deeds and words, in everything we say and do. How can we say that we are faithful to God and yet, our actions show otherwise?

If we have done so, then we have in fact scandalised our faith and scandalised God Himself. And that is a great sin which we have committed against God. Is this what we want to be with our life? Have we been truly faithful or are we still ensnared by the many temptations of this life, that we have failed to show our true obedience to God? This is when we need to make the firm stand and put the effort, for each and every one of us to be true Christians from now on.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore from now on, have a new resolve in ourselves, that we want to bear our crosses in life, by doing what we can in living up to our faith, its expectation and obligations. Let us all turn towards the Lord with renewed zeal and courage, to live our lives daily with conviction, to show love and Christian way of compassion to all those who have need of them.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of life, and may He empower each and every one of us to live faithfully, that we may become true disciples of His, and be worthy of the eternal life and glory He promised to all of those who are faithful to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 9 September 2018 : Twenty-Third 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 being spoken to us through the Scriptures, about the hope and encouragement that God has given to all of us, His beloved people, in how He has blessed us and given us a new hope, by healing us from our afflictions, our sicknesses and shortcomings. God has promised and fulfilled the promise He has made, to made whole again the people He had created out of love.

First of all, our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah spoke about the coming of God’s healing to His people, as the signs He would show when He sent His Saviour into the world. The prophet Isaiah was sent to the people of Israel at the time when many in Israel have abandoned the Lord and His ways, and they have consequently suffered at the hands of their enemies, scattered and exiled away from their homeland.

The prophet spoke of a new hope for the people of Israel, who were surely downtrodden and despairing, remembering the time of their suffering in Egypt, when they were enslaved by the Pharaoh and the Egyptians for hundreds of years. They longed for the coming of the Deliverer, Whom the Lord has promised for many years through His prophets and messengers, that deliverance would come for them.

The prophet spoke of the signs of what would happen when the Messiah of God came into the world. He would make the blind people see again, the deaf people to be able to hear again, the mute people to be able to speak again, the lame and the paralytic to be able to walk and to be active again. And all of these would happen as signs of the coming of the One Whom God has promised.

And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the moment when the Lord Jesus healed a man who was both deaf and mute. He touched his ears and mouth, and by His words, “Ephphata!” meaning, “Be opened!”, the Lord healed the deaf and mute man, who could immediately hear and speak once again. The man praised the Lord and the whole people who witnessed the great miracle also were astonished and glorified God.

It was the fulfilment of what God Himself has promised to His people, that through His Saviour, He would restore His people, from all their afflictions and disabilities, from all of their shortcomings, pains and sufferings. It was through the Lord Jesus, God’s own begotten Son, that the plan of Salvation was completed to its perfect fulfilment. But it was not all the physical healing of the people that were the focus of Christ’s objective in this world, but rather, the healing of our true sickness that has made us all to be sick.

What am I referring to, brothers and sisters in Christ? I am referring to the sickness caused by our sins. Sin is caused by our disobedience and refusal to obey God, which have afflicted each and every one of us mankind, ever since Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, were tempted and failed to resist the temptations of Satan, to disobey God’s will and commands.

Ever since then, we have been afflicted by sin, which is truly a disease and corruption upon our entire being. Sin is the disease that affects first the soul, and then from the soul, to the heart and mind, and eventually our physical self and the whole body will be affected as well. We may be physically healthy and unafflicted by any physical diseases or sicknesses, but in truth, deep inside us, we are sick and dying because of this sickness of our sins.

And unlike all other physical diseases and sicknesses, which can be cured or halted to a certain extent by medicines and treatments, there is no cure for sin, save for that of the Lord’s mercy and grace alone. None but the Lord is capable of forgiving our sins, and no one but the Lord is able to free us from the bondage to our sins and therefore, to our fated destruction and death.

What is the significance of all these to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Every single one of us as Christians, who have been baptised in the Name of the Lord, have gone through the rite of the Sacrament of Baptism, in which one part was the symbolic Ephphata Rite, recalling the precise moment mentioned in the Gospel passage today, when the Lord Jesus opened the ears and loosened the tongue of the deaf and mute man.

And more still, that through the holy water of baptism, all of us have been made to be sharers and partakers of God’s New and Everlasting Covenant, which He has made with all of us through the action of His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. By that water of baptism, we have been cleansed of our past sins and our original sins, and we were purified from our wickedness and unworthiness.

Therefore, as all of us have received the inheritance from God, of faith, hope and love, by sharing in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross, dying to our past sins, and now, having shared in the hope of the glorious resurrection from the dead that He has shown us, each and every one of us as Christians have been called to be active in our faith, to be the ones to bear the Lord’s truth to all the peoples of all the nations.

For you see, brothers and sisters, our Christian faith is one that requires us to be active, to be missionary and to reach out to others about the faith which we have in God. We cannot be complacent or inactive and passive in the practice of our faith. We have been freed from the tyranny of sin and death, and the veil of sin has been lifted up from us. We have experienced God Himself being present in us, so what is stopping us from truly proclaiming the Lord in our lives?

Very often, it is because of our own lack of faith and our own lukewarm attitude towards what we believe in the Lord. But do we realise that there are still many out there who are still living in the darkness and ignorance of the Lord’s truth and salvation? If we ignore them and do nothing to help them, then they may fall into eternal damnation in hell, a fate which we ourselves will share because the Lord will hold us accountable for our failure to act.

We have received this faith and the promise of eternal life from God, and it is only natural that we should share this hope and faith with all those who have not yet received them. And the way for us to do so, is by being true Christians in our respective lives, meaning that we must practice what we believe in our own life, through our actions and deeds, and not just through words.

Unfortunately, many of us Christians have shown otherwise, as we act in manner that causes divisions and scandals, by our refusal to obey the will of God and continuing to fall into temptations, of pride, of worldly wealth and power, of influence and fame, that even within the Church and in our various ministries, we have seen so many actions that were inconsistent and unbecoming of our faith, in how we jockey for influence and power, and in how we treat each other, not in the manner of our true Christian fellowship.

How can we expect others to believe in God and to receive our Christian faith, if we ourselves are not exemplary in how we live our lives in faith? Instead of bringing the people closer to God, we will instead end up causing more and more people to be turned away from salvation. Thus, it is important that we realise the gravity of our actions in our lives, and how they can be crucial in our role as disciples and bearers of God’s truth.

Let us therefore strive to be true disciples of Christ from now on, by truly living up to our calling as those whom the Lord has chosen out of the world, having been given the truth and the promise of eternal life. Let us go forth and preach this truth to many more people, through our words, our deeds and actions, that in everything we say and do, we will always proclaim the glory of God and call many more to come to the Lord and be saved.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in all of our endeavours, and may He continue to watch over us as we continue to carry on living this life with all the zeal and courage to be true Christians in every moment of our lives. Amen.

Sunday, 2 September 2018 : Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the Scripture passages with regards to the Law and the commandments which God has given to us all, His beloved people, beginning from the time of the Old Testament, when God first revealed His laws and His truth to the people of Israel, descendants of Abraham, whom He had chosen to be the first people He called as His own.

In the first reading today, we heard from the passage taken from the Book of Deuteronomy about the exhortation which Moses, the leader of Israel, gave to the entire people with regards to the Law which God had revealed before the people, and which He had expected the people to follow and obey. It was then also that, it was mentioned how the people must follow the Law without adding or taking away anything from it, but just obey the Law in its complete fullness.

And this is related to what the Lord Himself presented before His people, in the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark. In that Gospel passage, we heard of the frustration and the anger which the Lord felt towards the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who He decried as hypocrites with a shallow and superficial faith in God. This means that they did not keep a true and genuine faith.

He took great issue out of this particularly because those people were the ones entrusted to safeguard and preserve the Law, as well as teaching them to the people that they may keep them from generation to generation. They were the ones who were supposed to safeguard the Law from corruption and perversion of falsehood, and yet, they were the very ones who had corrupted and subverted the Law to their own selfish purposes.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law followed their own interpretation of the Law and the commandments, insisting that the people must follow their version of the Law and the commandments. And their version of the Law demands that everyone must follow all the rigid and unreasonable demands of their interpretation of the Law. They demanded many external observances of the Jewish customs, right to the smallest details.

For example, in today’s Gospel, the Pharisees took great issue and were offended that the disciples of the Lord did not follow the strict requirement of ritual cleansing and washing of oneself before a meal, which in fact involves a great detail of washing sequences, of the whole hands and arms right to the elbow. To the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, because the disciples did not obey the Law in the manner they prescribed, the disciples were considered unclean and unworthy.

That was the same sentiment they likely shared about the Lord Jesus, with Whom they had many issues and clashes throughout the occasions of His ministry. They thought of Him as someone Who is against the Law, even to the point of accusing Him of committing blasphemy against God, and of spreading His supposedly unorthodox teachings and ways among the people.

Yet, what the Lord Jesus taught was the truth, and it was the pure Law of God revealed to the people without the corruption of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the past generations of the people of God. He revealed to everyone the true meaning of what God has given to His people in His Law, the Law of Love, that is the set of ordinances and rules meant to bring the people of God to understand the fullness of His love.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, unlike the laws and rules practiced and propagated by the Pharisees, which were exclusive and punitive in nature, in how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law excluded and were prejudiced against those who did not follow their version of the Law, the true Law of God is inclusive and loving, and was meant to show the people how to love God and to love one another.

The Lord Himself revealed that the entire Law could be summarised into two key commandments, first of which is to love the Lord, Our God with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strength. He is the first and foremost One for us to focus our love and attention on, and He must exist at the very core and centre of our lives. This is the key principle of the Law.

And because we love God, Who is so full of love, then naturally we must imitate His love for us mankind, and show the same love towards our fellow men, the second of the two key commandments of the Law. This means that for us to be able to obey the Law in its entirety and in its true intention, we must then internalise the Law and understand what it means for us to be followers of God.

First of all, the Law is a gift from God and is about bringing us closer to God and to help us to know more about Him and to get closer to Him. It is not for the glorification of ourselves just as how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. Those people abused and misused the Law to suit their own desires and to satisfy their human pride. Instead of using the Law to bring the people of God closer to Him, they chased people away from God by their exclusivism and self-righteous attitude.

As the Lord Jesus rightly pointed out in another occasion in the Gospels, the Pharisees, teachers of the Law and others did not observe the Law because they truly understood the Law and its purpose, but rather because they wanted to feel and gain the glory and praise from man, to feel the euphoria and pride of being at the centre of attention and human applauses, when they were praised for their supposed piety and obedience to the Law.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how about we ourselves? Have we acted in this manner in our own lives? It is a sad reality for the Church, seeing how many of the faithful coming for Mass or any other Church activities, not because they loved God or were filled with the desire to love Him, but because they wanted to be seen by others, vying with each other for prestige, fame and glory. That is also how bickering and rivalry end up creating bitterness and pain in the Church, in many Church ministries and activities.

And when these things happen, we end up causing scandal for our faith, because instead of showing true examples of Christian discipleship and faith, we end up turning people away from the Lord, causing many to be disillusioned with the Church and the faith by our actions. That was exactly what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done as well, turning the people of God seeking His mercy and forgiveness away and misguiding many others from the true path towards God.

Many of us unfortunately do not truly appreciate and understand the importance of obeying the Law of God in our own respective lives. That is why many of us eventually lose our faith and become indifferent. Many of us do not know why we have to come for the Holy Mass on Sundays of the Lord, and we did these just because it is merely an obligation to do so, or for some of us, we were afraid that if we did not obey, we would end up falling into hell.

That is why, it is important, brothers and sisters in Christ, to understand and appreciate both the letter and the spirit of the Law. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as well as many of us only focus on the letter of the Law, but do not understand the spirit of the Law. What is this spirit of the Law? It is the true understanding of what God’s Law means for us, that is to bring us closer to God, to be more like God, to be loving just as the Lord, Our God is full of love.

Therefore, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all deeply reflect in our hearts and minds, and be thankful to God for what He has done for us. He has loved us so much, that despite our wretched state, our unworthiness and our disobedience against Him, all the sins we have committed against Him, He was still so full of love and mercy for us, that He gave us all His Law and Commandments. And He gave us His own Beloved Son, through Whom we receive the fullness of truth of the Law, and the perfect proof of His love.

For He gave everything to us, even to the point of suffering and dying for us on the cross, so that by His selfless love, He may bring us all into a new life and existence, no longer burdened by sin, but each and every one of us may be worthy of God and His love, and to receive forever, the fullness of His inheritance and love. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to love us and guide us in our journey of life, that we may reach Him through the guiding hands of the Law He has given us. May God bless us all. Amen.