Sunday, 10 December 2017 : Second Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this second Sunday in the season of Advent, as we continue our preparation for the celebration of Christmas in a few weeks’ time, we listened to the words of the Scripture in which the focus is placed on the actions of the servant of God, the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Lord, namely St. John the Baptist.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the prophecy speaking about someone who cries out in the wilderness, declaring the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God. This prophecy clearly refers to the time of grace, during which time God finally fulfilled the long awaited promise of a Saviour or Messiah, and His coming was announced and heralded by this faithful servant, St. John the Baptist.

St. John the Baptist as many of us are aware of, is the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the relatives of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ Our Lord. Since his youth, he has been dedicated to a life of service to God, and he went to the wilderness, wearing simple clothing, and did exactly as what was prophesied in the Book of the prophet Isaiah. He proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, and called on the people to repent from their sins and abandon their wicked ways.

He baptised the people with water, and through that baptism, called many to a conversion of life and a change in their way of life, that they would commit to a life worthy of God, for the kingdom of God was about to come. By doing this, this faithful servant has prepared the way for the Lord, just like that of a farmer tilling and preparing the soil, so that the soil will be ready for the sower to sow the seeds on it.

And what is the significance of what we have heard about St. John the Baptist and his works among the people? What is the importance of these on our own lives? First of all, we should heed the words of St. John the Baptist, who proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God with the words, ‘Repent! For the kingdom of God is near!’ And reflect on his role as the voice in the wilderness who declares the coming of the Lord, preparing the way for His coming.

This means that, all of us should also spend time to reflect on our own lives, and think of what we have done in our lives thus far. Are we ready to welcome the Lord into our lives? Are we ready to enter into the kingdom of God? We know that the Lord has come into this world, and we have been taught His ways and teachings through the Church, and yet, if we see around us, there are still so many people who lack true faith in God.

And in how we are preparing ourselves for the coming of Christmas, we see for ourselves, how many of us Christians have not remembered the true purpose and meaning of our Christmas celebrations, preferring to follow the secular and worldly ways of celebrating Christmas, having been inundated with plenty of advertisements and temptations of materialistic and worldly celebration of Christmas, with shopping, lots of gifts, sparkling decorations and many other common things we see at Christmas, such as Santa Claus and many others.

But have we not forgotten why is it that we rejoice this Christmas? What is it about Christmas that is so worth to be joyful about? It is the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate every Christmas, but year after year as we celebrate Christmas, have we forgotten this true purpose of our celebration? Have we ended up going through motion as we celebrate yet another holiday? Is Christmas just another holiday period when we enjoy ourselves with parties and revelries, travelling or any other activities, but leaving out the One for Whom we should rejoice for?

It is time for us to look deeper into our second reading today, taken from the second Epistle of St. Peter. In his Epistle, St. Peter mentioned that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, which means that it will be totally unexpected for all of us, and many of us will not be ready for His coming. That is why in this season of Advent, we have a two-fold preparation for us to go through.

First of all, we know that Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas, but it does not mean the time for us to go shopping and prepare for all the gifts and wrappings for those gifts, or planning how we should decorate our houses and conduct our Christmas parties, luncheons and all the sort. All these are secondary to the main celebration of Christmas, and in fact can become a distraction.

Instead, we should spend this time to reflect on the significance of Christmas, and why is it that Christians all over the world celebrate Christmas as one of the most important events of our faith, together with Easter. As I have mentioned last Sunday, Christmas and Easter are inseparably intertwined with each other, and one give meaning to the other. There can be no Christmas without Easter and vice versa. And although Easter is still more important than Christmas, Christmas does give an important meaning to Easter.

For in Christmas all of us celebrate the moment when God Who willingly took up for Himself a human existence, was born into the world, and therefore become the Light to all the nations. As what the book of the prophet Isaiah mentioned, that a people living in the darkness have seen a great Light. For Christ is the Light of the world, through Whom all mankind can finally find their way towards their Lord.

But without Easter, and all that happened preceding it, during the Passion of the Lord in the Holy Week, Christmas would be just the birthday of another person, no different or any special compared to any other birthdays. Instead, understanding the full mystery of Our Lord’s birth, life, ministry and later on His suffering, death and resurrection from the dead makes Christmas truly special, as Christmas marks then the moment when Our Lord’s plan of salvation comes to its fruition.

Let us all then, think carefully of how we should celebrate our Christmas in the coming few weeks. We need to prepare ourselves thoroughly and wholeheartedly in our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, that we may embrace the meaning of Christmas in our joy. It is not wrong that we should be happy, to rejoice and to be merry, but we must rejoice for the right reason and for the right purpose.

And as mentioned, our Christmas celebration is not just for us to reflect on the historical birth of Our Lord, but also to prepare for the future second coming of Our Lord, which He has promised to all of us, when He ascended to heaven in glory. He will come again at the end of time, to gather all of His faithful ones towards Himself, and as St. Peter mentioned in his Epistle, we will not know the timing when this will happen.

Are we able to do our best to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord? That is what we should think about, as we go through this season of Advent. Let us prepare ourselves by spending more time with God, through prayer and through charitable works. Let us all devote ourselves and do our best to obey the Lord in all His commandments, that when He comes again, He may find us all ready and prepared for His coming, and we will be worthy to receive the eternal glory He promised to all those who are faithful to Him.

May the Lord bless all of us and our endeavours, that we may draw ever closer to Him, and found to be worthy of Him. May our Christmas celebrations be ever more meaningful and fruitful, as we recognise the true joy of Christmas. May each and every one of us find blessings in all that we do, and receive God’s grace. Amen.

Sunday, 3 December 2017 : First Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the beginning of the season of Advent, the time of preparation before the coming of Christmas, when we will celebrate together the birth or Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Today as the First Sunday of Advent, we also begin a new liturgical year, as a new cycle of the liturgical celebrations begin anew.

We heard the passages from the Scriptures today speaking to us about firstly, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, reminding us as God’s people that we have fallen from the grace of God when we sinned against Him, disobeying His laws and commandments. Yet, God is ever forgiving and merciful, and He is willing to forgive us our sins, as long as we open ourselves to His mercy and allow His grace and love to transform us from a being filled with sin into a being of light.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we embark through this season of Advent, preparing ourselves for the coming of Christmas, it is important that we take note, that this season is not about preparing our homes with decorations, or the time for us to do our pre-Christmas shopping and preparation for our lavish Christmas parties and celebrations. Instead, this time of Advent is designed for us that we may stop from whatever we have been doing throughout this year, and reflect on them, so as to prepare ourselves spiritually and mentally to celebrate Christmas properly.

Many of us do not understand what Christmas is truly about, and we ended up being drawn into the secular way of celebrating Christmas. In fact, if you look around the town, all the shopping malls and gathering places, and even along the roadsides, you can see plenty of Christmas decorations all over those places. We can see all the Christmas trees, the lights and all the beautiful messages wishing everyone a happy Christmas, happiness, peace and prosperity.

Yet, if we look deeper, except for some noteworthy exceptions we surely have encountered, there is something very important missing from all those Christmas celebrations. And what is that, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is Christ! Christ has been missing from Christmas, and the celebration which is primarily and indeed solely about Christ Our Lord, has lost its true meaning and purpose, hidden beneath layers of excess and revelry.

Many of us worry about what we are to wear during the celebrations, or what to cook or provide in our feasts, but for what purpose? Indeed, it will be good to wear something new and good looking for the festive seasons, but are we doing these for the right purpose? Are we celebrating the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or are we being vain, trying to look good and beautiful in front of our guests and relatives?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are living in a world awash with many material excesses as well as materialistic attitudes. We are surrounded by all these things, that distract us from the true focus of Christmas. Imagine if in a birthday party, everyone is busy enjoying themselves, talking among themselves and be occupied by various activities, and yet, the person who is having the birthday is forgotten. Is that something logical or right? Surely it is not.

And that is exactly what happens when we come to celebrate Christmas, but not with the right purpose and intention. Instead of a celebration of our faith and rejoicing for the arrival of Our Lord and Saviour, the long awaited Messiah, we have made Christmas to be a celebration of ourselves, our ego and human ambitions, and we have left God out of these celebrations.

The Gospel passage today serves as a reminder for all of us the importance of this season of Advent, as a time of reflection and recollection, for us to think deep in our hearts what it truly means for us to celebrate Christmas, and indeed, what it means to be Christians. For we believe in the Lord Jesus, Our God, Who has descended to us assuming the flesh of Man, and died for us on the cross.

This is the fundamental tenet of our faith which we have to follow and understand, if we are truly willing to understand the true spirit and intention of our Christmas celebrations. For Christmas is not just like any other earthly celebrations and revelry. The very reason we rejoice is because Christmas itself is intimately and inseparably tied with another great event in our faith, that is of the Passion of Our Lord that we celebrate during Good Friday, and His resurrection in Easter.

Without the crucifixion, death and resurrection in Easter, Christmas has no meaning, as then it will be just the birth anniversary of yet another human being, no different from any one of us. Instead, it is because of Easter that Christmas has its meaning, because we believe that God Himself has become Man and entered into the world at the moment of His birth, celebrated as Christmas. And the very purpose of His coming into this world, which makes Easter also inseparable from Christmas, is so that He may lay down His life on the cross, as a perfect sacrificial victim, for the sake of our redemption.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to spend time to reflect on this, and see if we have done what we are expected to do, in preparation for the worthy celebration of Christmas. Otherwise, this time of Advent and eventually this upcoming Christmas season will just pass and go without meaning or purpose for us, year after year, again and again. Instead, all of us as Christians should become role models in our faith, and do our best to worthily welcome Christmas, celebrating the very important moment of the birth of Our Lord, God Who have willingly made Himself a Man, for our sake.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all do our best to prepare ourselves this season of Advent, by going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, doing confession for our sins and conducting penance through our good works and charity, giving up our bad habits, and prepare ourselves, heart, mind, soul and body to be ready to celebrate Christmas in full faith, no longer focused on ourselves and all the revelries, but instead, returning to our true focus in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the birthday Boy, Whose birth we rejoice at.

May the Lord bless us always, and may He empower each and every one of us, so that we may live faithfully and walk in His ways, all the days of our life, persevering through the challenges of life and all the temptations of this world. May He guide us in this season of Advent, that day after day, we may come ever closer to God and His grace. Amen.

Sunday, 26 November 2017 : Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the last Sunday in our current liturgical year, and therefore, we celebrate with joy the great Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. We remember today, Our Lord Who is Our God and Saviour, and also Our King, Who will come at the end of time, at the time of His own choosing, to judge all of the people, from past, our current present time and the future to come.

In the Scripture readings today, we heard how Our Lord is King, Who is to be glorified and adored, obeyed and listened to, but He is also our Shepherd, Who is responsible for us, Who cares for us and loves each and every one of us without exception, from the smallest and least among us to the greatest. He is our Good Shepherd, the One Who leads all the faithful people towards Himself, that all may find rest in Him. He shows us all the face of true kingship, one that leads by example.

He is the One True King, from Whom all authority came from, and from Whom all power rests. All our earthly rulers, leaders, kings, presidents and all those who wield power are merely entrusted with the authority, and entrusted with the care over the people, over whom they ruled. Yet, as we have seen throughout the history of mankind, many leaders and rulers have abused the power and authority granted to them, and became intoxicated with them, losing sight of what they ought to be doing as kings and rulers.

Many worldly kings and rulers ended up becoming corrupted by power, and also tempted by wealth, fame, glory and many other forms of worldly possessions. That was how tyrants and dictators were born and created. Indeed, the saying was true, that ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. It was because of our inability to resist the temptations of worldly things, that led us to corrupt the purpose of power and authority which have been entrusted to us by our True King, Jesus Christ.

Had they taken the examples from the True King, they would not have fallen into such a state. Jesus is the King Who leads by example, Who loves and cares for His people, and is committed to bring improvement and happiness to those Who have been placed under His care, that is by God His Father, Who in the Scriptures have given all power and dominion to Him, that He may rule over all creatures and beings, indeed, over the entire universe.

And while many kings and rulers of this world seek to be served and to be pleased by those who are around him, and become angry and displeased when their will is not fulfilled, or when they did not get what they wanted in terms of service by their servants, the Lord Jesus took off His outer garment, wore a garment in the manner of servants at the time of the Last Supper, and one by one, washing His disciples’ feet without hesitation, as a sign of true Kingship, the Kingship of service and love.

He showed the face of true Christian kingship, where the king does not come to be served but to serve, which in essence is also true leadership. A true leader must show by example and action, and not to be idle, not to be complacent, and not to be haughty or proud. And Jesus showed it all again during the time of His Passion, when He was arrested by the chief priests and the elders, when He did not resist, and even said to His disciples, that if He wanted to, He could have asked God His Father for man legions of Angels to deliver Him, and He did not do so.

He was also tempted by the devil in the desert as He fasted for forty days to prepare for His ministry, and yet He remained true to His mission. He was tempted by hunger, as the devil asked Him to turn the stones into bread to satisfy His hunger, and then, He was tempted with pride and ego, when the devil brought Him up to the top of the Temple and asked Him to jump, that all might see Him and believe in Him.

And lastly, He was tempted with worldly power and riches, which Satan would give Him if only He was to worship him as god and master. Jesus rebuked Satan for all these, and reminded him that God alone is worthy of glory, honour, praise and worship. In all of these examples, we can see how Our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us the qualities of a True King, the One and only One King which we should follow.

But this does not mean that we as Christians must disobey civil and worldly authorities, rulers, kings and all. In fact, as I have mentioned earlier, these leaders have been entrusted with power and authority by the Lord, that they should execute them with justice and righteousness, following after the example of the True King, Jesus Christ Our Lord. Thus, we should be obedient citizens and lawful people, who obeyed the laws of this world, but at the same time, even more so, obey God’s will and commandments.

That is why for each and every one of us as Christians, all of us must pray for our leaders and rulers, that they may follow the example of Christ in all things, and put the people that they have been entrusted with, first in their minds and attention, and not their own selfish desires and wishes. We pray that power and authority will not corrupt them as they had for the many previous rulers and kings, and that they will become responsible stewards of God’s justice and love.

That said, all of these problems I have mentioned, which corrupted our leaders and rulers, also affect all of us as well. Many of us are often affected by greed and desire, and we seek to have more power, more wealth, more renown, more fame, more recognition and worldly glory, and thus, we spent a lot of time trying to gather for ourselves more and more of those things, and often, we cause hurt and suffering to others while we try to satisfy our own selfishness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why is this so? That is because we mankind have not truly made Christ the King of our hearts, minds, our bodies and our whole being. We have not allowed Him the honour, glory and praise that He deserves. Instead, the devil is the king of our hearts and minds. We let him to enter our beings, allowing him to tempt us and to turn us away from the path of the Lord.

Therefore, today, as we rejoice and celebrate together in this great Solemnity of Christ the King, let us renew our commitment to Our Lord, King and Master of all of our lives, and reject the devil and all of his temptations. Let us all devote ourselves, our time and attention, to truly show that we are the servants of Our Lord and King. Let us make Christ the King of our lives and our hearts. Let us enthrone Him in the deepest, most intimate and honourable part of our beings.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord and Sovereign King, always be the King of our entire lives, so that as His servants, we will always follow His examples in our lives, and be thoroughly devoted to Him, loving Him and serving one another, just as He has shown us. Let us all become true disciples of Our Lord and King, and be ever faithful in our hearts. Amen.

Sunday, 19 November 2017 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard from the Sacred Scriptures, the word of God reminding all of us Christians that each and every one of us must be active and dedicated Christians, meaning that we cannot be complacent and lukewarm in our faith, and more so, in how we live our lives according to that faith. This is what we must constantly remind ourselves, each and every days of our life.

In the Gospel today, the Lord Jesus spoke to the people and taught them with the well-known parable of the talents. In that parable, the Lord told them about three servants who were entrusted with silver talents, a lot of wealth for that time, and each of them were given different amount of talents by their master, who was about to go far away and was making preparations.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted to teach the people about the importance of being active and engaged in their faith, that they should not ignore what they have been called to do in their respective lives. The master who entrusted the silver talents to the three servants was none other than the Lord Himself, the Source and Master of all things.

Meanwhile, the servants represent all of us mankind, God’s people, who ought to follow Him and obey His commandments. And the silver talents represent the gifts, abilities, and indeed our specialties and talents in life, and just as the three servants have received different amounts of silver talents, we all know that all of us have been given different kinds of talents and skills.

Now, we have to discern what the servants had done after they received the silver talents, and understand how they relate to each one of us. The two servants who received five and two silver talents were hardworking, and immediately, after they have received the silver, they invested them and put them to good use, and thanks to their acumen and skill, they managed to earn double the amount of silver they have received.

Then, the lazy servant who had received one silver talent, did not do anything to the silver talent. He hid the silver and did nothing to it, until the time when the master returned to get an account of how his servants had been doing while he was away. This lazy servant represents all of us whom God had granted blessings, gifts, abilities, skills and talents, and yet, we refuse to do anything with them, or refuse to use it in the right manner.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us need to do what the Lord had asked each one of us to do, that is to invest the gifts which He has given to us. And how do we do that? We must not keep all the things we have received to ourselves, but instead, we should share the joy and blessings with our brothers and sisters in need. Otherwise, when the Lord comes again, He will condemn us just as the master punished the lazy servant.

That is the first lesson that all of us should take note of. We cannot ignore the plight of others who are around us, and we have to show them care, compassion and love. That is how we invest the ‘talents’ that God had entrusted to us. Have we all heard of the saying, that ‘joy that is shared is double the joy’ and ‘sorrow that is shared is half the sorrow’? This is what we need to take this phrase into our hearts, and understand its meaning.

Then, secondly, each and every one of us are called to be generous in giving of ourselves to each other, and not to be worried about giving too much. As mentioned in the parable of the talents, the one who had received five talents and did well with it to earn five more talents, was given even more. This means that, the more we have been given by God, the more generously we should be in giving and sharing our joys with each other.

We often think that if we give away our blessings, and part with our money and possessions, we end up losing and will have less happiness. However, in reality, if we are to build for ourselves immense wealth and possessions in this world, and we do not share it with others, selfishly keeping everything for ourselves, as what the lazy servant had done, then to the Lord, we will be considered as fruitless and lacking in faith. For Him, if we have done this in our lives, we will have no treasure in Him, no matter how much we have in this world.

None of these will be with us, on the day when the Lord calls us to Him, at the end of our lives or at the end of our time, at the judgment of the souls of all mankind, when the Lord will judge us based on our deeds. Do we want to end up like the lazy servant, who was severely punished and cast out because of his lack of faith and action, when he should have used whatever it was that the master gave to him, that it may bear fruit and profits?

Finally, last of all, we should take note that, even the one who was given only one silver talent was expected to have his returns. What does this mean? That means, we should not be hesitant or be prejudiced when we ought to be generous to others. It does not mean that we are poor, then we cannot be generous to others. There are indeed many sad instances around the world, where the poor are oppressing the poor, just so that they may be able to gain more for their living.

Let us therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the followers of Our Lord, as Christians, heed the message of today’s Scripture passages, and be ever more generous and willing to share our joy with one another, and also to console those who are sorrowful, and care for those who have no one to care for them. Let us all show true Christian love in our actions and be genuine in our faith and dedication to the Lord. May God be with us always, and may He continue to bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 12 November 2017 : Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we approach the ending of our current liturgical year, we heard from the Scriptures a series of passages talking about the coming of the end times. And one of the key messages today, is about wisdom, that is on whether we understand what it means for us as Christians, about the coming of the Lord our God and Saviour.

For as the Lord Himself had said and promised, He Who once had come into the world, will come again one more time into this world, at the end of time. This time, He will come in glory, unlike that of His first coming, when He was born humbly in a stable. He will come to gather together all of His faithful ones, and by reconciling them perfectly to Him, He will bring them to eternal joy and glory promised to them.

On the other hand, all those whom the Lord does not find worthy of Him, He shall also gather them together, for them to be rejected, judged for their sins, and then thrown into the torment of the eternal suffering in hell, in the lake of fire with Satan and his fellow fallen angels and demons. This is what will happen at the Last Judgement, the time when the righteous will receive glory from God, and the wicked will be humiliated and crushed in hell.

Jesus has forewarned about this a few times throughout His ministry to His disciples, which were then recorded in the Holy Gospels. He told them that the Last Judgment will be when the sheep, or the faithful people of God, will be separated from among the goats, those who have not believed in God. And in that occasion, the ones whom God had chosen, asked the Lord of why they have been chosen, and the same question was asked by those who were rejected, on why they were rejected by God.

And God answered them, saying that those who have been chosen, are righteous because they have listened to God and done His will, by showing love, compassion and concern for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the imprisoned, all those who have been considered as the lowest, least and last among mankind. Yet, these are the ones whom the Lord said as the ones through whom the righteous had become worthy of the Lord, by the love which they showed to these brethren of theirs.

And vice versa, for those who have been rejected by God, God rejects them because they have voluntarily chosen not to love, or show care and concern for the sake of their brethren in need. As a result, just as those people had not shown love for their neighbours and fellow men, therefore, they have neglected their responsibility and obligation, and for they are without love, God will reject them and cast them into hell as their just punishment.

There are a few lessons which all of us ought to take heed of and internalise today, as we continue to reflect on the passages from the Sacred Scriptures. First of all, it is important that all of us should know what we are expected to do as Christians in our respective lives. All of us are called to love our neighbours, our brothers and sisters, just as much as we love ourselves, and also love the Lord our God in a similar way. These two are the most important part of the Law, and they are its true meaning, for God’s law is about love.

Yet, to love others as much as we love ourselves is easier said than done. Similarly, it is not easy to love God wholeheartedly, as we tend to love ourselves more, and concerned more about ourselves, in what is called selfishness. That is part of our human nature, and sometimes our upbringing in our society, and definitely in how our world today operates. According to the wisdom of the world, we ought to take care of ourselves first and satisfy our needs first before that of others.

But, if we realise, even loving ourselves is not something that we mankind have been good at doing. Let us look at how we live in the world today! There are many people out there who are ruining their own lives on drugs, on excessive alcohol consumption, on smoking and the abuse of many other things that leads to the ruin of one’s own body, if not mind, and also corrupt the whole being. Many lives have been ruined because of this.

And many of us surely know how difficult it is for us to satisfy our wants and desires in life. When we have received something, we will end up desiring more and more. We cannot be satisfied with what we have in this world, as we will be tempted to have more and more of our desires. That is why we also end up causing much sorrow in this world, amongst our brethren. There had been many instances when there were oppression, injustice and selfishness in this world, the suffering of many because certain individuals or groups seek to gain more profit and/or power for themselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the second lesson that we need to take note of today, is what the Lord Jesus had told His people through the parable of the five wise women and five foolish women. The five wise women carried enough oil for their lamps as they were waiting for the coming of the bridegroom who was delayed in his coming. They brought extra oil so that their lamps would not run out of the oil.

As the maids of honour attending to the groom and the bride, it would be very humiliating and inappropriate for them not to have oil for their lamp, and their lamp therefore darkened. That was why the five foolish women panicked when the bridegroom was about to come, and their oil was running out. This parable is a kind reminder to all of us that firstly, we cannot expect to know when the Lord will come, He Who is the Bridegroom of the Church.

God will come at the time of His choosing, according to His will. And no one on earth will know when the precise time, be it year, or month, or day, or even minute and second that this will be happening. As a result, many of us will be caught unaware and unprepared for the coming of the Lord. Thus, the second lesson that I want each one of us to take note is, we must always be ever prepared for the Lord’s coming, whenever it may be, and therefore, we cannot bear to wait any longer.

Yet, many of us like to delay and to take our own sweet time. We think that we have all the time in the world, and there is always time for us to repent or to be righteous. But, we will know of our folly on the day when our time is up, and we are caught unaware and unprepared, like the five foolish women who did not prepare well in advance of what is to come, that is the time of our final judgment and the coming of Our Lord.

Therefore, relating to what I have mentioned as the first lesson today, all of us as Christians are called to do what the Lord had commanded us to do, that is to love, and firstly, we must love ourselves, not by excluding the love which we must give to God and to our fellow brethren, but rather, if we can appreciate the gift of love and the blessings which God had given to us, we will be better able to give our love to God and to our brethren.

Thus, the third and last lesson is for us to go forth! Go and do what we must do as Christians in our world today, being active believers and no longer be passive or ignorant of our responsibilities. Let us stretch out our hands and help those who are in need, beginning with those who are around us, and those who we encounter in our daily interactions. Let us show them the love of God through our actions.

If we do all these, even though there will surely be those who oppose us, who ridicule us, let us remember that those depend on the wisdom of worldly and human power, that is foolishness in the sight of God. Let us instead continue to persevere on, that as Christians, we will always be wholeheartedly devoted to love God in everything we do, and share the same love with our brethren as well.

Let us all draw closer to God, our loving Father, and let us continue to strive at all times, to serve the Lord by serving His people, by loving generously without bias or prejudice, and seek to be righteous and just in all of our dealings and actions in life. May the Lord bless us always, and may He continue to guide us in our actions in life, that through His divine wisdom we will find our way to His eternal glory. Amen.

Sunday, 5 November 2017 : Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us heard from the Scriptures contrasting between what we heard from the prophet Malachi in our first reading today and what we heard in the Gospel, speaking about a warning given from God through His prophet Malachi, about those who have not obeyed the Lord and misled His people, particularly the priests and elders, on whom had been granted the responsibilities of shepherding God’s people to the right path.

In the Gospel passage, we heard about the Lord Jesus Who spoke to the people about listening and obeying the Pharisees and the elders in their teachings. Jesus exhorted the people to listen to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in their teachings, but not to follow them in their actions, for those leaders did not practice what they had preached. And even though they sat on the chair of Judgement, but they misused their authorities to abuse the power entrusted to them.

In the Gospel, it was mentioned how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law liked to boast about their faith by making lots of outward expressions of the faith, through public prayers and expositions of their faith life, by parading around in prayer garments with wide prayer tassels and shawls. Jesus our Lord criticised the behaviour of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law because when they did all those, they did not do them for God or for His people, but for themselves.

This passage was often misused and misunderstood, especially by those who were against the Church and against God’s teachings. There were those who attacked and criticised the Church, for the riches and the greatness exhibited and shown in our churches, in our liturgical celebrations, in all the sacred vestments and vessels we used for the Holy Mass and many more. They criticised us by misunderstanding the purpose and intentions of these things, through which in fact the Church proclaims its faith in God.

Why is that so? That is because all that the Church has done, in using beautiful and appropriate vestments, precious materials for the sacred vessels and all the things used in the celebrations of the Holy Mass and Liturgy are designed to recreate Heaven itself on earth, to bring mankind, all the faithful people of God into the authentic experience of worship, so that they may be able to centre their focus and attention towards God.

In the first reading and the Gospel, the prophet Malachi and Our Lord Jesus criticised and warned all those who have misled the people by false teachings and by their personal ambitions, trying to supplant God with their personal desires and ambitions, ego and pride, even though outwardly they might appear to be pious and devoted to God. Thus, the Lord criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, because their prayers and all the external signs of their faith were ultimately directed to themselves, and not to God.

But in the case of our Church, the purpose of our use of sacred architecture, vestments and all the liturgical paraphernalia is completely different, and in fact, they are, as mentioned, designed to help all of us to focus on God. When the priest celebrates the Holy Mass, he has been ordained to be the very representation of Christ Himself, that in ‘persona Christi’ or in the person of Christ Himself, the priest enacts the same Sacrifice at Calvary on the Altar of God.

The vestments worn by the priests and the other ministers ought to be richly decorated with the symbols of the faith, not so as to glorify the person of the priest, but rather to emphasise the divine ministry to which he has been ordained for, to be the one through whom the Lord exercises His power, as the priest turns the bread and wine into the Real Presence of our God Himself, and therefore, bringing the Lord directly to His people in the Eucharist.

The sacred vessels, the ciborium and the chalice, as well as other sacred vessels, particularly the former two use precious materials for the very simple reason that because we believe that the Lord Himself is really present in the Eucharist, in the bread and wine transubstantiated or transformed completely in matter and nature to the Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord. If we believe that the Lord Himself is present, then, we mankind are just doing our very best to provide the most precious vessels to contain the Lord.

Thus, in fact, with proper instruction and understanding, of why we do certain things in our worship of God, we can even proclaim our faith and what we believe to others. On the other hand, when we end up focusing on the wrong things because of the abuses we often witness in many occasions, when the liturgy was not properly followed in the celebration of the Holy Mass, when the priests end up focusing the people not towards God but towards themselves, these are truly lamentable and regrettable.

And then again, in the Gospel today, the Lord Jesus spoke of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who enjoyed themselves being called ‘fathers’ or ‘leaders’ or ‘masters’, and criticised them for that. This is what has also been misused and misunderstood in what people had criticised about the Church, because we call our priests as fathers. Yet, we must understand it in the whole picture and the true intent of what Jesus told the people, lest we also misunderstand it.

We call our priests as fathers not because we idolise the person or because we find him greater than the Lord God, the Father of us all. As I have mentioned earlier, the priests have been called to a great vocation in life, as they gave it all, surrendering themselves completely to God, and they have been ordained to be the representative of Christ Our Lord Himself in the Holy Mass. Therefore, we call them fathers because we believe that they represent the Lord Himself, Our Father, in this world.

The Lord criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as well as the priestly caste of Judea because they prided themselves as the leaders and elders of the people, placing their own ego and greed ahead of their duty as the shepherds appointed by God to take care of His people. Their hubris and ambition is what the Lord Jesus rebuked them against in the Gospel passage today, not their position as shepherds or priests.

In the end, what does this mean for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ? First of all, it means that for all of us Christians, be it we are members of the laity or of the priesthood, all of us must not put our own desires and wants before that of God in our hearts and minds. We must place God as the priority and as the focus of our lives. Otherwise, if we allow our pride, ego, ambition and desire to take control over us, we will end up falling into the same condition that happened to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, where their faith became merely superficial and not truly founded on genuine faith and love for God.

Secondly, it means that all of us ought to pray for our priests and all those who have given themselves to the service of God in the Church. They are always under unjust and unfair criticism and attacks from those who misunderstood or misjudge the missions of the Church and its teachings, its intent and purpose in this world. Let us also help them in whatever way we can, so that they may continue to persevere amidst the challenges and difficulties they have to face daily.

And last of all, let us all be genuinely devoted to God, that in our every actions, our deeds and our words, in our prayer life, in our charitable works, in our outreach to our less fortunate brethren, we will always do them for the pure love and concern for our brothers and sisters, and by doing so, we glorify God’s Name and grow to love Him all the more with our lives. May God be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our endeavours.

May the Lord also be with our priests, bishops, Cardinals and Pope, and may He bless them with an enduring faith and ever increasing love for Him. May He guide His Church through the turbulent times and help us through all these challenges we face together as one Church. Amen.

Sunday, 29 October 2017 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the holy day of the Lord, all of us through the Scripture readings and passages we received have been reminded of the importance of obeying and adhering to the Law of God, as what all of us as Christians must do in our lives. And the Lord Jesus summed up the entirety of the Law of God into two very important commandments, that is the essence of the entire Law.

Why did the Lord Jesus do this? Why did He explain to the people at His time on this matter? That is because the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked Him about the question, “Which is the most important commandment in the Law?” And the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were well known for their strict adherence and interpretation of the Law, focusing on even minute details in the laws according to Moses.

And they wanted to test Him and to challenge Him, by making Him to be on the spot, when they asked that question. Should He try to give an answer by pointing out any particular laws and rules within the customs, laws and traditions upheld by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law at that time, then they would strike at Him using their in-depth knowledge of the laws and regulations, bringing even more questions and troubles for the Lord.

However, the Lord Jesus knew their thoughts and intentions. Those people had been so focused on the applications of the Law with regards to worldly concerns and other corruptions of the Law as it evolved throughout history, that they have forgotten the true intentions of the Law. And Jesus pointed out those intentions and purposes of God’s Law to them, in a way that they could not deny, because by denying, they would admit that they have not done what the Lord had commanded them to do.

Jesus made it very clear that the Law of God has in its primary intention, for the people of God to learn how to love, and indeed practice that love, which they have to give first and foremost to God their Lord and Master. The first three commandments of the Ten Commandments in fact is about this love which we must have for God, that we worship Him alone above any other things, above any other worldly matters and idols.

The other seven commandments of the Law, exhorting us to love our parents, not to kill, not to steal and all of that refer to the love that we must have for our fellow brethren, our fellow men and women. But do we know what it truly means for us to love our fellow brothers and sisters? It is by listening and remembering what we have heard in today’s first reading taken from the Book of Exodus, when the Lord exhorted the people through Moses to be loving and to be generous in compassion to one another.

Yet, the people had forgotten all these by the time of Jesus, when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law oppressed the poor and the lowly, those whom they deemed to be inferior to them, and they levied great obligations and rules for them to follow. They cared only for their own desires and plans, and despised even those whom they should have cared for, as the leaders and guides of the people of Israel.

In our own lives, let us spend some time to think about how we have acted in these lives we have lived thus far. Have we been so focused on our own concerns and desires, like those of the Pharisees, that we have failed to give our love to those to whom we are commanded to love? First of all, the Lord our God, and then to our fellow men and women, those who are around us, strangers and acquaintances alike.

But in our own lives, as we can witness it ourselves among our relatives, friends, peers, colleagues and all those whom we interact with day by day, there is not much love among the peoples, but instead anger, disputes, jealousy, wrath, and all sorts of negative and wicked behaviours, that befits more that of those who follow Satan rather than those who follow the path of the Lord.

How many of us put so much great importance in our careers and in finding more money and worldly possessions, that we end up spending so much time trying to advance ourselves in our career, gathering more fame for ourselves, filling and satisfying ourselves with all sorts of worldly pleasures and more? In the end, what does all these earn us, brothers and sisters in Christ? All these things do not avail us when the end comes for us, when we have to give an account of our lives before God.

We may think that we do not worship the idols of false and pagan gods as the people in the past did, and that we are Christians because we believe in God. Yet, through our actions, in prioritising all the worldly pursuits ahead of God and others, we have made those to be our modern day idols, all the things that became great distractions and obstacles on our path to God’s salvation and grace.

And similarly, let us ask ourselves, how many of us have caused grievances and suffering for others, because of our selfish actions, and due to our desires to gain good things for ourselves, indulging in the ‘idols’ of our worldly lives? We cannot be true disciples of the Lord, as long as we put God and His people, our brothers and sisters in Christ aside, and not prioritising God as the centre and focus of our very lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today embark on a new course and path of life, no longer being corrupted by our greed and worldly desires, by all the corruptions of our sins and all the temptations of life. Let us all devote ourselves wholeheartedly to God from now on, giving our very best to help those who are around us to do the same. Let us fill our hearts with the desire to love God, not just with words alone, but through our real and genuine actions as well.

Let us all fulfil our calling as Christians, to love our brethren unconditionally just as the Lord has loved each and every one of us, sinners and delinquents, and yet He was willing to forgive us from our sins. Let us reach out to those who are less fortunate than us, that if we see anyone who is struggling to make ends meet in life, then we should care for them and do whatever we can to aid them.

Let us also reach out to those who have been ostracised by others and are unloved, that they do not slide further into a world devoid of love. Let us bring them to experience the love of God through our own hands, and through the love which we now share with them. May God continue to guide us to Him, and make us ever more faithful servants of His with each passing day. May God bless us always, and guide us in all of our endeavours. Amen.