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

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 1 July 2018 : Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we listened to the Scriptures telling us first of all from the Book of Wisdom, on how God was all good, and had every good intentions, including when He created us mankind. He did not intend for us to be created and then perish or be destroyed. Yet, how come is it that, then something like hell and eternal damnation exist?

Hell and eternal damnation in it did not come from God, and it was not because God wanted to punish or condemn us that many of us mankind ended up falling into hell. Rather, hell, in truth, is the state of total and complete separation from the love and grace of God. Hell is the product of our own sins and disobedience, which caused us to be separated from God. And in time, when we continue to sin and refuse to turn away from those sins, we fall into hell.

Hell is the product of constant and conscious rejection of God’s generous mercy, which He continuously offers us, without end, to the moment when we draw our last breath and meet death at the end of our earthly journey. That is when we will meet our particular judgment, every single one of us, who will be judged to go to heaven, or to purgatory, or to hell based on what our lives had been before God.

For those who have disobeyed the Lord, and refused His love and mercy, an eternity in hell is likely to be the fate awaiting the souls condemned to it. The Lord did not want to make us to suffer that fate, but our own pride, ego, greed, all of the obstacles and temptations that made us fall, caused us to sin, and when the sins were repeated and grew in number, our own folly led us into hell.

Those who are righteous shall enter into heaven, by God’s judgement, while those who are still burdened by some taints of sin will go to purgatory, where by the teachings of our faith we believe that the souls of the virtuous will be purified from the taints of their sins, and will then be worthy, in good time, to rejoice and be reunited fully with God for eternity.

Ultimately, after we have discussed about what is to happen after we encounter death, all of us have to realise that while our earthly lives and existence are limited and temporary in nature, but our souls are eternal. Naturally, we want ourselves to be blessed by God and enjoy forever the gift and the grace which God had prepared for all of those who remain faithful to Him.

However, we have been hindered because of our sins, as mentioned earlier. Sin is a terrible corruption of our heart, mind, soul and indeed, the whole being, which is a sickness that is slowly eating up on us. Normally, sin would have brought us down and would have destroyed us, but, fortunately, all of us have a great hope, which has been revealed to us, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In the Gospel passage today, two people came to the Lord, seeking for help and assistance, seeing that nothing else could have helped them. One was the woman who had a terrible haemorrhage or bleeding issue, and the other was Jairus, the synagogue official, whose daughter was very sick and dying. Both of them came to the Lord with faith, knowing that He could cure whatever affliction they asked Him to cure.

Now, how many of us actually act in the same manner as the two of them? How many of us actually go out of our way seeking the Lord to be healed from our afflictions? How many of us humbled ourselves, recognising ourselves as sinners and as those who have fallen into sin and cast out from the grace of God? Many of us were not able to do so, because we were too proud in our hearts and too enclosed in our minds to admit that we need God and His help.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God alone is our help and our source of salvation. He alone has the power and ability to heal us from the sickness of our soul, that is our sins. And He wanted us to be healed, just as He said, that He came into this world, looking for those who are in need of healing and conversion. But sadly, the fact is that, many of those whom the Lord has come for, rejected Him and scorned Him, as they would rather seek solace in worldly comfort rather than seeking God’s ways and truth.

As St. Paul had said in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, the Lord had made Himself poor so that through that poverty, we may have a share in His richness. And how did He do that? It is through none other and nothing less than the ultimate sacrifice He bore for our sake, by His crucifixion, death and later on, resurrection. He has emptied Himself so completely and surrendered everything so completely, because of His infinite and great love for us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to embrace God’s love and accept the generous offer of mercy and forgiveness which He has extended freely to us? Through the cross, the Lord has given us all a new hope, the hope of healing from sin and all the wickedness and obstacles that had prevented us thus far, from reaching out to the Lord and His salvation.

May the Lord awaken in our hearts, the spirit of humility and the desire to love Him, so that each and every one of us may come to be drawn by His everlasting mercy, compassion and tender love. May He continue to guide us in our journey, so that all of us will eventually find our way to His salvation, and receive from Him the crown of everlasting glory, having been healed from the corruption of our sins. May God bless us all, and all of our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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