Sunday, 29 March 2020 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the fifth Sunday in the season of Lent, as we approach closer to the beginning of the Holy Week and the Passion of Our Lord, we focus our attention towards the coming of Easter in which we celebrate the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord, and how through that Resurrection, He has brought upon all of us the hope of new life through His Resurrection, of which today’s Gospel passage on the resurrection of Lazarus is a premonition of what the Lord was to bring to us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of God’s promise to the people of Israel through Ezekiel, how He would restore them and bring them back to the land of their ancestors, and free them from their humiliation and bondage as a defeated and conquered people, after their kingdom and land were destroyed and conquered by the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar. At that time, the destruction of the kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem had just happened, the Temple destroyed and the Ark of God disappeared.

The morale of the people of Israel at that time must have been really low, as they were in depth of despair and darkness, having been humbled such by their own disobedience against God. But the Lord reminded them then through Ezekiel how they would once again have a share in His joy and receive great happiness for the Lord promised them all that He would deliver them from their predicament, and that He would give them a new life. This is a premonition of what would happen in the days to come, when through king Cyrus of Persia, God would allow His people to return to the land of their ancestors.

But this is also a premonition of what is to come for us mankind, in the promise of liberation from an even greater darkness and humiliation, that is the trials we experience because of our sins and wickedness. God promised us all a new life that is free from sin, where we will no longer suffer the consequences of sin, liberated and made free from the burden of our sins which had enslaved us and corrupted us all these while. And He made all these promises true and fulfilled by sending to us His own Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord showed us what He meant by His greatest miracle then yet, in bringing back even a dead person back into life, witnessed by many hundreds and more people who happened to be there. The resurrection of Lazarus has always been read on this fifth Sunday of the season of Lent to prepare us for the celebration of the Lord’s own Resurrection at Easter. And this resurrection of the dead Lazarus was a great proof for all those who witnessed it, how the Lord was with Jesus, the power from on high, authority over all life and death. This is something that no one colluding with the devil could have, unlike what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law claimed.

On a separate occasion, the Lord Jesus also raised the daughter of an official from the dead, as well as the son of a widow from the town of Naim. All these showed that death, the ultimate enemy, is no longer something that is to be feared. And here we need to understand better the nature of how death is related to all of us, so that we may be better able to appreciate the significance of what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. Death is something that all of us have always feared since it is something that is uncertain and scary, marking the definitive end to life in this world as we know it.

And death is the consequence of sin, which is then in turn caused by our disobedience against God, our inability to follow His will, our shortcomings and fall into the path that is divergent from God’s appointed path. Death is our fate, just as our first ancestors, Adam and Eve had to suffer death because of their disobedience, that they were to ‘return to dust just as they had been made from dust’. They were not meant to suffer this fate, for God intended for everything to be good and perfect just as how He created all of creation.

This means that all of us were meant to enjoy the fruits of God’s creation, to receive the fullness of His intended inheritance and to bask in God’s love and grace forever. This was why God created us in the first place, to share in the wonderful love overflowing from Him. But, our disobedience led to sin, and sin created that separation between us and God, and since we have been sundered from God’s grace and presence, He, Who is the Source of all life, that is why we suffer and experience death.

And especially at this time when the whole world is facing the terrible coronavirus pandemic, the Covid-19 trouble, and people are dying in their thousands, with many tens and even hundreds of thousands are now suffering from the disease, we can see how the whole world is gripped with fear, especially over the suffering that the sickness is bringing to us, and even more so over death, as many feared that they may succumb to the disease and die.

What we have seen in the past few weeks showed this, how so many people acted in a very selfish and irrational manner, as people flocked to the markets and shops, hoarding many essential goods such as food and also sanitary equipments, which put much of the world’s supply chain in great strain and at the same time, denying many of those who need the necessities from getting what they should have gotten. Many bought much more than what they should have even considered buying, in what we know as panic buying or hoarding.

And then we also knew and heard how there had been many incidents of racism and prejudices against certain groups of people, whom many either blamed for the outset of the disease, or that they have helped in propagating its spread. These led to attacks and ostracises against those whom they had been prejudiced against, both in the direct physical terms or in the online world, on social media platforms among others.

Looking at the behaviour of many of these people, we may end up wondering what had happened to us mankind that we end up doing such actions. It is in fact our fears and our worry of death that led to many of us acting in this manner. Many of us were so afraid of facing death that we ended up acting in self-preservation and selfishness, even causing hurt to others while doing so. And ultimately we had no faith in God and this is why we ended up doing all these out of our lack of faith.

In the midst of all these terrible things happening all around us, despite all the darkness and troubles we are facing, we must remember that there is still light and hope by our side. God is that light and hope that we must hold fast to, and we must not let go of this light that we have, for God has given us His reassurance, again and again that no matter how bad or terrible things may be, but as long as we keep our faith in Him, He, the Master of all things, the Lord of all life and death will deliver us from all of our troubles.

Fear is the method by which the devil is trying very hard to subvert us and to turn us away from God. Through fear, he wants us to turn inwards and indulge in our own selfish and wicked desires, that we may end up act in ways that lead us to sin, by our lack of care for others, by our selfishness that cause the hurt of others because we want to preserve ourselves. When we are too afraid of death and having no faith in God, that is when we end up on the slippery path towards sin and death itself.

The more we fear death, the more in fact we draw closer to it, because we have little or no faith in God. And it is imperative that during this difficult time when we are facing this global pandemic and other issues, that we must put our faith in God and trust in His will and plan for each one of us. After all, why do we fear something that we have no control over? Life or death is in the hands of God alone, and none of us have the power to extend our lives for even a single second or even millisecond.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday, as we reflect once again on our Scripture passages, let us all think of our priorities in life. Let us all not overly worry over whether we will suffer or die especially in this terrible times. Instead, let us all focus our attention on caring those who are around us, spending precious time to love those who are in need of love, especially in this moment when many may need consolation and love, comfort and kindness.

Let us all be filled with care and love for our fellow brothers and sisters, that we may truly embody the Lenten spirit of repentance and turning towards God with all of our heart. It is by deepening our charity and love, and by casting aside all of the pride and ego in us that we will be able to appreciate better the love which God has for us, and to better able to trust Him and believe in the resurrection and the new life which He will give us all who believe in Him.

Let us all look forward to celebrate the glorious Resurrection of the Lord in this coming Easter, knowing how God has triumphed over sin and death, and how none of us should ever worry about suffering and death anymore, since God will restore us to the fullness of His inheritance and grace, and while we experience the death of our physical bodies, but after that, we will be raised in glory to join in body and soul with Him and all the Angels and Saints, in the glorious new eternal life.

May God bless us all and may He strengthen us all to live courageously and with faith even through this difficult moment. And may He also heal all those who are suffering, console those who have lost their loved ones, and bring those who have passed on into His eternal rest and glory. Amen.

Sunday, 22 March 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the fourth Sunday in the season of Lent, also known as the Laetare Sunday, which came from the Introit of this Sunday which goes like this, ‘Laetare Jerusalem, et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam…’ or ‘Rejoice o Jerusalem, and come together all you who love her…’. And here we gather together this Sunday looking forward to the wonderful joy that is to come, the reason why we have the rose coloured vestments this Sunday.

Just like Gaudete Sunday during the season of Advent before Christmas, on this Sunday we have a brief pause of the penitential nature of this Lenten season to focus on the more joyful aspect of our expectation for the coming of the glorious season of Easter, just as Gaudete Sunday expects the coming joy of Christmas. That is why on this day we ought to focus our attention on the Lord, to keep our gaze affixed on Him, knowing that everything we do in this Lent, all of our penitential rites and customs, practices and works are to purify us before we rejoice together with Him, having been reconciled with Him in love.

In today’s readings therefore, there is this emphasis on us all having received healing from God, and for those who are in need of healing and God’s grace, it is reassured and promised to us as a certainty as long as we are open and willing to receive this wonderful grace of God. That is why today we focus our attention on the joy that is to come in Easter to help in keeping us focused in the right direction, knowing that we are in God’s good hands despite whatever challenges we may be facing now.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the story of the anointing of the new king of Israel, in which God had chosen one of the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. Samuel was presented with six of his sons in the beginning, and while initially he saw that the eldest son was good in stature and appearance, but God told Samuel that He had chosen through what He has seen in the heart and not in the appearances. And that was how David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, a simple and young shepherd, was chosen and anointed as king of Israel.

David was a steadfast and firm believer in God, who loved God with all of his heart. Since his youth, David had been devout and committed to God, and after he had been chosen and anointed as king of Israel as the successor to king Saul, David had shown his faith and his upright attitude and actions in most of the circumstances. Yes, as a mortal man, David did make mistakes and he did commit some serious sins, such as his adultery with Bathsheba and his hubris in the census of Israel, but ultimately, his faith and love for God never changed.

The significance of this reading is to show that God sees in us the light present within all of us, including what He had seen in David. There is inherent good in all of us since after all, every single one of us are God’s good creations although tainted by sin. By God’s grace and help, all of us can follow in the example of king David, whom God had called and chosen, and king David allowed God to work through him, committing many wonderful deeds as king over the Israelites, in faith and obedience to God.

In our second reading, again we are reminded through St. Paul’s letter to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus that we ought to become children of the light in all things. St. Paul mentioned that while once we belonged to the darkness, now through God, we have belonged to the light, and we ought to act in the manner of the follower of God’s light. God is our guide and Shepherd, just as our Psalm today on the famous Good Shepherd Psalm reminds us that God is leading us as our Shepherd to the good and righteous path.

Through sin and darkness, all of us have been corrupted, tainted and afflicted, but God wants us all to be healed and liberated from our sins, and He alone has the power and ability to do so. In our Gospel passage we heard of the story of how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been born blind, and suffered from that blindness for so many decades. Yet, through his faith in the power of the Lord Jesus, he was healed completely, his eyes opened and his sight restored, a great miracle of God, but one which was protested and contested by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

The blind man was healed by Jesus and he could see again, and yet, the Pharisees and some of the teachers of the Law could not believe that the blind man had been healed, and not by the Lord Jesus Whom the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law then treated as a pariah and One that is not welcome in the Temple, because of the friction and difficulties that arose as the Lord ministered to the people and healed many of them, even on the Sabbath day which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law vigorously defended as a day on which nothing including good deeds could be done.

Thus, these people gathered the people and conducted a trial over the blind man, as they doubted that he had been healed by Jesus, and then they even doubted that he had been born blind or blind at all. And they kept on asking the blind man for the details of his healing, repeatedly, showing that they still stubbornly refused to believe that Jesus could have healed the blind man. To them, Jesus was a sinner for His disobedience against their way of observing the Law, and a sinner could not have healed another person.

They even then became nasty against the blind man and angered against him, condemning and judging him as a sinner, as they were offended and their pride was hurt by the formerly blind man’s suggestion that they kept on asking him because they were interested to become the disciples of Jesus. This is exactly the problem that we need to take heed of, the matter of pride and ego that prevented so many of us from finding forgiveness for our many sins and our salvation in God.

In this season of Lent, as we focus our attention today on the Lord and on this joyful hope of His salvation and also on our own inner light and goodness, all of us are called to purge from ourselves all sorts of pride and ego, all hubris and hard-heartedness that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had, which made them to be ‘spiritually blind’, as they were ignorant of the truth of God even when they had seen and witnessed for themselves for more than a few occasions, what the Lord had done for His people through Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord with humility like that of the blind man? Pride kept us away from being able to seek God’s forgiveness, and we ought to be humble, realising that we need God’s healing and forgiveness for our sins. And then, are we able and willing to seek God for healing, that He may bless us and forgive us from our many sins, purifying ourselves from our corrupted state due to our sins? Let us seek to be God’s children, worthy and as bright children of the light, rejecting the darkness of sin, for the righteousness and faith in God. Our true joy and happiness is in the Lord, Our God and Saviour, and it is Him that we ought to look towards and focus our attentions on.

As we look forward towards the glorious joy of Easter, let us all renew our efforts to be ever closer to God, to be more devoted in each and every moments of our lives from now on. Let us deepen our relationship with God and be righteous and good in all of our actions and deeds. Let us be more loving and charitable towards our fellow brothers and sisters, and let us all be generous in caring for the needs of those who are needy, poor, unloved and rejected by others. Let us share the joy of Christ with one another, and hope that one day we may glorify God together and be worthy of God and His eternal kingdom as we enter into the new and heavenly Jerusalem.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen us with faith and the resolve to live our lives daily, that we may walk ever faithfully in His path, and draw ever closer to His grace. May God bless us all and all of our good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 15 March 2020 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Third Sunday of Lent, all of us as Christians are called to remember the love that God has shown to us all despite the rebelliousness, disobedience and stubbornness which we had shown Him all these while. Beginning from the story in our first reading today, taken from the Book of Exodus of the rebellion of the Israelites against God at the place called Rephidim, where they complained against God and became angry at God as they thought that God had abandoned them and left them thirsty and hungry in the desert.

We have to understand that the truth is, God has been blessing them, providing for them and protecting them all through the challenging journey that they had gone through, starting from calling all of them through Moses, who confronted the Pharaoh with his brother Aaron, and sent ten great Plagues against Egypt and the Egyptians while the Israelites were protected from harm. Since then, God had led them out of Egypt, destroying the armies and the chariots of the Pharaoh sent after them, opening the sea before them to walk on the dry seabed.

And God also gave the people water to drink, water that is good to drink, plentiful and crystal-clear in the middle of the vast and dry desert. He gave them food in the form of manna, the bread sent down from heaven itself, every morning without fail, and also large birds to supplement what they have already had in the manna. For God to provide His people with sustenance and everything they needed in the middle of the lifeless and dry desert, He has done so much for the sake of His people, and yet we saw how the people complained and grumbled against Him.

While not specifically mentioned in today’s reading passage, the Israelites also complained because in Egypt although they were enslaved by the Egyptians, they were not short of food and good things to eat, complaining that all that they had to eat were the ‘tasteless’ manna when in another part the manna were actually described as being sweet and good-tasting. All these alluded to the fact that the Israelites were tempted and swayed by their own greed and desire for worldly sustenance and pleasures rather than to obey God.

As the Israelites put a lot of focus and emphasis on what they were missing and lacking from, this caused them to forget that they already had what they needed, all provided by God Who still continued to love them and was still patient with them despite their constant and repeated disobedience, complaining and grumbling against Him. And in what we heard of the rebellion of the Israelites at Rephidim, God still asked His servant Moses to give the people what they have asked for, which is drinking water, despite having been doubted by the very same people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must indeed count ourselves to be very fortunate to have such a loving God and caring Father, Who has always been so patient and good with us despite all of our disobedience, our pettiness and stubbornness, our sins and all sorts of wickedness we have done before Him, as the Israelites themselves can testify to us through their long history of rebellions and disobedience against God, both what we have heard in today’s reading from the Book of Exodus, and many other occasions.

The Lord has always been patient with His people, sending prophets and messengers, one after another to remind the people to turn away from their sinful ways and to embrace once again His laws and precepts. But more often than not, the people refused to listen and hardened their hearts, preferring to follow their own desires and paths, in disobedience against God. They worshipped the pagan idols and offered sacrifices to them, followed the wicked customs of their pagan neighbours among others. Yet, the Lord was still willing to forgive them and was willing to be reconciled with them.

Now, let us bring our attention to the Gospel passage today in which we heard about the Lord Jesus and His encounter with a Samaritan woman at a place named Sychar, in the land of the Samaritans. At that time, the Samaritans were at odds with the Jewish people in Judea and Galilee, and this enmity has occurred for several centuries by the time of Jesus’ ministry. The Samaritans were the descendants of the people who were settled in the region named Samaria after the old capital of the northern kingdom of Israel after the Assyrians destroyed that kingdom and brought most of its people into exile.

The Samaritans were therefore a mixture of peoples, with both descent from the Israelites through the people of the northern kingdom of Israel and those people who have been resettled from various origins by the Assyrians. The Jewish people, to whom the Lord Jesus and His disciples belonged to, were the descendants of the people of Judah, the southern kingdom which had been in conflict and rivalry against the northern kingdom of Israel. Therefore, the enmity and troubles between the Samaritans and the Jews had originated for many centuries.

The Samaritans and the Jews argued that they were the righteous and chosen people of God, as mentioned in today’s Gospel, the differences in viewpoints as the Samaritans argued that their ancestors’ practice of offering sacrifices on the mountains of Bethel or Ephraim was the right and legal way of worship, which had originated since as early as the earliest days of the division between Israel and Judah, over a thousand years earlier. the Jews argued that worship must be conducted at the Temple in Jerusalem, in the tradition of Solomon’s Temple which King Solomon built in that city.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how are all these linked to what we have heard about the disobedience of God’s people earlier on? This is because the Jews at the time of Jesus often looked down and were very discriminatory against the Samaritans. The Jews were very proud of their status as the direct descendants of the Israelites of old, those same Israelites who were led by God out of Egypt in their Exodus. They saw the Samaritans as pagans and people who were unworthy, ungodly and wicked, and henceforth, ought to be despised and ostracised.

The Jews thought that they were guaranteed salvation and God’s inheritance because of their heritage, but they failed to realise that being the sons and daughters of Abraham and Israel alone were not good enough reason for them to become worthy and righteous before God. And the Lord Jesus showed it all through His words and interactions with the Samaritan woman, whom, in the terms of that day’s society, was among the lowest of all people. She was a Samaritan, prejudiced against as I elaborated earlier on, and she was also a woman, who was regarded as inferior to men. And her background of not being legally married, and having cohabitated in the past would have made her to be even less respected.

As the disciples of Jesus showed us, it was most bewildering to them that Jesus, their Master, a Jew, would be in such close proximity to a Samaritan, less still a woman, and being engaged in such a deep conversation with her. That was why the Lord revealed to them that the Lord does not distinguish His people in the manner that they have been divided against each other, being prejudiced against other people and thinking of themselves as being better than others based on their own prejudices and narrow mindsets.

The Lord loves all of us equally and He treats us all equally without any prejudices. As long as we are willing to embrace Him and His love, He will give us all the blessings intended for us, and through Christ, His Son, make us all to be His adopted sons and daughters. This is because Christ, the Son of God, has willingly entered into our world and assumed our human existence in the flesh, born as the Son of Man, and by sharing that humanity with us, we also share His connection with the Father. We call God, our heavenly Father because of this.

Our Lord Jesus showed us all that God’s love and forgiveness are extended to all of us mankind, and even to the worst of sinners, like that of the Samaritan woman, to whom the Lord Who knew her sins, offered the living water found in Him, essentially offering her forgiveness and reconciliation, and the fullness of grace by her faith in Him. And now, the Lord wants us all to reflect carefully on our way of living our lives, and how we live our lives together with all those who are around us, whether we want to be like the Jews and the Samaritans, who were prejudiced against each other, or whether we want to work together to be more faithful and help each other to be more committed to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to renew our love and devotion to God, just as He has loved us all so much all these while despite all the terrible attitude, doubts, disobedience, and rebelliousness we have showed and committed in our lives. We must remember how God still provided for His people, the Israelites, for a total of over forty years throughout their time journeying towards the Promised Land. Despite all their constant actions in angering God and in betraying Him, God still sent them manna and food without fail, and provided drinking water in the desert.

If God loves us all so much despite our imperfections and sins, then why can’t we also do the same to our fellow brothers and sisters? Whenever we look down on anyone, or are prejudiced or biased against anyone, or whenever we think that we are better or more worthy than others, or when we are angry against certain people or are unhappy and even hating them, then we should keep in mind what the Lord has done to us, forgiving and loving us sinners, as St. Paul said in our second reading today, even when we are still so wicked, imperfect, terrible and in such a corrupted state.

This season of Lent, as we go forward in living our lives, let us all discern and strive to be more like God, to love the way He has loved us, to be more forgiving upon one another just as He has forgiven us, to be more patient with each other, with our spouses, children, parents, family members, friends and even those who we disagree and are unhappy with, just as the Lord has been so patient with us all these while. Let us all make this blessed season of Lent meaningful and fruitful to us all, and be closer to God, through our deeper appreciation of His love, through healthy prayer life and deepening of our spiritual life, and through our charity and acts of love to our fellow brethen. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 8 March 2020 : Second Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the second one in the season of Lent, we are all called to listen to God’s will and heed His calling. Indeed, today’s Scripture readings are focused on one important aspect of our faith and our lives, and that is to respond and answer God’s call in our lives. God has called all of us His people to follow Him just as He has called many of our predecessors in the past, and for those who followed Him and walked in His path, God would bless them and guide them to righteousness.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord’s calling of a man named Abram from the land of Ur in southern part of Mesopotamia in what is today southern Iraq. This man seemed to appear from nowhere, suddenly making its appearance in the Scripture in the Book of Genesis. But this was the man whom God had called and chosen, for God Who knows the heart and mind can see that Abram had faith in Him and was a righteous and obedient person.

And God called Abram to follow Him with the promises that He swore before him, that He would make Abram to be a great nation, blessed and presented by the grace of God. God promised that the name of Abram would be blessed and great, and He would bless all those who bless him and curse all those who curse him. Such were the promises that God had given to Abram, and Abram believed in God fully and completely, leaving his ancestral family and lands behind, and walked with God to the land of Canaan.

God called Abram to an unknown wilderness and an uncertainty. Abram had a lot of property, amazing connections and things he definitely enjoyed in his ancestral homeland in Ur. But Abram chose trust in God and left his past behind him, and walked with Him to the land which God promised that He would give to him and his descendants. Abram trusted and had faith in God, committed himself and his descendants to a Covenant which God would make and seal with him.

The Covenant that God made with Abram, who was then known as Abraham, had been renewed again and again, and Abraham became the father of many nations as God has promised. Through his sons Isaac and Ishmael, many nations including the Israelites called Abraham as their father and ancestor, and ultimately, by the last renewal of the Covenant by none other than Christ Himself, all of us who believe in Christ, also call Abraham our father, as our father in faith. For like us who answer God’s call, Abraham was the first to respond to that call, and we follow in his footsteps.

In our second reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to St. Timothy who reminded us as Christians again about what our Christian calling is all about. God has called on all of us through Christ to serve Him and to be witnesses of His truth and His Gospels. We are all called to holiness to serve the Lord through obedience to His Law and to His will and commandments, and to listen to what He has called and taught us to do, as we heard in our Gospel passage today on the account of the Transfiguration of Our Lord.

Through the occasion of the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor mentioned in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord Jesus was glorified and appeared before three of His disciples, St. Peter, St. James and St. John in His fullness of glory and divinity, together with Moses and Elijah, essentially God has revealed through them to us, that by sending Jesus Christ, God’s own beloved Son into this world, He has called us all yet once again, to follow Him and to forge that new and everlasting Covenant with us.

It was revealed at the moment of the Transfiguration that Christ was not just merely a Man, but also the Son of God. In the person of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world or the Messiah, was two distinct yet inseparable natures of Man and Divine, through which Christ would then seal and make a new Covenant with all of us that will last forever. This refers to the Covenant that He made through His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross. By this Covenant, all of us are made to be sons and daughters of God, and we are made sharers of God’s inheritance and glory.

What then happened at the Transfiguration and what is its significance for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is where then we need to pay attention to how the Transfiguration of the Lord revealed to us what we ought to do as Christians, in how we ought to be living our lives and our faith from now on. In that occasion, we heard how St. Peter suggested to the Lord Jesus that they ought to build three tents for Him, for Moses and Elijah, reason being that it was so wonderful and glorious to be up there in the mountain in the sight and presence of God’s glory.

Certainly, the Lord was tempted by that offer, for He clearly knew what He was about to do in order to establish the New Covenant with all of us. He clearly knew that He had to suffer terribly, bear the burdens of our sins on His Cross, to be rejected and treated terribly and humiliated by His enemies, and finally to suffer and eventually die a most painful death as a condemned and humiliated criminal on the Cross for everyone to see. Who would not have wanted to avoid such a fate?

But the Lord resisted that temptation, just as He had resisted the three temptations of Satan mentioned in our Gospel passage from last Sunday’s readings. And God then came over all the three disciples, reminding them to listen to the One He had sent into this world to be its Saviour. Essentially, through this, God has called on His people again to trust in Him and to follow Him in the path that He has shown us and which He Himself had walked.

I refer to the fact that the Lord Jesus chose willingly to descend from Mount Tabor and leave behind His glorious moments there, and walking down, heading eventually towards Jerusalem where He was to suffer and die. We can see here a clear parallel between Abraham and Jesus, in how both chose to follow the path that God has presented to them, with Abraham following God and obeying Him as he journeyed and dwelled in the Promised Land, while the Lord Jesus obeyed His heavenly Father’s will, and fulfil the mission which He has been entrusted with, through the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now as I mentioned earlier, all of us have also been called to follow God and to obey His will. And looking from the examples I mentioned earlier, when we are called by God to follow Him, often the outlook and the path forward may seem to be uncertain and unknown to us, as compared to what we are now having in life. And the devil is always ready to strike at us, persuading and tempting us to stay put and not to follow the Lord, but instead to remain in our comfort zone.

During this season of Lent in particular, we are all called to reexamine our lives, how we have lived them thus far and think and discern of how we are going to proceed forward in life. Are we able to discern carefully what we are going to do with our lives from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ? God has called us to follow Him, but are we willing to put in the effort to follow Him and to put our trust in Him, in whichever directions that He is going to lead us to?

Let us all therefore make good use of this season of Lent, to detach ourselves from the excessive attachments we have to the many comforts in life, and to restrain ourselves from succumbing to our many desires, lusts, greed, ambition among other things that prevented us from truly living our lives as righteous and faithful Christians. Let us all spend more time with God, through prayer and through fasting and abstinence, that we may turn our attention and focus back towards Him and away from the temptations of this world.

Let us also be more generous and loving in our interactions with our fellow brothers and sisters, especially to all those who are marginalised, rejected by others, weak and poor, sick and dying. Let us all be more charitable and loving, following the examples that Our Lord Himself has shown and taught us. In doing so, we are doing what St. Paul had told us in his Epistle of our second reading today, to live our lives with holiness and to respond to God’s call with faith. For it is by showing love to one another that everyone may know that we are God’s beloved people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to follow God more closely this season of Lent going forward? Are we able to make the commitment to change our way of life that from now on we will become more faithful, more trusting in God, more obedient to His will and more loving in all of our actions in life, first of all towards God and then towards our fellow brothers and sisters, particularly those who are in need of our help and love, our care and attention?

May the Lord, our loving Father and Creator, Who has shown us His eternal and infinite love through His gift of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ to be our Saviour, always be with us through the trials and difficult moments of our lives that we may always remain faithful in Him throughout our journey of faith, and that we may grow ever more faithful and loving towards Him with each and every passing moments in our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 1 March 2020 : First Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the First Sunday of Lent, and as we begin the first in the series of five Sundays in this season of Lent, we are brought to focus our attention on the nature of this season of Lent as a time of renewal, rejuvenation of our faith, reconciliation with God and as a time for the forgiveness of our sins, through our repentance and forgiveness by God. The name of Lent itself came from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Lencten’ which means ‘Spring’ referring to the coming of the season of Spring after that of Winter.

That is why Lent is symbolically very important as a time of renewal and rediscovery of oneself, after the bitterness and darkness of our spiritual ‘Winter’ due to our sins and shortcomings, as a chance for us to reconnect with God, to be reconciled with Him and to find our place once again in God’s grace and loving embrace. It is a time for us to turn away from the excesses of worldly desires and greed, from the many temptations we find in the world, and focus our attention instead on God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today on this First Sunday of Lent as we remember again what we have just heard from our Scripture passages today, we focus on the theme of sin and temptation to sin, and then the freedom from those sins. We heard first of all the account from the Book of Genesis which showed us the moment of mankind’s fall into sin, when our first ancestors fell to the temptation of the devil, and then up to the Gospel, when we heard yet another temptation story, this time the devil tried to tempt the Lord Jesus as He went for forty days right after His baptism to the desert to prepare Himself for His ministry.

In the beginning of time, God created everything all good and perfect, and He made the first man, Adam and his companion, Eve, to live in the wonderful Garden of Eden. This means that mankind, all of us were actually meant to live with God in the fullness of God’s grace and love, to enjoy the wonders of God’s providence and blessings forever. However, this was not to be because we fell into sin as we were unable to resist the temptations to sin, which the devil, disguised as a snake, brought upon Adam and Eve.

What did the devil tempt them with? As Satan first approached Eve, he tempted her with the temptation of desire, the desire for the forbidden knowledge that God has expressly forbidden for man to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And Satan reasoned very cunningly that the fruit of the tree did not seem to be harmful, and how eating from the tree would bestow great knowledge upon man and made them to be like God. Through this temptation, Satan planted the seeds of pride and greed in mankind’s hearts.

Thus, according to the Book of Genesis, that was when mankind fell into sin, and therefore consequently were banished from the Garden of Eden to wander on this earth and suffer the consequences of our disobedience, which led to sin. Sin came forth because we did not obey God and in our failure to do so, we fell short of what was expected of us, and sin came forth. In the Greek language, the word sin is known as hamartía, which means failure to reach or grasp a target, or in summary, meaning of falling short of what one is expected to do.

God has blessed us and meant for us to enjoy forever the fullness of His grace and love, and He has set precepts and rules for us to follow. Yet, tempted by the devil, we succumbed to the temptations, and not just Adam and Eve, but all mankind ever since then, have fallen into all these temptations in various forms, and came short of our expectations in life to live a virtuous and good life as God’s beloved people, and thus we sinned. Sin has been with us since that moment when Adam and Eve fell, and it has corrupted innumerable sons and daughters of man since.

And the consequences of sin are dire, brothers and sisters in Christ, as sin is a defilement, imperfection and tarnish upon our humanity, and since God is all good and perfect, no impurity, imperfection and defilement can be present before Him. Our sins and shortcomings will end up destroying us if we dare to come before God with them in us, corrupting us and making us unworthy of God. Our shame and regret of having sinned before God would literally destroy us and prevent us from true reconciliation with our loving Creator.

This has been Satan’s plan all along, for he, once known as Lucifer, was once the greatest, brightest and most brilliant among all the Angels of God. Yet, in his brilliance and excellence, which should have been the showcase of God’s wonderful Light by his name of the ‘lightbringer’, he became proud of his own marvels and brilliance, and instead of shining with God’s light, he rebelled against God as he desired to overthrow his own Creator and rule over all instead. From his pride came greed and all other sins that we now know of, and he gathered many other Angels who supported him. But they were defeated and cast out of heaven.

Satan was unable to accomplish what he wanted, for he knew that he was no match for God, and he knew of his eventual ultimate defeat at God’s hands. But the least then he could do was to drag as many of God’s beloved ones, mankind, His pinnacle of creation into damnation and destruction with him. And that is why he brought to us the same defilements and sins he had with him, beginning with pride, and from there all the other forms of deadly sins we are familiar with, such as greed, lust, sloth among others.

And it seemed that Satan had achieved what he wanted, causing men to be sundered and separated from God. It seemed that mankind would perish altogether in hellfire with Satan, for they have sinned, and as the snares of sin were powerful, they would not have been able to be free of their bondage and therefore, would eventually fall into eternal damnation and endure the eternity of suffering with Satan and his fellow fallen angels.

But this is where we must not lose hope, for God ultimately loves us more than even the might of our sinfulness and wickedness, and all the efforts of Satan. His love for us has opened the path to redemption and salvation, by His sending of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and God into this world to be our Saviour. Through Christ, all of us sons and daughters of man have received the full promise of pardon, forgiveness and reconciliation from God.

Satan knew this very well, and that is why he tried to tempt Jesus as well, which we have heard in our Gospel passage today. He tried to stop Him from achieving and fulfilling the mission which God the Father has entrusted to Him to save mankind. And Satan used the same old tricks and temptations to tempt Jesus as well, which we heard being elaborately put into place throughout the Gospel today. When Jesus went to the desert for forty days to prepare Himself to begin His ministry proper, Satan came to tempt Him right there and then.

He began with tempting Jesus with food asking Him to turn the stones into bread, knowing that He was hungry after many days having not eaten any food at all as He fasted for the forty days He was in the desert. But the Lord resisted and told Satan off, saying that ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from the mouth of God’. This is a common temptation that we all usually face, the temptation of gluttony and greed, desire and want in our hearts, the weakness of our body and flesh to worldly desires that often made us to fall into sin.

The Lord Jesus obeyed His Father’s will and resisted the temptations of Satan, and He showed us that there are indeed things more important than worldly desires and the desire to satisfy our physical bodies and flesh, and that is to listen to the word of God and to follow Him wholeheartedly. It does not mean that food is not necessary or important for us, as we do need to eat and drink to sustain ourselves, but we must not be indulgent and obsessive over them. It is the attachment and excessive desire that we have for worldly things and pleasures that led us to sin.

Then Satan tried to tempt Jesus with his ace card, that is the sin of pride. He brought Jesus to the top of the Temple, using Scriptural quotations to tempt Jesus to show Himself off by jumping down from the Temple, and God would send His Angels as He Himself said to prevent Jesus from falling down and injuring Himself. This temptation was truly very cunning effort by the devil, who played on our pride, ego, ambition and desire, the desire for acknowledgement, praise and affirmation by others.

Again, the Lord Jesus resisted and said that we must not test the Lord by doing such things, by purposefully trying to test if God would fulfil His words, as this is tantamount of doubting God and His providence, and not having faith in Him. Satan was trying to use this as a leverage to gain control by playing into exactly that strong desire in us for recognition, power and glory, twisting into the pride and ego within our hearts and minds.

And last of all, we heard how Satan tried one last time by showing all the glories, wonders and riches of the world by offering them to the Lord Jesus if only that He would bend the knee to him and worship him. Jesus rebuked Satan sternly and commanded him to go away, saying that only God alone is worthy of worship. He resisted this last temptation, which again is a difficult temptation to be overcome, as it pulls upon the same desires within us that crave for worldly goods and pleasures, for worldly glory, power and wealth.

In what we have seen from our Scripture readings, which is also summarised nicely by St. Paul in our second reading today in his Epistle to the Romans, we can see the clear contrast between what happened to Adam and Eve, when mankind first fell into sin, and Christ, Who resisted all the efforts of Satan to tempt Him and sway Him to prevent Him from fulfilling His mission. Christ is indeed the New Adam according to St. Paul, as He showed us that it is not necessary that sin has the power over us. He showed us that it is indeed possible for us to overcome sin and the temptations to sin, as He Himself has showed us by resisting the three temptations of the devil.

But many of us continued to sin, and to fall into sin because first of all, we do not have enough faith in God, and the devil knows this very well. You can already see from today’s readings alone just how adept he can be in using even Scriptural quotes to twist our minds and perceptions to lead us further down into the path of sin and focusing on ourselves and our desires more rather than on God. And many of us are even unaware of our sins and faults, as for various reasons we refuse to acknowledge them.

We often fear sin because we may think that sin made us to be despised by God and God would condemn us into hell because of our sins. However, the truth is actually such that it is precisely by our refusal to repent from our sins or to seek God’s forgiveness that our sins cause us to fall into damnation. Brothers and sisters in Christ, God alone can forgive us our sins and unless we allow God to enter into our lives and forgive us our sins, how can we then be saved?

There is a saying by St. Augustine of Hippo that goes like this, ‘there is no saint without a past and there is no sinner without a future’. This is a reminder for us that even saints were once sinners, and some of them were even great sinners, like St. Augustine himself. But what is important is the fact that they all turned away from their past, sinful ways and allowed God to work through them, forgiving them their sins and making them to be great instruments of His will. God despised not us as the sinners but the sins which we have committed all these while.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we progress through this season of Lent, the forty days of preparation time before the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter, let us all reflect on the preparation that Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself undertook, in the forty days He spent in the desert, and the other ‘forty’ which is the forty long years the Israelites spent in the desert to atone for their rebelliousness before they could enter into the Promised Land. All of these show a time of purification and a time of struggle and challenge-filled journey that we ourselves are facing now.

We should not see the season of Lent as something that is dreadful and gloomy but rather as a time of renewal and rejuvenation as I mentioned earlier. Let it be the ‘springtime’ of our lives and our faith. The season of Lent is a God-given wonderful opportunity for us to renew ourselves and to be reconciled with God. God has always offered His mercy and forgiveness freely to us, but it is often us who ignored and rejected Him all these while.

That is why we should model ourselves on Christ, the New Adam, and break free from the chains of our sins through Him. Like Christ, we should be humble and obedient to God, shunning all forms of pride and ambition. He is the King of Kings and Lord of all lords, and yet, He rejected the glories of the world, resisted the efforts from the people and from His own disciples to make Him their King, and He humbled and emptied Himself to die a most humiliating death on the Cross for our sake.

And Christ did not allow pride to prevent Him from humbling Himself before God, to open Himself up as we all know how He agonised during the night at the Garden of Gethsemane, as He awaited the moment of His suffering and crucifixion. He prayed and prayed very deeply in communication with His Father, and this is a reminder for us that, we too, need God’s help, and the best way for that is through a deepening of our spiritual life through prayer.

Let us all make our Lenten season meaningful and fruitful, brothers and sisters in Christ, by spending more of our time in meaningful prayer, opening our hearts and minds to God, and allowing Him to speak to us that we may truly know what His will is for us. And let us also learn to be more humble and to get rid from our lives the vestiges of ego and greed, pride and ambition, and instead imitate the humility of Christ and His obedience in everything we do in our own respective lives.

May the Lord guide us through this season of Lent, that we may grow ever stronger in our Christian faith and that we may resolve to live in a more Christian like manner with each and every passing moments. May the Lord be with us always and may He grant us the courage and strength to resist the devil and all of his lies and falsehoods. May God bless us all and may He bless all of our Lenten observances and endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 23 February 2020 : Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we are preparing for the coming of the penitential season Lent which will begin this Wednesday with the commemoration of Ash Wednesday, all of us are reminded in good time through our Scripture passages today, of the need for us as Christians to be faithful to God in the manner which He Himself had revealed to us and taught us through His Church, passed down through generations from the time of the Apostles.

The essence of our faith and how we ought to live our lives according to that same faith are at the centre of our Scripture reflection today, as we heard of the reminders from God for His people in the Book of Leviticus to be holy and good, loving and caring towards one another, and then followed by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful people of God in Corinth exhorting them to be loving and good, and to maintain the sanctity of their Temple of the Holy Spirit, and followed finally by the same reminder by the Lord Himself in our Gospel passage, to do exactly the same in our lives.

All of the readings spoke of the need of us mankind and people of God to show love for one another just as God has loved us, that each and every one of us may love our fellow brothers and sisters without making distinction or prejudices, and to show this love, care and concern in every moments of our lives. Beginning with the words we heard from our first reading today, taken from the Book of Leviticus, was an injunction and commandment from God to His people, telling them to be holy just as He is holy.

And the path to this holiness come from love, that the people ought to love and not hate, to be compassionate and not be filled with anger and jealousy, to show care and concern for others instead of being selfish and greedy. This is something that the Lord has given to His people in order to guide them in His ways, and to break free from their constant attachments and obsessions over selfish desires and worldly temptations of power, wealth, glory and fame among others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians all of us are called by the Lord to show love in everything we say and do, and in our Gospel today, the Lord Himself said that we should love even our enemies and show that love to those who hate us and persecute us. That is the measure of our Christian love, which is to love unconditionally and without prejudice, the same love which Our Lord Himself has shown to us in many occasions.

The Lord showed us all His love and mercy, and blessed all of us regardless of who we are, and He mentioned how God blessed all and let the sun shine and the rain to fall on everyone, be it that they were righteous or wicked. In the same way, we must remember how the Lord Jesus Himself loved every single one of us without any exception. It is easy for us to remember how He loved the sinners rejected by the society, like the tax collectors and the prostitutes, but it is difficult for us to remember how He has also loved even those people who persecuted Him and condemned Him to suffering and death.

Do you remember how Jesus forgave those who condemned Him to die even as He hung from the Cross? He prayed to His Father in heaven, saying, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing’ and He did not want to hold them accountable for what they have done out of their ignorance for the truth. In the end, Christ suffered and died on the Cross for everyone, including those chief priests, elders, Pharisees and all His enemies who had worked to condemn Him to such humiliation and death.

Indeed, it is not easy for us to love one another, less still to love even those who have hated us and persecuted us. But we must all realise how God created every single one of us out of love, and He loves each one of us regardless of our sins and our different natures and backgrounds. He recognises in all of us that there is good in each one of us because ultimately as all creation are, all of us have been created good and wonderful by God as described in the Book of Genesis, although tainted by sin.

Take for example, the Apostle St. Paul, a classic example of sinner turned saint. As Saul, in the early years of his life, Saul was not just a sinner but a great enemy of the Church and the faith, who caused countless and untold sufferings for many of the early Christian communities. As described in the Acts of the Apostles, in his blind obedience to the Law as a Pharisee and in misplaced and misguided zeal, he persecuted many Christians and brought many to prison and misery.

Yet, God called the same Saul to be His servant and to follow Him. Saul had a great change of heart and from a great and zealous enemy of the faithful, he became one of the greatest and most courageous defenders of the Christian faith and the champion of Christ, enduring many years of suffering, challenges, persecutions and trials himself. Here we can see the great power of God’s wonderful providence, how He showed us that even the worst of our enemies and the most despicable of men can even become a great saint.

This is no different for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. Each and every one of us are sinners, in our various ways of sins and disobedience against God. We are all delinquents, rebels and people who have been tainted by sin throughout our lives. And yet, many of us often like to compare with each other, be biased and prejudiced against one another, even thinking that we are better or more worthy than some others just because they seem to be more sinful and more wicked than we are.

This is where then divisions and conflicts came from, that we end up despising and hating one another, and from there, most un-Christian behaviours came from, even among us Christians. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have just discussed, God has called us to be loving and be filled with love for everyone, and yet, let us think, how many times have we, in our own lives, caused hurt to others just because we gossip about people, because we backstab people behind their back, betraying friends and relatives alike, and by doing things that cause suffering and pain for others just because it can satisfy us our desires and wants?

All of these are caused by the selfishness, greed and desire in us, and that is why, when we love others, it is often that we love because we have ulterior motives in our hearts. This is the most common kind of love that we see around us in the world today. We love because we desire something from the other person, and when we do not get what we wanted, that is when we end up bickering and disagreeing, and often times, disagreements are also caused by the times when our desires and wants, our pride and ego clashed with each other.

This is not the kind of Christian love that we are called to be witnesses of, brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, this is what we have often done daily, as it is indeed much easier for us to indulge in ourselves and to satisfy our selfish desires, as well as to get what we want rather than to give our love and to be generous, even when we have nothing in return. That is exactly what the Lord has done, that He loves each and every one of us so much that even when we are still sinners and rebels, rejecting His love and kindness, He loves us all nonetheless.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then respond to the Lord’s call for us to be more Christian-like in our way of life? It is by opening ourselves to God and His love, and allow God to transform our lives as we conduct our way of life in a manner that is more Christ-like, that when we were once filled with prejudice and bias against other people, let us realise that all of us are equal before God and that there is good in everyone. And while we were once filled with selfish desires and the temptations to satisfy ourselves, let us all learn to restrain ourselves and purge from ourselves unhealthy attachments and obsessions, that we may overcome this selfishness of ours, and learn to be more selfless like Christ.

And while we were once filled with selfish love, love that demands from other people, love that seek satisfaction of oneself and thinking of what we can gain from that love which we give, let us all now have a change of mindset and outlook, that when we love, instead of wondering of what we can gain and receive from the love and relationship, we think instead of what we can give into that relationship and love. For true, selfless and purest love is love that gives and still gives even without expecting any returns, as what Our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself had done.

Are we able to love one another in this way, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is the challenge that God has given us today that as we carry on living our lives from now on as Christians, we should be first of all, seek to be holy just as the Lord is holy, for we are His children and His people, and it is just right that we live in holiness as sons and daughters of God. But in order for us to be truly holy and good, then we need to embrace this pure Christian way of living and also Christian love, as we live our lives focusing not on our own personal desires and ambitions, but rather on glorifying God through our love for Him and also our love for our fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect on this matter and consider how we can, in each of our own distinctive and unique way of life, fulfil this calling of Our Lord in loving one another more sincerely and tenderly, showing true love from our hearts towards others, including even those who have hurt us, persecuted us and made our lives miserable, forgiving our enemies and seeing that even they are our brothers and sisters, whom God also loves just like us, and that there is indeed good in every man.

May the Lord be with us always, His blessed and holy people, that we may aspire and achieve this sanctity in life, through our following of the examples which Christ has set before us, the love that is selfless, pure and true. May God bless us all and our many good works, bless His Church and may He bless even those who hate us and are still opposed to us, that they too may have a change of heart and mind, and may experience God’s love through us. Amen.

Sunday, 16 February 2020 : Sixth 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 through the words of God in the Scriptures on the need for us to have true and genuine faith in God and to live righteously each and every moments of our lives in accordance with God’s laws and commandments. As Christians we are called to be role models in our faith and in our lives, to show by our actions and deeds, how we can be faithful to God.

From our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Sirach, we heard of the commandments and laws that God has given us mankind, and how we have to follow and obey these laws and commandments as are our obligations as those who believe in God to walk in His path and to live our lives as how He has taught and instructed us all to live them. Otherwise, our faith is empty, meaningless and dead, and we are no better than hypocrites who believe in one thing but act in a completely different, even contradictory manner.

And that is the essence of what we have just heard in our quite lengthy Gospel passage today, in which we heard the Lord Jesus going through with the people on the importance of having genuine faith in God and not being hypocrites as He used several examples to explain to them and to make them understand that their faith was truly more than just merely a formality or as something that was to be just taken lightly.

He used the examples comparing the actions of the Pharisees as at that time, the Pharisees who were then the intellectuals and the elites within the community, were those who often looked highly upon themselves and praised themselves for their piety and adherence to the laws and customs of Moses, while looking down on others whom they deemed to be inferior, unworthy and dirty, like the tax collectors, prostitutes, people with diseases and those possessed by demons, and the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people.

But they failed to realise that in their attitude and way of living their faith, they have placed way too much emphasis on the rituals and their details right to the most minute of details. Historically, the Pharisees placed a lot of attention and focus on how the laws of Moses were practiced and emphasised the details and the way the rites were to be practiced, for example, when cleansing the hands, the Pharisees would emphasise how the cleansing ought to be done a few times and right up through the whole arms up to the elbows, otherwise the cleansing and purification were not up to standard or valid.

And the Pharisees liked to trumpet their piety and observance of the laws and customs before others, doing their prayers publicly and wanting to be praised and seen by everyone. However, the Lord pointed out that many of them did not truly have genuine faith and love for God. For they loved their laws and customs in their rituals and details much more than the Lord Himself. The Law that God gave to us mankind was meant to lead us to Him and not to end up becoming a distraction.

That was why then the Lord went to explain using some other examples of how we, God’s people must truly have faith in God and not just look at the letter of the Law. To understand the Law just by its letters alone is not enough, as it is indeed possible for someone to carry on the words of the Law and the required actions, even without love and faith for God. But do those actions then justify us or benefit us in any way? Certainly not! For such actions, done by those who do not believe in what they have acted are indeed no different from the actions of hypocrites who do not act in the way they believe in.

Therefore the Lord presented to us a different path, showing us that we must indeed seek to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our strength, and with all of our efforts and intentions, just as the very first commandment of God in the Ten Commandments have been revealed to us. If we truly love God, with all of our heart and strength, then naturally we will try our best to keep ourselves pure and away from sin, and do our best to live in accordance with the Law of God.

When the Lord mentioned how in the law, those who murdered and killed committed a great sin against God, and how in truth, if we even have the intention to murder or are angry at someone, we have actually already committed a great sin, the Lord was actually revealing to us that sin begins with a desire in our hearts, through which we are tempted, and should we give in to that temptation, we will easily fall down that slippery slope of sin, into graver and even graver form of sin.

That is why He similarly brought out the sin of adultery and infidelity against one’s own spouse, in which that when someone already has a desire for someone else in his or her hearts and minds, and indulge in that desire, the sin has already trapped that person since that moment. Similarly, if we indulge in that desire and allow ourselves to be tempted, we will end up falling deeper and deeper into sin, more and more serious with time.

Those who placed a lot of emphasis on the letter of the law will fail to realise that as the Lord Himself said, that as long as we are unable to comprehend the spirit and meaning of the Law as He revealed and taught to the people, we will continue to fall into the trap of sin, and will have difficulty to love the Lord with genuine faith and obedience. The Pharisees focused so much on the details of the Law and the regulations that they became rigid and fail to appreciate what the Lord truly wants to do with us through His Law.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God has revealed to us through Christ, His Son, that He has given us His Law and commandments because of His infinite and ever-present love for each and every one of us. And it was because of this same love that we have been so blessed for having these laws and commandments that God has given us to guide us in our path so that we may find our way to Him and be saved. God gave us His laws to show us His love and guide us to Him, and not to burden us unnecessarily, unlike what the Pharisees and some others thought.

We are truly blessed to have received this wisdom and revelation, which as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church in Corinth, our second reading today, is part of God’s divine plan to bring us to His salvation. He has revealed to us the truth of His love through Christ, giving us this faith that we now have. Unfortunately, many of us as mentioned, did not appreciate this faith which we have, and we focus on the wrong things in life, that we end up focusing on the trivialities of rules and regulations and treating our faith as a formality rather than truly having a genuine faith and relationship with God.

It is time for us now to break free from this, brothers and sisters in Christ. It is time for us to turn once again to the Lord, Our God, with our every strength and capabilities, with our every attention and focus, that we truly live our lives from now on with a renewed spirit of faith. We are called to deepen our relationship with God and to embrace His love with all sincerity, knowing that He has loved us first so greatly that He gave us His Son, to suffer and die on the Cross for our sake, that we may live and not perish.

Let us all from now on no longer treat our Christian faith as a mere obligation or formality, and learn to live our lives with sincere desire to become ever closer to God, by our every words, actions and deeds that show that we truly belong to God, our Lord and Master. Let us all bring forth this as a witness of our faith, to spread the wonders of God’s love and truth in our respective communities and places, that many more people will be saved together with us.

May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us in our journey of faith in life, and may He strengthen us with courage and the zeal to carry on living our lives daily with faith despite all the challenges and temptations to do otherwise, that we may resist the temptation of vanity, pride and desire, so that we may truly have a genuine and living faith in us. May God bless us and our many good works, for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.