Sunday, 2 October 2022 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are reminded to be ever faithful and committed to God, in our daily living, even if we are beset by various troubles and trials, challenges and obstacles. We should not be afraid or be deterred by the opposition and the hardships which we may encounter in our journey of faith through life. We must remain resolute in our faith and dedication to God, believing wholeheartedly in His path and not be easily swayed and tempted by all the traps and the other things that the devil and his wicked allies and forces had placed before us all. We must hold on to that faith which we should have in God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Habakkuk in which the Lord spoke and interacted with Habakkuk, a prophet who was active in the land of Judah during its final years, and whose life and ministry revolved around the sufferings and oppressions endured by the followers of the Lord at the land where the people refused to believe in God, where the prophets were persecuted. And not only that, Habakkuk was also referring to the sufferings of the people themselves, who at that time were brought under the dominion of the Babylonians and their king, Nebuchadnezzar.

The prophet Habakkuk pleaded before God for His intervention and help, saying that he and the people have suffered, and were in need of God and His help. But God reassured Habakkuk and also the people, by saying that, whatever He would reveal through Habakkuk himself, everything would come in due time, just as whatever He had spoken through His earlier prophets like Amos and Isaiah, among others. Everything will happen as God wills it, and eventually, all those who remain faithful in God will be redeemed and will enjoy the fullness of His grace and love. God will not forget or abandon those who seek Him, even if they themselves had abandoned or forgotten about Him before.

In our Psalm today, we heard the exhortation for us all, God’s beloved people to rejoice in Him, in His faithfulness and love. We are all reminded to focus our attention to Him, to serve and glorify Him, and to praise and worship Him at all times. We are also reminded not to be like those who rebelled against God as at Massah and Meribah. At Massah and Meribah, the very ungrateful Israelites rebelled against God and complained against Him, because they refused to obey Him and follow Him, and complaining that they were deprived of what they wanted to have, when God had taken care of them day after day, month after month, and year after year, feeding them all and guiding them to the Promised Land.

We are all reminded through these that often times, we are ourselves our own greatest opponent and obstacle, especially in our pride, ego and desires. It is our pride and ego which prevented us from seeing how faulty our lives can be, and led us to stubbornness and rebellious attitudes, as we often did not want to admit that we could have been wrong in our ways. We ended up refusing God’s ever generous offer of love and mercy, hardening our hearts against Him as what the Israelites had done in the past, at Massah and Meribah and during the time of the prophets like Habakkuk. Their refusal to abandon their pride and ego led to their downfall.

While their attachments to their desires, to the many pleasures and allures of this world misled them down the wrong path, as they preoccupied themselves with the pursuit of power, knowledge, glory, wealth, affluence and fame, status and many others. They gave themselves to the worship of false idols and false gods to satisfy their own desires and wants, and refused to follow the Law and precepts that God had set before all of them. This is what has happened to us as well, and will continue to happen to us if we are not vigilant in living our lives in our present day world. If we allow ourselves to be swayed by the many concerns and attachments, ambitions and desires we have, we will likely end up being lost from God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples when they asked of Him to increase their faith. The Lord reminded them all that if they truly had genuine faith, even no matter how small it may seem to be, everything will be possible. Again, the Lord was actually reminding all of His disciples that they should not treat faith as a tool for their own self-benefit and ambition. For at that time, the disciples had followed the Lord for various reasons, and likely many of them were also spurred by the desires they had for power, influence and glory, as is common for any groups and movements, just as the history of the world and our Church have shown us.

As the Lord told His disciples that after everything that the servants had done, they were after all just servants of the Master. Any glory they have done and any great things they had performed, all these were due to the Master and not themselves. The Lord reminded His disciples and all of us through this parable, that all of us as the servants and followers of God ultimately live our lives at the command and charge of the Lord, and everything we say and do, all of our achievements and greatness are ultimately not due to ourselves, but due to God, attributed to Him and should have been offered to Him, rather than to make ourselves bloated with pride and ego.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, pride and ego are often obstacles and barriers that kept us away from God. Due to those, we often enclose ourselves in our own cocoon, in our own comfort zones, seeking to attain our own personal comfort and satisfaction rather than to do the will of God. The Lord reminded His disciples to be wary of these temptations that they do not seek for glory and acclaim in life, and whenever they do His will, they should do it because they want to do it for the glory of God and for the good of their fellow brothers and sisters, and not for their own selfish desires and ambitions instead. St. Paul his Epistle to St. Timothy, in our second reading today, also echoed the same thought, that we ought to follow the Lord and His ways, and not to give in to worldly ways and desires.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we are now then called to reflect on our lives and discern carefully how each and every one of us should proceed forward in our respective lives. The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him and we should answer His call with faith and commitment. We should do whatever we can in life, even in the smallest and seemingly least significant things so that our lives, our every actions, our words and interactions with one another bear within them the light and truth of God, His hope, His love and His way. Through us, the Lord can touch so many more other people in this world, and this is our calling as Christians, to do God’s will and to live our lives faithfully in the way that He has shown and taught us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Church and in our respective involvements, in our Church ministries and organisations, there should be no quarrel, infighting and power-playing that unfortunately often happen because we as fellow Christians, instead of dedicating our works and efforts to serve the Lord and focusing our attention on Him, we focus our attention on ourselves instead, and seeking to satisfy our own personal ambitions and desires. That is why we end up having so many issues and conflicts, factionalism and infighting even among the members of the Church and its various communities and bodies.

Not only that, but even outside the Church, and within our own respective circles of friends and families, we should be the ones to bear forth the goodness of God’s love and truth rather than being the source of division or suffering for others. Too often we have heard how people were being scandalised and turned off by the actions of Christians who did not live their lives as how Christians should, and instead they lived their lives in the manner of the world, and often even worse than how non-Christians behave themselves. This is why, each and every one of us, whenever and wherever we are, we have to do our best to live our lives righteously and worthily in the manner that God has shown us.

May the Lord our most loving God and Master continue to watch over each and every one of us, and may He strengthen us all with the courage and resolve to follow Him and to walk ever always in His path and presence, resisting the many temptations present all around us that we do not end up falling into the traps that the evil ones had intentionally set before us to bring about our downfall. Let us all seek the Lord ever more fervently and spend more of our time and effort to do His will, and to glorify Him by our lives, now and always. May God bless our every good works and endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Sunday, 25 September 2022 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we heard from the words of the Scriptures reminding us all to be always vigilant that we do not end up falling into worldly temptations and excesses, and that we will strive to do what is right and just in the sight of the Lord and mankind alike. We have to be exemplary in all of our actions in life so that we will not end up falling deeper and deeper into the wrong path and then end up with an eternity of regret, as we may find out too late that we are at the wrong side of the afterlife, not with God and His glory, but on the other side, separated from Him and having to endure an eternity of despair and suffering.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Amos, a prophet whom God had sent from the land of Judah to the land of the northern kingdom of Israel during its last days. The prophet Amos called on the people of the northern kingdom to repent from their sins as almost all of their kings and leaders refused to follow the Lord’s path and led the people deeper and deeper into sin, persecuting and killing the prophets who were sent to them to remind them. The prophet Amos himself suffered persecution and rejection from the king of Israel and from the people who continued to live in their debauchery and wickedness, rejecting the Lord’s path and continuing to marvel at their wicked ways.

That was exactly what the prophet Amos warned about in our first reading today, that all those who feasted and celebrated without heed for the Lord’s ways and without listening to God’s calls made to them repeatedly, would therefore face their just punishment and consequences in the end. This would presage the coming of the end of the northern kingdom of Israel, which despite the efforts of the people of that kingdom and their king, was eventually overcome and swallowed by the mighty forces of the Assyrians, who came and destroyed Samaria, their capital and also their other cities, and then uprooted many of the people into exile in distant lands.

All that the prophet Amos spoke of would come true, and despite the constant reminders from him and the many other earlier prophets, the people of the northern kingdom refused to heed them, and hence they were to suffer the consequences of their own actions. Those in the southern kingdom of Judah would also face the same fate as their kingdom and cities were destroyed by the Babylonians, and the people brought off into exile in Babylon and elsewhere. All these again happened, as the people continued to ignore the Lord’s repeated calls on them to return and be reconciled with Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known story of Lazarus and the rich man from the Lord Himself, as He told His disciples what happened to Lazarus, a poor man who had nothing, and lived his life as a beggar in front of the house of a rich man. Lazarus had nothing with him and barely had anything to eat, that he had to wait even for the mere scraps of what fell down from the rich man’s table. And that poor man Lazarus died in a most terrible way, with no one to remember him and no one to mourn him, passing away by the rich man’s house doors, forgotten and neglected, and not even treated as how human beings should have been treated.

The rich man on the other hand had always had a good life, full of parties and celebrations, and he had nothing lacking at all. We heard then he also died and ended up in hellfire while Lazarus, the poor man ended up in Heaven with Abraham, the father of the Israelites. We saw the contrast of what happened to the rich man versus what Lazarus experienced, both in life and in the afterlife. Lazarus had to suffer in life, rejected and cast aside, but he had his reprieve and enjoy the everlasting bliss with God and his forefathers, with Abraham and the saints, while the rich man who had enjoyed a lot during his life, was cast down into an eternity of suffering and despair.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall this story again, let us all be clear first of all that God does not condemn the rich nor the riches and possessions that we have in this world, as some of us may think in that way after listening to this story of Lazarus and the rich man. Rather, what the Lord is warning us against, is the attachment that we can easily have for those worldly things like money, other forms of material possessions, and even things like fame and glory, human praise and adulation, influence and status among other things. Those things are not necessarily evil, as people can use money and their material goods to help others who are in need, but the tendency is that, if we allow our attachment and desires for those goods to mislead us in life, then we may end up going down the wrong path in life.

And it is also a kind reminder for us that we have been given a lot of opportunities and time throughout life for us to discern on this and consider the path to follow, and of whatever course of action that is necessary for us, that we may live our lives worthily for the Lord. Not only that, but we are also yet reminded that it is not just by what we have done that we can be judged, as yes, if we commit something against the Lord’s commandments and will, committing sin against Him, then it will be held against us, but we are also judged by what is known as the sin of omission. That was what the rich man was in particular, was to be blamed for, and why he also ended up in hellfire. He was in the right place and opportunity to help Lazarus and maybe others around him who are suffering, and yet, he chose to ignore them all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, each one of us are called to live a holy and godly life as what St. Paul told St. Timothy in his Epistle to him, part of which is our second reading passage today. We are all called to live our lives worthily of the Lord, and to do what has been commanded by God, till the day of the Lord’s coming, the Final Judgment, when certainly we do not want to end up on the wrong side of the Judgment. We certainly do not want our wickedness and as well as our failures to act and to do the will of God to lead us to condemnation in the eternity of suffering and despair, as what the rich man in the story had experienced. We have been given the choice and the knowledge of the consequences of each of our actions and our failures to act all the same, and we should heed these carefully.

That is why this Sunday, as we reflect upon the words of the Lord contained in the Sacred Scriptures, let us all discern carefully our path in life so that we will not end up in the wrong path in life, and ending up in an eternity of regret and damnation out of which there is no more hope of escaping. Hell is real, brothers and sisters in Christ, and it is this reminder of the existence of hell that should keep us on our toes, and being vigilant all the time that we do not end up in that situation. And we also should understand better what hell is all about. Hell is not so much a place than a state of mind and our souls. Hell has often been portrayed as a place that is very hot and full of fire, but in truth, the suffering of the souls in hell, which is eternal, is due to that knowledge and despair that come about because of one’s conscious decision to reject God, His grace, mercy and love.

Yes, that means, the souls of the condemned and the unworthy in hell are those who have consciously and consistently rejected God’s ever generous offer of love and mercy. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that God’s mercy and love for us are so great that He has been willing to send us His own Begotten and Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. He offered us His love in the most tangible form, in the flesh and Person of our Lord Jesus Himself. He has borne our sufferings and consequences for our sins through His Holy Cross, shedding His Precious Blood and breaking His Precious Body for our sake. Through His ultimate expression of love, He gave us all the sure path to eternal life.

Hence, it is not God Who has rejected us, as He has always looked upon us with His loving and merciful eyes. It is we who have been given opportunities, reminders one after another, for us to return to Him and to be reconciled with Him, and embrace His grace and love once again. But we often ignored Him and disregarded Him, and like the people of Israel and Judah of old, and like the people living at the time of the Lord Jesus, who have hardened their hearts and minds against God and His truth. The same can easily happen to us as well if we allow ourselves to be swayed by the devil and all of his tempting false promises and lies, to follow the path of worldliness and evil.

Therefore, let us all from now on strive to be faithful to God in all things, and make good use of every opportunities that God has granted us, so that we may always be ever more worthy disciples of the Lord in each and every opportunities in life. Let us all do our best to love God and to show our love for our fellow brothers and sisters, abandoning what is wicked and evil, and crushing our pride and ego. Let us all embrace God with renewed faith, hope and love so that in everything that we say and do, we will always do what is right and worthy for God, and that each one of us may become good inspirations and role models for one another. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Sunday, 18 September 2022 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we heard from the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, reminders for us all to be astute in our actions and dealings, keeping in mind that everything we say and do, everything we commit in action and in our every interactions, all of these are things that we will be held accountable for. Each and every one of us have to account for the good things we do as well as for the evil and wicked things we committed. Not only that, but we will also be held accountable even for those things that we fail to do, whatever we did not do whenever we have the opportunities or the capacity to do it. And as Christians, all of us are challenged to live our lives worthily in the manner that our faith can be inspiration for others all around us.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Amos, we heard the Lord speaking through Amos to His people regarding the wickedness committed by some among the people, in tricking and manipulating others for their own personal gains and advantages. He spoke to them regarding just how wicked those who sought profits by cheating on their customers and those who patronised their businesses, by overcharging them for their goods and services, simply because they knew well how to do that, using the means of this world to gain advantages for themselves, building themselves up more material possessions and wealth built upon the sufferings and losses from others.

At that time, the people of God had lapsed away from the path that the Lord showed them, and they were following their own paths and ways in life, refusing to listen to the prophets and messengers whom God had sent to them in order to remind them and help them to turn away from their sinful paths. They persecuted the prophets and rejected them, including that of Amos himself, whom the Israelites and their king ridiculed and the latter told Amos to go back to the land of Judah and not to prophesy anymore in the land of Israel, because Amos always brought them the harsh premonitions and warnings from the Lord, telling them how they would all suffer because of their sins and rejection of God.

But they would then have to account for all of their many sins, having been constantly reminded by the Lord and told to change their ways, and yet they still persisted in their wrong path. The Lord said to Amos and therefore to His people how the wicked would not prosper in the end and would perish, because by their wickedness they would be judged unworthy by God, and will be cast into the eternal darkness and suffering. The Lord has already warned them all many times, but they still hardened their hearts and minds against Him. In the end, because of their rebelliousness and refusal to listen to God, they have only themselves to blame for their predicament and fate.

Those people knew well the ways of the world, and they had wisdom and intellect, knowledge and understanding not only that of the Law but also the prophets and the messengers of God. Yet, they did not do as what they have been told to do, and chose to follow the ways of the world and what was wicked in the eyes of God and man alike. And this is linked well to what we heard in our Gospel passage regarding the parable of the dishonest steward. In that parable we heard the Lord speaking with a story of a dishonest steward who was dismissed from service by his master because of his dishonesty, and who therefore went to do things to ensure his survival by discreetly and unlawfully forgiving the debtors of his master, hoping to gain favour with them after he was dismissed.

And we heard the Lord saying that the master praised the servant for his astuteness and ability to use whatever was in his disposal to help himself, and then afterwards, the Lord also said that this was an example of how those who have immersed themselves in the ways of the world, would always be predisposed and tended to follow the ways of the world, and if one had been dishonest or flawed in their judgment and actions, then they would tend to continue being dishonest and evil in their actions, unless they make the conscious effort to resist the temptations and pressure to do so. And the Lord Himself also said that if we have been dishonest in small things, then who will entrust us with great things, then this is a reminder for us that if we walk in the path of disobedience and sin, then we will have no part in God’s grace and glory.

In our second reading today, in St. Paul’s Epistle to St. Timothy, the Apostle wrote of how everyone are called to be good, to obey God’s will and to live worthily of God, and to discard from themselves the traces of anger, dissension and other things that often prevented us from finding our way towards God. That is an exhortation and reminder from St. Paul for each and every one of us to turn away from worldliness and reject the excesses of worldly desires and greed, as well as resisting the temptations of our pride and ego, which often can become our downfall unless we put our conscious effort and commitment to the Lord wholeheartedly, rejecting the efforts and works of Satan and his allies in trying to subvert us to the wrong path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scriptures today and as we discern and reflect on their meaning and messages, each one of us are reminded that as the Lord Himself said, that we cannot serve both God and Money. Either we will love one more than the other and despise the other one, or vice versa. And that is why we have to moderate our actions and discern carefully our path in life, so that we may not end up rejecting the Lord and living our lives in sin as many of our predecessors had done. If we are not careful then we may end up going down that slippery path out of which escape may be quite difficult. And not only that, but our actions will be held accountable on us if they caused scandal for the Church and our faith, and made others to fall into sin as well.

That is why each and every one of us are reminded this Sunday to live our lives from now on with genuine faith in God if we have not done so yet, and to be truly committed to Him and not just merely paying lip service to Him. Unless we truly believe in the Lord through our every words, actions and deeds, and unless we embody our faith in our every living moments, in our every interactions with one another, then we are no more than hypocrites and those whose lukewarm faith are not what is expected of us as Christians, and worse still, as I just mentioned, may even bring about scandal to the Lord’s Holy Name and His Church. Do we want to gather for ourselves the favour of the world at the expense of our souls? Or do we rather seek the Lord and His salvation despite having to endure suffering and rejection in this world?

Let us always keep in mind, brothers and sisters in Christ, that whatever we gather, gain and accumulate in this world do not and will not last forever. They can be tempting and alluring to gain for ourselves, but at what cost? Do we want to gain the world and its joys, only to lose our souls, that we enjoy a temporary period of joy only to suffer an eternity of regret and damnation in hell? We are all reminded to make our choice and stand today, and not to delay any longer. For the more we allow the temptations of the world, the allure of desires and evils to distract us from the path towards salvation, the deeper we will end up being dragged into the wrong path, and in the end, we may find ourselves being unable to escape.

Let us now therefore discern carefully our path forward in life, and do whatever we can in our everyday living that even in the smallest things we do, we will always glorify the Lord by our lives and be good examples and inspirations for one another. Let us all draw ever closer to God and continue to be faithful to Him, and not be swayed by worldly temptations or any pressures and coercion to move away from Him. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, that we may always live ever more worthily in His presence, at all times, and be good role models and inspirations for one another. Amen.

Sunday, 11 September 2022 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are presented with clear message from the Sacred Scriptures of the power of God’s compassion, mercy and love. Each and every one of us have been shown the proof of God’s ever enduring love and patience with us throughout history, and through what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, all of us are reminded just how fortunate we are and how thankful we should have been, because we have this most loving and patient God by our side, Who still loves us even when He chastised and punished us for our sins, like that of a loving father cares for his children as indeed, He is our Father.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Exodus we heard from the story of the moment when the Israelites rebelled against the Lord just shortly after they had been freed from the tyranny and enslavement by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh in Egypt. The Lord had shown His great might and wonders, His miraculous deeds and powers, delivering His people Israel from the land of Egypt by sending Ten Great Plagues on the Egyptians and forced them and their Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free. The Lord opened the sea itself for the people of Israel to walk through and crushed the army and chariots of the Egyptians sent to chase after them.

Despite all these signs and wonders, some among the Israelites failed to have faith in the Lord, and many were swayed by those faithless ones to turn towards wickedness, as they built up for themselves a golden calf idol, no doubt modelled after the pagan deities they witnessed in the land of Egypt and elsewhere, treating that golden calf idol as the one who had liberated them and delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians. They acted on their own volition, in a foolish manner, despite the Lord having spoken on several occasions through Moses that they were not to have any other gods beside Him, and how He, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one and only True God.

Ironically, this happened at that moment when the Lord was granting His Ten Commandments and Law to His people through Moses, and the very First commandment stated that, ‘I am the Lord your God, and you are not to have any other gods, or to have any graven images before you.’ The Lord was reminding the people again of their obligation to Him since He has established a new Covenant with them, and brought them to that place, the holy mountain, Mount Sinai to make that Covenant, which He had just established not long before the moment when the Israelites rebelled against the Lord. Unfortunately, they slid down into that rebellion, and disobeyed the Lord in the worst way possible.

God was just and right in His justification to punish the people who had rebelled against Him, in betraying Him for the pagan idol, the golden calf. He could indeed have crushed and destroyed all of them who have betrayed and abandoned Him, at the mere whim of His will, but that would not be according to what He wanted. While God is good and just, and does not tolerate any sin, but at the same time He is also full of love and compassion towards us, His beloved children and people, those whom He loved from the very beginning and created as the pinnacle of His creation in this world and universe.

If God wanted to crush and destroy us, He could have done that immediately right after we have sinned against Him first in the days of our very first ancestors, Adam and Eve, when they first disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But God, although He punished mankind to wander and suffer in the world as a consequence for their sins, at the same time, He also prepared the path for the eventual redemption of all of the same people, to whom He promised the coming of His deliverance, which all came true through Jesus Christ, the Saviour born into the world, God Himself incarnate in the flesh.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples and to the people using several parables to explain the love that God has for each and every one of us, and how fortunate we are to have been beloved in such a manner by our loving Father and Creator. Through the parable of the lost sheep and the lost silver coin, the Lord Himself highlighted just how precious all of us who have been lost to our loving God and Father, that just as a shepherd would do all he could to go, find and gather his lost sheep, or for someone to go and find the lost silver coin, hence the Lord would go all out to find us all and to return us back to Himself.

And that was exactly what He had done as He reached out to us through Jesus Christ, His own beloved and begotten Son, Who came into this world in the flesh, to show us all the ever-enduring and ever-wonderful love that God has always had for us. Through Christ, God’s love had been made real, tangible and manifest, and we can see His love in Christ, Who did not just show how dear and beloved we are through these parables, but He also showed this love through His most loving sacrifice on the Cross, as a very tangible and real manifestation of His love. It is a love so great that as He Himself said that there is no love greater than for one to give his or her life for a friend.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just how great God’s love for each one of us is. He has always generously loved us all, and desired for all of us to come back to Him with repentance and sincere desire to be reunited with Him. Just as highlighted in another parable that the Lord mentioned in our Gospel today, the well-known parable of the prodigal son, we can hear how the Lord is represented to us all in the person of the father in the parable, who had two sons, one of whom, the elder one, was more responsible and dutiful, obeying his father and remaining close to him, representing those who have always kept their faith in God.

On the other hand, the prodigal younger son, who wanted to take his share of inheritance and then went off to a far-off land, squandering his money and possessions in the process, represent all those who have become wayward and become lost from the Lord, and that is essentially all of us, just as how all of us have sinned and fallen into sin, been tempted and fell into disobedience against God, much as how the people of Israel had disobeyed the Lord, betrayed and abandoned Him for an idol made from gold by human hands, the golden calf idol. The Lord reminded the people through this story of the prodigal son, how He still loved us all nonetheless, despite our sins and wickedness, our disobedience and evils.

However, as we recall again the story of the prodigal son, we have to remind ourselves an important fact that is often missed out by those who listened to this story, and even among those who are familiar with this story. The prodigal son, by his own volition and willpower, chose to commit himself to return to his father, swallowing his pride and ego, humbling himself and admitting his own weaknesses, mistakes and faults. He must have had such great struggle within himself, especially when he realised that he had the choice to remain in that far-off place as a beggar, or to retun to his father, though in shame. He had decided to take his portion of the inheritance, and yet, he squandered it all off. For those who are concerned about their image and ‘face’, it must be tough to decide to return to his father.

Yet, that was what the prodigal son committed to do, and he returned to his father with great and sincere contrition, repentance and the desire to right the wrongs he had done and committed. That is the attitude that all of us sinners have to take heed of and adopt as well. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because one of the greatest and most common reason why people failed to return to the Lord and remained in the state of sin is because they were too proud and could not let go of their pride and ego, and they chose to hide away from the Lord, keeping themselves distant from God, the only One Who can help them and free them from the bondage and slavery to those sins and evils.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to follow the path of the prodigal son, in turning away from his pride and ego, from his attachments to sin and to learn humility and obedience once again, in repenting from his sins, faults and mistakes, and in admitting them before his own father? The Lord has provided the channel for us to do so through His Church through the Sacraments, particularly that of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And this serves as a good reminder for us, to ask ourselves, when was the last time we went for the Sacrament of Reconciliation? When was the last time we went to confess our sins to a priest?

We are also called to be more attuned to the state of our souls, and how sinful we are. We are reminded that God’s mercy, love and compassion are boundless, but we need to come to Him and make the commitment to leave behind that wretched state, our sinful existence. The Lord has provided us with means and ways to come back to Him, and it is now then up to us to embrace His loving mercy and compassion, as He is always ever ready to welcome us back to Himself, like how the father in the parable of the prodigal son welcomed back his prodigal son with open arms, and restored him to a state of grace and honour, forgiving him fully of his mistakes and faults.

Let us all therefore do our part, brothers and sisters, to entrust ourselves more to the Lord in our daily living. Let us abandon all sorts of wicked and unworthy attitudes which had always become stumbling blocks in our path and journey towards the Lord. Let us all abandon all the idols present all around us, not just those idols of false gods, but even more importantly, the idols of our pride and ego, the idols of our greed, attachments to the world, of jealousy and wrath, and of worldly desires, among many others. Let us return to our most loving God and Father with a heart full of love for Him and genuine contrition for our many sins, and with the hope that God’s love will cleanse us from all those sins and wickedness.

May the Lord, our loving God and Creator, be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen and encourage us all to persevere through the many trials and challenges of life. May He continue to bless our every endeavours and good deeds, all for His greater glory. Let us all Christians glorify the Lord and proclaim His truth and Good News among all the peoples, through our own worthy lives, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 4 September 2022 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us are reminded and called to recognise the nature of the shortness, fickleness and impermanence of life, as each one of us know and should be aware that our lives whether they be short or long, but in the timescales and span of this world history, it is but a tiny drop amidst the great ocean of time. All of us must be aware that we exist but for just a moment, and yet, in that relatively short existence, each one of us can do so many great and wonderful things should we allow the Lord to lead and guide our path in life.

In our first reading today, we heard from the author of the Book of Wisdom speaking of how the wisdom and truth of God are far beyond the ability of man to fully comprehend, even with their greatest abilities, intellect or wisdom. No one can truly understand the Lord unless they entrust themselves to Him, and allow Him to lead and guide them in their journey, allowing His Holy Spirit to enter into us and dwell within us, inspiring us with His love and truth, and allowing us to understand better the true way of the Lord, as it is only by opening ourselves, our hearts and minds to the Lord that we can know Him more and therefore serve Him better in our lives.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples and the people on the matter of following Him and how He also mentioned the parable of a man who wanted to build a house and a king who wanted to wage a war with another kingdom. Through what we heard in that Gospel passage today, we can clearly see that the Lord told all of us how each and every actions we take, all of them should be well thought of and carefully discerned, so that we may take the correct course of actions and not be hasty in making decisions which may end up causing us to take the wrong decisions and doing the wrong things that lead us into troubles.

The Lord highlighted how following Him will mean that we have to endure sufferings and trials at times, and we have to face rejection and opposition, and hence, carrying our crosses just in the same way that the Lord Himself had to carry His Cross and suffer for the sake of all of us. Just as our Lord Himself has been rejected, oppressed and persecuted, many of us may also therefore face the same persecution and oppression by the world and by all those who disagree with the Lord and His ways, and by all those who refused and still refuse to believe in Him. Such is the reality for us being Christians, as we have to dare to be different from the world, to stand by our faith and the path of the Lord against the often corrupt and immoral ways of this world.

In our second reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to Philemon highlighted how he was returning one called Onesimus to him and the other faithful, and mentioning himself as a prisoner for Christ, and this Onesimus was like a godson to St. Paul. Through this seemingly short passage and message from St. Paul, again we can see the reality of our faith, that we may often face trials and struggles, persecutions and hardships just as St. Paul himself had endured, being in prison and treated badly by many for so many years of his ministry as a great missionary of the Christian faith. And yet, at the same time we can also see the great dedication which this Apostle has shown us as well.

In this, brothers and sisters in Christ, after hearing the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with a clear message and reminder from the Lord, that we have to trust in Him in guiding us throughout our lives in following the right path. We should not depend only on our own human strength, judgment and abilities, or else, very soon we will realise that we face such seemingly insurmountable odds and challenges, and we then quickly tend to withdraw from the trials and choose instead to conform to what is acceptable by the world and by everyone, and essentially therefore abandoning our faith and bringing scandal both to the Lord and to His Church.

Instead, the Lord has called on all of us to carry our crosses in life together with Him. Let us remember how Christ our Lord has suffered for us, and how He willingly endured all of that so that we may be saved and may receive new hope and life, freed from the shackles and bonds of sin and evil. We must remember that while we may carry heavy burdens that is our crosses in life, the difficulties in our Christian journey, our crosses that we carry, but the Lord has done it all earlier on, and He did so for the sake of every single one of us. We have to also realise that our lives in this world, as I mentioned earlier, are short, and we should do whatever we can in this life, to glorify God through them.

The Lord as mentioned also did not leave us alone. He is carrying His Cross with us, suffering with us and strengthening us along the way. He has given to us His Holy Spirit through His Apostles and His Church that the Holy Spirit may show us the way and the wisdom of God. This means that as Christians we should truly entrust ourselves to the Lord, entrusting ourselves in His wisdom and guidance so that in all the things we say and do we will always do what is right and worthy as those called as God’s beloved people and children, namely Christians. We are called and expected to glorify God by our lives and to proclaim Him through everything we say and do, at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now that the Lord has shown us what the path forward for us look like, all of us are reminded to be like the man and the king in the parable mentioned in the Gospel passage today. Knowing what is expected of us and what hardships and trials we may have to endure based on the examples of the past and the history of the Church, we should discern well and carefully on what course of action and path that we want to take. We should resist the temptations to abandon the Lord’s path and to conform to the world and its corruptions. Instead, we should strive to remain ever more faithful in God and allow the Lord to continue to guide our lives and our actions.

Let us all renew our faith and commitment in God, brothers and sisters in Christ, that our every words, actions and deeds may be true testimony of our faith. May all of us always put ourselves in the hands of the Lord, recalling how He has always ever patiently guided us and showed us the way forward. May all of us be motivated and inspired to allow God to lead us down the path of virtue and righteousness, that through Him we may perform ever more wonderful deeds, and be filled with virtuous examples through which many more people may come to believe in the Lord as well, through our faithful testimony of our faith by our lives and actions. May God bless us always in all things, and in all of our good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 28 August 2022 : Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for all of us as Christians, as God’s people to be full of humility and virtues, and not to be prideful and arrogant. We are all called to open our hearts and minds to the Lord and allow Him to guide our path. We should not allow our ego and pride to mislead us down the wrong path. We must always remind ourselves that we exist by the grace of God and everything we do, are ultimately to glorify God and to serve Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Sirach, on the matter of humility before God and how the faithful should act and behave in this world, with humility and obedience to God, and not to be filled with ambition or self-aggrandising attitudes. As Christians, all of us are challenged to put aside the temptations of greed and pride, of the many allures of worldly pleasures, power, glory, fame and human praises. This is of course easier said than done, as temptations will always be abound in trying to steer us away from the path of God’s righteousness and into the path of selfishness and wickedness.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and the guests regarding how some of the Pharisees were seeking the most important places on the dinner table, as with other events and gatherings. The Lord highlighted that we should not do such things, and should not seek the pride of honour, desire renown and compete for prestige and honour with each other, or indulge on our status, our privileges and other things which can lead us down the slippery path into sin and damnation. That is because pride and ego, desire and greed can easily lead us into doing things for our own selfish aims and purposes.

Contextually, we should understand that the Pharisees and the other respected members of the community were at the apex of the Jewish society, together with the king and his nobles. The Pharisees were greatly respected as well as feared because of their great intellectual abilities, being those among the few who were educated and had the knowledge and understanding of the Torah or the Hebrew Scriptures. They were also the ones who were entrusted with the maintenance and preservation of the Law of God as passed down from the time of Moses through the generations, adopting an especially strict interpretation of the Law.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often made a show of their piety and faith by praying openly and loudly in the public places, wearing their wide prayer shawls and showing their obedience to the Law, while at the same time also shunning and criticising those whom they deemed to be less than worthy than they were, which in this case was essentially everyone else besides them, and in particular, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the people who were possessed with evil spirits and who suffered from illnesses and sickness, from various conditions and maladies. Those people were viewed with disdain and even open hostility from the same Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

While not all of the Pharisees were living their lives in that manner, but quite a number of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had the same attitude towards their faith. They focused more on appearances and external applications of the Law, and misused their privileged positions among the community in order to advance their own egoistic aims and ambitions. They thought that their righteousness and their piety made them to deserve the grace and salvation, honour and praise from God and man alike, but they had forgotten that everyone is equal before God, and their attitude, their boastfulness and their hardline attitude in fact turned people away from the faith and made it difficult for some to come back towards the Lord.

In our second reading today, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard of the words of the author of this Epistle that all of us the faithful have been called to come into the presence of God Most High, Who through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, have formed a New Covenant with us mankind, with Christ as the Mediator of this New Covenant. It is by God’s grace that we have received His pardon, His mercy, His compassionate love and care. It is through the works of His Son, that by His suffering and death on the Cross, by which we mankind have been made partakers of the New Covenant He has established with us, that will last forever.

What this highlights is that, while all of us have to be active in living our lives with concrete actions, with efforts based on our faith, but we do not justify ourselves based on those works and deeds alone. It is God working through us, as we carry out His will and as we do our actions in this life that allow us to come to the grace of God and become worthy of Him. Without God, and without His love and providence, and without faith, then all of our actions are empty and meaningless. Like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, while they were outwardly pious and faithful, but as the Lord Himself pointed out, that their hearts were not filled with the love for God, but with love for themselves and their pride and ego.

That is why, on this Sunday, all of us are reminded through all these passages from the Sacred Scriptures, that we should always be vigilant and be careful with the temptations of our desires, our pride and ego, all of which can mislead us down the wrong path, in causing us to do things that are contrary to the will of God. Each one of us should always strive to remain focused on the Lord and remind ourselves of what we have been called to do as God’s followers and disciples. We have to restrain the temptations of our flesh, the desire for pleasures and for false happiness and other temptations that are aplenty all around us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us always strive to be humble and to do God’s will in each and every one of our actions, making good use of whatever opportunities that He has given each one of us so that we will not end up falling into temptation, or falter in our journey towards Him because we end up doing things to satisfy our selfish wants and desires first instead of doing what God wants us to do. And the more responsibilities we have, the greater the position we have in life, in whatever achievement we gained, in whatever honour we receive, let us not allow our pride and ego to overcome us as they had done to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

Instead, as the Lord had reminded us through the Scriptures, the greater we are, the humbler we should become, and there is no greater example for that than the Lord Himself, the Mediator of the New Covenant, Who although is the Almighty, All-Powerful God, willingly humbled and emptied Himself of His infinite glory, to be stripped and to be scourged, punished and broken for our sake, as He laid suffering and dying on the Cross. The Lord’s most loving sacrifice on the Cross is truly a reminder for us, of the virtue of Christian humility which the Lord Himself had shown us. At the Last Supper, the Lord has also washed His disciples’ feet, and told them to do the same as He had done, reminding us that as Christians, as God’s followers, we have to put God and others ahead of ourselves.

Let us all therefore do our best to live our lives with Christian virtues, particularly that of humility, so that we may draw ever closer to God and also be inspiration for one another, in striving to live our lives more worthily for God and His glory. May all of us distance ourselves from the dangerous temptations of pride and greed, excise from us that pride and greed, that ego and ambition, and instead, serve the Lord humbly at all times, and do our best to glorify God by our lives at each and every opportunities. Amen.

Sunday, 21 August 2022 : Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are all presented through the readings from the Sacred Scriptures, the Lord reminds us of His ever patient and amazing love, in gathering all of us His scattered and spread all throughout the world. All of us are God’s beloved people, His children whom He treats as His precious ones. He wants to be reunited and reconciled with us, and hence He called on us all to follow Him, and He also corrects us whenever we erred and made mistakes. He gave us help along the way and He sent us His messengers and servants, through His Church to guide us down the right path.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the Lord mentioning to Isaiah how He would call His people from among the nations, from the foreign lands far and distant from the land of Israel, from the different nations and origins, and the Lord also mentioned how He would even call His priests and the Levites from among the people of those nations. This is a premonition of God’s calling which He made to all the nations, to all the people of all races and origins, that His people and kingdom is no longer limited to just the descendants of the Israelites, but extending to the whole entire world.

The Lord had indeed called the direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the people of Israel to be the ones to form His first people, a first gathering of God’s nation among the others in this world. To them, God has given His Law and commandments, and He established and renewed the Covenant which He had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their forefathers. But the people of Israel had often disobeyed the Lord and refused to believe in Him, abandoning and betraying Him for the pagan gods and idols, or for the service of the worldly desires and temptations, in selling their souls for worldly glory and pleasures.

Hence, what the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah was significant because He revealed to all the people His true intention, which is to save all the sons and daughters of man, a promise which He had made from the very beginning, from the time when man first fell into sin. The same calling which He made to the people of Israel, has now been extended to the whole entire world, to all the sons and daughters of mankind, regardless of their race or origin, regardless of their birth and ancestry, or of their status and occupations. All the children of mankind are equally beloved by God just as He had created them all in the beginning with pure and perfect love.

He called on all the people of the whole world just as our Gospel passage today highlighted to us. In that passage, we heard how the Lord said that entering into His kingdom is truly not a really easy feat unlike what some might have otherwise thought. That is why the Lord reminded all of His disciples through that teaching and revelation, how entering into the kingdom of heaven will require one to make the effort and the sacrifices to resist the temptations of worldly glory, ambition and the pleasures of the world, all of which can lead us down the wrong path.

From what the Lord had told His disciples, it was quite obvious that the path to enter into the kingdom of God and hence into the eternal life and joy with Him will be a rather difficult and challenging one. And in the context of what happened at that time, during the time of Jesus, there were those who thought that they were saved simply because they belonged to the race of the descendants of the Israelites and therefore claimed privilege through their descent and blood. However, they had not listened to the Lord or obeyed His commandments, and refused to receive Him or His truth, when He came into their midst. Those people would not enjoy the salvation that is reserved only to those whom God finds to be worthy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these words of reminders for us, let us all first and foremost remember that all of us have received the same privilege to come to the Lord and to return to Him, to be reconciled with Him because He has always been welcoming to all of us, and He has called us all to be His beloved people. As part of His Church, through our baptism each one of us have been made sharers in His kingdom and grace, and we have received the revelation of His truth and love in greater details, and not only that, but we also have the responsibility and the calling to live our lives in a most Christian manner each day and at all times.

All of us must remember that in the end, our every actions and deeds, our contributions and commitments, whether great or small will be held for us or against us. Our every lack and failure to act whenever we are able to, will also be held against us on the Day of Judgment, and in the end, those who are righteous and faithful will receive the fullness of God’s promises and the eternal life and glory that will be ours forever, while those who fail to be faithful and continue to walk in the path of sin will fall into eternal damnation and suffering unless we change our ways for the better.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are reminded that we cannot take our faith for granted and we have to make the effort to be faithful to God, in real and concrete actions and not just through mere lip service only. We have to be genuinely faithful and active in living out our Christian lives so that in all things we will always ever be worthy, and we will draw ever closer to God, to His grace and love. God has always patiently extended His loving hands to us, to reach out to us and embrace us, and it is really now up to us to accept His generous and compassionate mercy, and it is up to us to make a commitment to follow Him.

May the Lord, our most loving God, continue to guide us all and bless us in our every endeavours, our every good works and efforts to serve Him and to glorify Him by our lives. May our lives and actions be ever exemplary and bring inspiration to each other so that we may strengthen and inspire each other to walk ever more faithfully in God’s presence, distancing ourselves from sin and from the temptations to sin. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 15 August 2022 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. The Assumption of Mary refers to the moment when she was taken up body and soul into Heaven, as she came to the end of her existence here in this world, and went to be reunited with her beloved Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The Church has always held the belief and tradition that Mary, by God’s grace, did not suffer the lasting effect of death, and while she did die, but her Son took her up very soon after into His Presence in Heaven.

According to Apostolic tradition, as Mary loved her Son so much, after having lived several more years past the time of her Son’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, the great love that Mary had for her Son led her to experience death, sharing the same death that her Son experienced for our sake. And when the time came for her to say goodbye to this world, the Apostles were gathered and asked for Mary’s last blessing, and she entered a sleep of death, and she was placed in the tomb. One tradition stated that because St. Thomas, one of the Apostles could not be there to see Mary one last time, he demanded to see the Mother of God one last time.

When the Apostles and the other assembled disciples opened her tomb, they were all surprised to find that not only that there was no trace of decomposition, but the body of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God herself had disappeared, replaced by a bed of roses. It was evident to all then that because her Son had been triumphant over sin and death, He would not have let her to experience the degradation of death, and took her up into Heaven, body and soul. And that is the story of how the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and its equivalent in the Eastern Churches, the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin came to be.

The belief in the Assumption comes logically as Mary, the Mother of God is the Mother of the Lord and Saviour of the world, Who had triumphed over sin and death, and as our second reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians had highlighted to us, Christ, Mary’s Son, has conquered and triumphed over death. Sin and death had both been conquered and crushed by the Lord, through His glorious Resurrection. How can it be that Christ saved the world but did not save His own Mother? Surely because of His great love for her, He would have led her away from death and would not allow her to suffer from it? That He Who raised Lazarus and the daughter of the synagogue official could definitely have raised His own Mother to a new life with Him too?

And not only that, but as Mary herself has borne the Lord and Saviour of the world, as highlighted in St. John’s heavenly vision of the end times in the Book of Revelations, our first reading today, and from the account of St. Luke’s Gospel on the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, Mary as the one who bore the Lord Himself inside her womb was hallowed and full of grace, free from sin throughout her life, right from the moment of her conception. This is the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which stated that Mary, by the singular grace of God, had been preserved from the taint of original sin, and full of God’s grace, she remained immaculate and pure throughout her life.

That is essential because the Lord’s Presence could have not tolerated the taint of sin, and as He were to spend the time in the womb of Mary, hence, He could not have been borne through a body tainted by sin. And because Mary was without original sin, and also remained pure and full of grace, free from any sin throughout her life, she did not deserve death at all, because death is the natural consequence of sin. Since Mary did not sin, she could not have been made subject to the punishment due to sin, which is death. That is why the Church believes that Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven, as was right and just for her, and also based on the testimony of the Apostles who witnessed it all.

Then, the Assumption should also not be confused with the Ascension, as the Assumption refers to the moment when Mary was taken up into Heaven by the will of God, by the power of her Son, taking her up body and soul into Heaven to be by His side, while the Ascension refers to the moment when the Lord Himself, the Son of God, by His own power and will, ascended into Heaven to return to His Throne and rightful place. There now the Lord reigns over us, with His mother Mary by His side, and her always interceding and praying for our sake. She has always watched over us all these while, and has always shown concern over us, falling ever so frequently again and again into sin.

Through the Assumption, first of all, we have the assurance that Mary is there in Heaven, by the side of the Lord, her own beloved Son, as our greatest ally and help in the battle against the forces of evil surrounding us and desiring our destruction. Through her constant intercession, Mary helped us all to get closer to God and helped to open the gates of God’s ever generous mercy towards us. She herself has also appeared in many well-known occasions, at Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima and elsewhere, calling on all the faithful children of God to turn back towards the Lord and repent from our sins.

Then, Mary’s own faith in the Lord, her commitment and total surrender to God, her willingness to follow the Lord and to obey His will completely in her life, carrying out her calling from the beginning to the end as the Mother of God, caring for her Son and loving Him, following Him even to the foot of the Cross, all these dedication should inspire each one of us in our own faith in God. Through Mary’s examples, we should be inspired to lead an ever worthy life that is full of faith and dedication to Him. We should do our very best to make sure that our every actions, words and deeds, every moments of our lives be worthy of God.

Mary’s Assumption into Heaven also gave us all a glimpse of our own fate in the end, if we choose to remain faithful to God, just as her own Son’s Transfiguration a few days ago had shown us as well. In the end of time, after the Final Judgement, all of us will rise up body and soul to be reunited with God, and to enjoy forever an eternity of true bliss and happiness. However, we have to be faithful to God and to be judged worthy of Him, or else we will end up in the eternity of suffering instead in the eternal damnation. The Lord has given us many opportunities and chances, and He has reached out to us generously with love, so that we may find our way to Him, and His blessed Mother Mary has shown us the most direct and surest path to Him.

May all of us draw ever closer to God, in each and every moments and opportunities available to us. May He empower each one of us to live ever more faithfully and with greater conviction and commitment from now on, following the examples of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who we remember of today in her glorious Assumption into Heaven. Holy Mary, Mother of God, gloriously assumed and taken up to Heaven, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate the Vigil Mass of the glorious Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this celebration and occasion, we are all reminded of the moment when Mary, the Blessed Mother of God was taken up body and soul into Heaven, to enjoy forever the glorious inheritance and the honour that she has been worthy of, as the Mother of God and faithful servant of the Lord, full of grace and love for God and for her Son, the Saviour of the world. Her Assumption into Heaven marks the end of her existence in this world as she entered into heavenly glory.

First of all, the Assumption does not equate to the Lord’s own Ascension into Heaven, as this is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspect of the Assumption of Mary. The difference is that while the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven by His own power and will, being the Almighty God and All-Powerful Divine Word Incarnate, Mary was assumed into Heaven by the will of God, and not by her own will or power. She was taken up or assumed into Heaven rather than ascending on her own volition and power. That is the clear difference between that of the Ascension and the Assumption that we all need to know.

Then, we may ask and wonder what the significance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God is to us? The Assumption marks the occasion when Mary did not experience the lasting effect of death, but went on to assume her rightful place in Heaven at the side of her Son’s Throne, and she experienced that because she was first of all conceived without the taint of original sin, and according to tradition, remained free from sin throughout her life, and therefore because sin leads to death, and the latter is the consequence and punishment for sin, then sin has no hold or dominion over Mary. This is in conjunction with what we heard in our second reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful in Corinth.

Mary was conceived without original sin as the Church taught through the Dogma of Immaculate Conception, another Marian Dogma besides the Assumption itself. And this has Scriptural basis as we ourselves have heard in our first reading today from the Book of Chronicles, where King David of Israel was welcoming the Ark of the Covenant coming into the city of Jerusalem, to come to dwell with His people after having been placed in the Holy Tent of Meeting for all the years previously. That Ark of the Covenant contained the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Law of God passed down to Moses, as well as the staff of Aaron and the manna, the bread eaten by the Israelites during their time in the desert.

The Lord’s own Holy Presence descended onto the Ark of the Covenant, and in the Scriptures, in the Book of Exodus and others, it was mentioned how God’s Presence came and sit upon the Cherubim crafted upon the top of the Ark of the Covenant. As such, the Ark of the Covenant itself was crafted using the finest materials of this world, from precious metals and other materials, and God had also blessed and hallowed it. No one could touch the Ark of the Covenant, and even the High Priest could only come into the Holy Presence of God once a year. When a priest accidentally touched the Ark to prevent it from slipping during an earlier, unsuccessful attempt by David to move it to Jerusalem, that priest was immediately struck dead.

Then why is the comparison with the Ark of the Covenant? That is because Mary is the New Ark, of the New Covenant. As the Ark of the New Covenant, she has been hallowed, blessed and prepared by God, unique above all other of His creations, to be the most worthy vessel bearing His Holy Presence. For no taint of sin can come even close to the Sinless One, the Lord, the Divine Word Incarnate, and when He came into this world through His mother Mary, being in her womb for nine months as all other human beings have experienced, the very vessel of His entry into this world ought to be as perfect and immaculate, as Mary herself, the Immaculate Conception.

If the old Ark was so precious and treated so respectfully despite it being made and crafted by the hands of men, then all the more that Mary is hallowed and blessed beyond all, since she was made by God Himself. And when the Archangel Gabriel hailed her as ‘Full of Grace’, this also refers to Mary as being completely free from sin even throughout her life, as for her to be the bearer of the Messiah, the Son of God Himself, she has to be perfect and immaculate. What may seem to be impossible for us, is possible for God, Who willed in singular grace for Mary to be so created and maintained in a state of full of grace.

It means that Mary loved God so much and was always in state of perfection of grace, that she remained faithful completely to God and the taints of sin, of pride and worldly desires, of lust and greed and many other worldly vices had no hold over her. And because of this, as mentioned, Mary did not deserve death and neither should she succumb to it, because it would have been so ironic for the Mother of the Saviour to succumb to death when her own Son had been victorious and triumphant over death. Yet, according to tradition and agreement by Christian scholars, Mary still did die in a way, but how?

That is because, it was explained that Mary, when it was time for her to rejoin her Son in Heaven, having loved Him so much, she could not be separated from Him, and therefore, just as He had endured death temporarily, she also went through it momentarily. Apostolic traditions stated that when the appointed hour came, the Apostles were gathered and asked for Mary’s last blessing, and she entered a sleep of death, and she was placed in the tomb. One tradition stated that because St. Thomas, one of the Apostles could not be there to see Mary one last time, he demanded to see the Mother of God one last time.

When the Apostles and the other assembled disciples opened her tomb, they were all surprised to find that not only that there was no trace of decomposition, but the body of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God herself had disappeared, replaced by a bed of roses. It was evident to all then that because her Son had been triumphant over sin and death, He would not have let her to experience the degradation of death, and took her up into Heaven, body and soul. And that is the story of how the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and its equivalent in the Eastern Churches, the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin came to be.

The Assumption matters to all of us because first of all, now that Mary is in Heaven by her Son’s side, she became our greatest help and intercessor, constantly praying for us, her adopted children, for us all sinners who are still separated from her and her Son. The Assumption gave us the hope that through the Mother of God, assumed into Heaven, we may have the sure way towards the Lord and His salvation, by following Mary and her examples, and through her constant intercessions. She has always showed her maternal care to us, and it has been evident in multiple occasions how she appeared in various instances to different people, calling on us to repent from our sins and to return to God.

Then, not only that, Mary’s Assumption into Heaven also gave us all a glimpse of our own fate in the end, if we choose to remain faithful to God, just as her own Son’s Transfiguration a few days ago had shown us as well. In the end of time, after the Final Judgement, all of us will rise up body and soul to be reunited with God, and to enjoy forever an eternity of true bliss and happiness. However, we have to be faithful to God and to be judged worthy of Him, or else we will end up in the eternity of suffering instead in the eternal damnation. The Lord has given us many opportunities and chances, and He has reached out to us generously with love, so that we may find our way to Him, and His blessed Mother Mary has shown us the most direct and surest path to Him.

May all of us draw ever closer to God, in each and every moments and opportunities available to us. May He empower each one of us to live ever more faithfully and with greater conviction and commitment from now on, following the examples of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who we remember of today in her glorious Assumption into Heaven. Holy Mary, Mother of God, gloriously assumed and taken up to Heaven, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after we have heard all of our readings and passages from the Sacred Scriptures, it is clear that the message the Lord has given us through His Church is that, all of us as Christians must remember that being the followers of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, is something that is not trivial and which will often require from us time, effort, commitment and even the willingness to suffer and to endure persecution in the midst of us living our lives with faith. Persecution has been part and parcel of the lives of many Christians from the very beginning, and that is true even right to this very day.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah detailing to us what happened to the prophet as he was almost brought to death’s door as his many enemies, the officials of the kingdom of Judah, rose up against him and demanded the king to punish him to death for all that he had said and done in delivering the words of God’s truth, but which his enemies used as accusations to persecute him and to remove him, using accusations such as him being a traitor to the nation and to the people for his works, so that he would be put to death. It was then that the king told the men that they could do all they wanted to Jeremiah.

Contextually, Jeremiah brought God’s words to the remnants of Judah, who was then rebelling against the rule of the king of Babylon. Jeremiah warned the people of the impending destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, the city and its Temple, and how many of them would be brought into exile far away from their ancestral lands. All those things were due to the people’s own disobedience against God, their stubbornness in refusing to listen to Him and to the prophets and messengers whom God had sent to them to remind them of their obligation to follow the Law. They had closed their hearts and minds from God and refused to listen to His call.

But Jeremiah had help from God, as He sent some who were sympathetic to Jeremiah and his cause, and helped him to get out from the cistern in which the enemies of Jeremiah had hoped that the prophet would die from drowning and hunger. Not only that, one of them would also house and protect Jeremiah, even as the whole kingdom and city eventually fell just as Jeremiah himself had prophesied, and protected him from harm’s way. Nonetheless, we have heard just how terrible was the persecution and the challenges that Jeremiah had to endure in the midst of his ministry and work.

In our second reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of this Epistle spoke of how many of the witnesses of the Lord and His truth had suffered because of what they believed in, and the author also encouraged all of them by telling them to look upon the Lord Jesus, their Lord and Saviour, Who has suffered Himself as He faced rejection and persecution from the world, from His enemies and from all those who refused to listen to Him. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews exhorted all of his target audience to be faithful and strong in enduring those challenges and trials, remembering how the Lord Himself suffered, and how they were all suffering the same thing together with the Lord. They were not alone in their suffering.

There had been many saints and martyrs, most prominently during the early days, weeks, years, decades and centuries in the history of the Church, when the Church and the faithful were still facing a lot of hardships, having to proclaim the truth of Christ, His Gospels and the Good News of His salvation against the various oppositions and hurdles from firstly the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin composed of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and other most influential members of the Jewish community, many of whom were against the Lord Jesus and His teachings. There had been many early persecution against Christians by the Jewish authorities, and before his conversion, St. Paul the Apostle as Saul was one of the leaders of these bitter and harsh persecutions.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Lord Jesus Himself, how He revealed before His own disciples that becoming His followers would not mean having good and peaceful lives. Instead, His teachings and truths would more likely than not bring about hardships and challenges, divisions and misunderstandings to arise even between close family members, relatives and friends. The Lord highlighted that fact, saying how family members would even rise against each other just because of their differences in opinion regarding the Lord and His truth. This would in fact presage how quite a few of the martyrs came to be because they were persecuted by the members of their own families, for refusing to abandon their faith in God.

That is the reality for us as Christians, as the followers of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in following Him and dedicating ourselves to Him. Our Christian faith and truth often come at odds against the acceptable norms and practices of the world, not only back then during the early years of the Church, but also even throughout history right up to this very day. There are still areas and parts of the world where believing in God and to be Christians may mean great sufferings and even high chance of death, from persecution and other reasons. We must never take our faith for granted, especially if we live in places where being Christians are acceptable and comfortable, or where everyone are Christians.

The Lord has revealed to us that more often than not being Christians require us to make a stand, and even at times we may have to go against those who are closest to us. But that is the reality and nature of the world, as not everyone readily accepts the Lord as their Saviour and King, while others may also be more lukewarm in their faith, accepting the ways of the world and as a result, also find our way of living our faith through life to be incompatible and unsuitable. Frictions and difficulties, disagreements and divisions are often then unavoidable, at times even when we have tried to avoid that from happening.

That is why this Sunday as we listened to these readings from the Scriptures, all of us are invited to reflect and discern on our lives as Christians. Have we as Christians been truly faithful and dedicated to God as we should have? And have we lived our lives in accordance to the Law and commandments that God has revealed and given to us through His Church and His servants? If we have lived our lives more in conformation to the world’s expectations and ways, then perhaps it is time for us to reassess the way how we lived our lives so that we may grow to be better and more committed Christians.

Let us all also keep in mind all of our fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering just because of their faith in God. May their courage and commitment to God just as what the saints and martyrs had shown us, continue to inspire us to live our lives ever more worthily in God’s path. Let us all remind one another that God is and will always be with us, His faithful servants, by our side at all times that we may be strengthened and inspired to do more for the glory of God. May all of our actions, words and deeds also always therefore be exemplary, that we may strengthen one another in faith, and perhaps even inspire more people to come to believe in God. Each and every one of us also share the same mission and expectation as God’s followers and disciples to proclaim Him and His truth to the people of all the nations.

May the Lord therefore continue to guide us and bless us, and may He strengthen and encourage us in faith that we may always be faithful to Him to the very end. May He bless our every works and good efforts, and our every dedication to His cause. Let us all strive to be ever more committed to the Lord and be good Christian role models in our everyday living, now and always. Amen.