Sunday, 15 October 2017 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday through the readings we heard from the Sacred Scriptures we are brought to remember and to keep in mind of the love which God has for each and every one of us, and the generosity which He has shown us by the outpouring of His grace, by the guidance He has shown us, in leading us all on the right path towards Him.

For God is our Shepherd and Lord, He Who created us out of nothingness because of the great love He has for each and every one of us. Each one of us are like the sheep of the Lord, Who cares for us with tender care and love, and His guiding hands lead us on the right path towards Him. He will bless all those who are faithful to Him, and continue to love them forever. But all those who refuse to listen to Him and disregard Him, He will also reject.

For that is what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus spoke of the parable of the king and his wedding banquet or feast. He has invited people to come to his feast, where the best food and drinks, the finest wines and meat are overflowing, in line with what we also heard in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah as well as the Good Shepherd psalm. This feast is a representation of God’s love and grace for His people.

Yet, we heard how those guests refused to come to the banquet which the king had prepared for them. They ignored the servants of the king who were sent to them to inform them of the feast. Instead, they continued their daily businesses, doing their works and farms, and other sorts of occupations. Some of them even struck at the servants of the king, insulted them and killed some of them.

This was the behaviour of the people of Israel, to whom God had bestowed His favour and grace, as the people whom He first chose and called to be His own. Yet, they were easily distracted and tempted, and having forgotten about God, they turned into sin and fall into the darkness. They did not put the Lord as the priority in their lives, and instead, other idols became their priority, the idol of money, of worldly fame and glory, as well as many others.

That is why, all of us are called to turn away from our sins, and open wide our minds and hearts, that we may know what it is that the Lord wants us to do in our lives. But, we must also remember that whatever we have received from God, in His instructions and the truths He gave to us, we must make sure that we do not just listen to them superficially. Instead, we have to internalise the words and practice what we have been taught, actively in our respective lives.

Those who are willing to listen to the Lord, and walk in His ways will be granted the favour and grace from God, as God calls on all those who are still willing to follow Him. In the parable, the king sent his servants to call upon people on the streets and in the public places to fill up the banquet place, replacing all those who were originally invited and yet refused to come.

If we reject God, and refuse to obey Him, then even though God loves us, but because of our sins and rejection, it is we ourselves who have consciously rejected God’s love and spurned His offer of mercy and forgiveness. In the end, it was by our own actions that we have fallen into a state of condemnation. It is by our own choice that we have ended up falling into hell. We have to be consciously active in our faith to avoid this.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is also what the Lord meant when He mentioned in the parable of the case where a man was present in the wedding banquet without a wedding garment. We should not interpret this literally as if we do so, we will end up missing on the true purpose of this parable, that is to remind us as the people of God in how we should live our lives.

That means, all of us must be properly ‘clothed’ in our entire being, and not just our appearances only. When we come to the Lord, we must have the right reasons and the right predispositions. When we come to the Holy Mass, many of us are complaining about those who are skimpily dressed and not properly attired for the celebration of the Mass in the House of God, and yet, while this is important to ensure the compliance of the faithful to follow the regulations and standards of the Church in this matter, but we cannot overlook the even more important need to ‘clothe’ ourselves in our minds and in our hearts.

Coming for the celebration of the Holy Mass and participating in our faith, which is represented in the parable as the wedding banquet of the king, is important. Yet, attending the celebration is just one part of the entire experience. Let us ask ourselves these questions to reorientate ourselves properly. Have we ever been impatient when we came for the Holy Mass, thinking that it was a waste of time, because either the priest’s homily was too long or boring according to us?

And have we thought that coming for the Holy Mass is a chore, because we have to take time off from our usual activities outside the Church, and we cannot wait to return to continue our daily habits? If we have been doing all these, then we need to evaluate and reflect in our hearts again, whether God is the first priority in our lives, or whether it is instead money, possessions, pleasures of the flesh, prestige, fame and all other sorts of distractions that have kept us from having true and genuine faith in God?

What then, can we do as Christians in order to be appropriately ‘clothed’ for the Lord? It is by deepening our relationship with Him through prayer and devotion, by allowing Him to enter our lives and to take charge of all of our actions and deeds. And when we allow God to take charge of our lives, we will realise and experience a great transformation, as God has promised us His blessings and graces, His rich endowment and gifts. He will transform us from people filled now with sin, to be a people of the light.

Let us all therefore pray, and pray fervently that we may be able, and that we may have the necessary courage to follow the Lord wholeheartedly in all that we say and do. Let us all renew our commitment to the Lord, and follow Him from now on with the full sincerity of our hearts. May the Lord continue to bless us and watch over us, as we continue to live this lives of ours, every single day. Amen.

Sunday, 8 October 2017 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard the words of the Sacred Scriptures this Sunday, each and every one of us who gather together to give glory to God are reminded to lead a holy and good life, in accordance with what the Lord had taught us to do. We are called to be fruitful vines and bear rich and bountiful fruits for the Lord, and these fruits are the fruits of our faith.

In the first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people through His prophet Isaiah. The Lord spoke of how His people were His beautiful and precious vine, grown in His own vineyard. The Lord blessed the vineyard and took good care of it, but it only resulted in barren vines and bad quality grapes. And the Lord unleashed His wrath on the useless and unproductive vineyard, destroying it.

In what we have heard from this passage, we see that the aim for all of us as Christians is to be bountiful and fruitful. This is also the same recurring theme which the Lord Jesus often used in His teachings and parables. If we do not bear fruits, it is because we are lukewarm in how we have lived our faith, and we have not been truly faithful in our ways. We have also perhaps been compromising in many aspects of our faith, to the point that it leads us to sin.

As the Lord Jesus mentioned in another of His parables, that good trees and vines should produce good fruits and seeds, while bad and rotten fruits come only from bad and rotten trees, those that were poorly taken care of and were riddled with diseases. Therefore if we do not make the effort to keep ourselves spiritually well, we will end up becoming corrupted and wicked.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus showed us how many of us ended up falling for this same problem, as He spoke to the people, using the parable of the evil vineyard tenants as a method to show them, the dangers of the worldly temptations of power, greed and human desires.

The tenants of the vineyard had been entrusted with the care of the vines and the grapes, tending the vineyard in the absence of the master. Yet, when the master of the vineyard sent his servants to claim the master’s due from the tenants, the tenants refused to obey and even persecuted and killed the servants.

And when the master of the vineyard sent his son to collect the due from the tenants, similarly they also refused to obey him, and instead, hatching wicked plots in their minds, they struck at him and killed him. This was what Jesus had told the people, which was in fact a premonition of His own suffering and death, as the son mentioned in the parable refers to none other than Jesus Himself, the Son of God.

In that parable, we can see how God performs His loving mercy towards His people. Even though the evil and wicked tenants have repeatedly refused to listen and to obey to the master’s wish, that is to fulfil their obligations to pay him what was due for him, but the master still continued to send more and more servants, until ultimately he sent them his own beloved son.

Similarly, even though we have sinned and not obeyed His laws and commandments, but God is always willing to bring us back to obedience and faith. That is why the Lord sent us many of His prophets and messengers, and last of all, His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Who like the master’s son in the parable, was persecuted and put to death by those who rejected Him.

The Lord has always been willing to give us new chances, one after another. Yet, many of us continue to be stubborn and refused to listen to Him. We cling strongly to our greed, to our pride, our haughtiness and arrogance, to the point that we are unable to control ourselves and we spiral down the path of sin. Pride prevents us from recognising our defects and unworthiness before God, and thus the need for us to repent from our sins.

We have to remember that sin is the great disease of our souls. Even though we may seem to be healthy and without any problems from the outside, but sin corrupts and makes our entire being rotten and wicked. Sin is the cause of our downfall, which is our disobedience against God, and instead following the path that we prefer for ourselves, for our own selfish desires and wishes.

If we continue to sin, and walk down this path of rebellion, then that is when we become barren and unworthy in our faith lives. The fruits of our faith is love, compassion, hope, zeal, devotion and charity, and more, and all these are snuffed away by sin. Sin becomes a veil that prevents us from loving one another, and from showing genuine care and concern for our fellow brethren. And at the same time, it also dulls our senses, that we are no longer capable of distinguishing between deeds that are good from those that are bad.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask ourselves, do we want to be fruitful or barren vine? When the Lord comes, to claim all those who have been faithful to Him, thus bearing rich fruits, do we want to be counted among those whom He rejects because we have been found unworthy due to our rotten selves, through our sins and refusal to repent from our sinful ways?

Just as it is not an easy task to ensure that a grapevine or indeed any other crop to grow healthily from a mere seed or shoot, needing constant and long periods of care and attention, it will not be easy for us as Christians to live faithfully and to bear good quality of the fruits of our faith. Yet, if we choose the easier path out, offered by the devil who is constantly tempting us with worldly glories and temptations, then the outcome will be dire for us.

We need to learn to step out from our comfort zone, and nurture that seed of faith which the Lord had planted in each and every one of us. We need to do this by practicing our faith actively, through deeds and actions, and not just by words or formality alone. And that means, whenever we see anyone around us who are unloved, or even persecuted and in suffering, we should do our very best to help them, and to show compassion to them.

Let us all therefore, from now on, devote ourselves anew to God, and renew the commitment to live faithfully every single day of our lives, that we may grow ever more fruitful in our actions, based on our sincere and genuine faith in God. There will indeed be challenges, temptations and even opposition, but we cannot give up, for what is at stake is nothing less than the fate and salvation of our souls.

May the Lord continue to guide us on the path to His salvation and grace. May He empower each and every one of us to live as how the Lord wants us to be, and be ever more fruitful in this life, so that we will not follow the path of the wicked tenants, but instead, be loyal and good servants of our God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 1 October 2017 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we heard the Word of God from the Sacred Scriptures, speaking to us about doing the will of God and obeying Him, in all the things we say and we do, following the examples of none other but the Lord Jesus Himself, as the example of perfect obedience. All of us as Christians have to devote ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly, and be righteous in all of our deeds.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, God reminded His people that it was not based on our status or prejudices that we are being judged or will be judged by Him. Rather, it is by our every actions that we will be judged by the Lord. For our every righteous deeds we do, we shall be judged to be worthy of God, while for every wicked and sinful deeds we do, we shall be judged to be unworthy of God and instead worthy of condemnation.

Even if the righteous were to commit sins and wickedness, they shall be judged on the accord of their righteous actions and their sins. Should their sins outweighs their righteous deeds, and their faith be found wanting in the presence of God, they will be condemned like all the other sinners. Equally, should the wicked and great sinners commit what is good and righteous, and their good deeds and righteousness be found worthy over all the wickedness they have committed, they may be considered worthy of God’s glory, and that is also why many souls are now in purgatory.

That was precisely what the Lord Jesus also alluded to in His parable to the people, telling them about two sons who said and did differently to his father’s will and orders. One son who voiced out his obedience to the father’s orders, and yet did not do as he had said, and another son who objected and made excuses against the orders, but in the end, did what the father wanted him to do. The son who actually did what the father wanted him to do, is the one who is righteous in the end.

That means, the readings today presented each and every one of us with both a warning and an opportunity each. The passages warned us that should we be lax in the practice of our faith, even those who are good and pious may end up falling into temptations and sins, and through those sins and scandals, they will end up being condemned instead of attaining salvation as they should have.

On the other hand, an opportunity has also been given to all of us, who are sinners and wicked people, to forge for ourselves a new pathway to God, to turn back on our sins and to be righteous, that through our sincere repentance and desire to be forgiven, all of us may be forgiven and be absolved from our sins, for Christ had died for all of us on the cross, and by His loving sacrifice, He has offered each and every one of us the forgiveness for our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is often that many of us find this difficult to be done, especially because we encounter many temptations of this world, the temptations to do what we want in life, to do what is easier to be done, what is more convenient for us, rather than to obey the Lord and to follow what His will is for each and every one of us. We tend to take it easy and follow the easier path, and in many of our actions, we often think of the potential profits and benefits for ourselves.

But that is not the path we should be taking, brethren. We may think the path of the Lord is a tough and challenging one, but in the end, through our perseverance and righteousness, we will gain honour and eternal glory from our God, Who sees and knows all that we say and do. And by doing all that He wants each one of us to do, with full sincerity and desire to love Him, we will gain true righteousness and grace from God.

Let us all follow the examples of the holy saint whose feast we celebrate on this day, the saint whose life is an inspiration for each one of us on how we should be good in our lives and be obedient to God’s will. St. Therese of the Child Jesus or St. Therese of Lisieux was a renowned saint, most famously known as the ‘The Little Flower of Jesus’, and in the ‘Little Way’ she propagated.

St. Therese was a sickly young girl who encountered great difficulties early on in her life, having had to constantly grapple with her frail health and physique. Yet, her piety and devotion to God had been noted from a very early age, and as she grew in age, her piety and commitment to God only grew stronger. She experienced many amazing experiences of faith and moments of closeness with God, and wanted to join the Carmelites religious order.

She encountered many difficulties and challenges in entering the congregation, but eventually she was accepted as a Carmelite nun. She wrote extensively and lived a very pious life centred in strong devotion to God. She discovered the ‘Little Way’, in which she explained that she would get to Heaven by the little way, short and straight, through which by little and simple actions, we may discover the path to sanctity.

Many of us think that in order to be good and righteous we have to do great things in order to receive sanctity and approval from God. Yet, that is not true, as St. Therese of Lisieux showed us that even little and seemingly insignificant actions made based on faith, and with full sincerity, will have massive impact altogether towards our salvation and grace. What matters is that we do them sincerely, and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to God.

It is important that we do our deeds out of devotion to God, and not to seek human praise and approval. What will be the benefit for us, if we do what God wants us to do, but because we want to be praised by others, and not for the right intentions? Is that not vanity instead? And the pampering of our human ego and greed for fame? Rather, we should be humble, to be as little and meaningless as possible, so that in our humility and love for God, God may uplift us and glorify us in the end.

Ultimately, we should see the examples of the Lord Jesus Himself, Whom in the second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians mentioned as the One Who had obeyed perfectly the will of His Father, despite the great difficulties, pain and suffering that would have caused Him. He was tempted by the devil three times in the desert, in the pursuit of human and worldly glory, but He resisted all of them.

He was also tempted to abandon His mission as He prayed in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before His Passion, suffering and death. But He accepted willingly and completely what God His Father has planned for Him and for all mankind, with the words ‘Let Your will be done and not Mine.’ This is the kind of faith and commitment that all of us Christians are called to make, following the example of Christ Himself.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, in conclusion, all of us must make the conscious effort to avoid sin and to repent wholeheartedly and sincerely from all the wicked and unfaithful actions we have done in our lives, for just as small and little acts of faith can bring us on the way to Heaven, even a small little sin can become a great obstacle to our salvation.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of the holy saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, and follow her ‘Little Way’ on our way to the Lord, doing whatever we can, even in small little things we can do in our daily lives, by caring for the needy, by showing love for our fellow brethren, and by forgiving those who have wronged us and caused us discomfort. Let us not keep grudges against one another, but follow the example of Christ, Who forgave His enemies and prayed for their sake.

Let us also follow the Lord Jesus and His example in His perfect obedience to the will of God His Father. Let us pray to God, with this prayer : ‘Lord, I know that I am a sinner and I am unworthy of You, but guide me so that I may not fall any further into the way of sin, but through the Little Way of Your holy saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, and through the perfect obedience of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, we may find the most straight and surest path to You. May we be made worthy through our actions, all made out of our love for You, and out of our love for our brothers and sisters. Amen.’

Sunday, 24 September 2017 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of God through the Scriptures speaking to us about the importance for us to put the Lord above ourselves, that we should not forget of His love and kindness, all the days of our life. All of these have been shown to us through the readings we have just heard, and we should spend some time to reflect on them.

First of all, we listened to the Gospel passage today in which Jesus told His disciples the parable of the workers of the vineyard, who were employed by the master of the vineyard, gathering them from the streets and employing them to work at his vineyard for a wage promised to them. And each and every one of them were paid a silver coin regardless of the time when they started working for the day. Some of the men started working early in the day while others only in the last hour.

The men who started working earlier in the day complained against the master of the vineyard, alleging that they should have been paid more, since they have laboured much more and harder than those who just worked barely an hour at the last hour when the master got the last of those whom he called to work in his vineyard. They thought that it was unfair for those people to get the same amount for the lesser amount of work they have done.

But the master of the vineyard rebuked the workers who grumbled and complained, saying that the amount of wage had been agreed with them beforehand, and as he was the master of the vineyard and the employer, it was also his right to decide what to give as a fair and just compensation for the employees. In reality, as we heard this story, we are actually looking at the story of mankind itself.

In that parable, the workers represent each and every one of us, the people of God, whom He had called from the world, and into His vineyard, that represents His Church and His kingdom. The master of the harvest is God Himself, Who called all of us mankind to follow Him and to become His disciples. Those who came to work earlier are those who have been called by God earlier, and have received the promise of His salvation earlier, with the pay being the salvation promised to us.

Meanwhile, those who came later and those who came on the last hour are those who the Lord eventually managed to call into His embrace, after long period of waiting and searching. They might have taken a different path and time to come to the Lord, but nonetheless, all of them are promised the same gift, that is the gift of salvation and eternal life.

What is then, the meaning of today’s readings? It is a reminder to each one of us that as Christians we must always be concerned about others, be caring and loving towards others, be selfless and humble, and be obedient towards God, and not to be selfish and haughty. What we have heard in the Gospel, is the animosity that the workers who came earlier had on the latter workers, because they thought that their labours made them to deserve more pay.

In the end, everything was about the self, the ego, and the desire that we have to please ourselves, to satisfy ourselves, and to fulfil our wants and wishes. That is our way, the way that we are familiar with, but not the way that God wants each one of us as Christians to follow in our lives. In the first reading today, the prophet Isaiah mentioned in his book, that our ways are not God’s ways, and His ways are far greater than ours, and His thoughts are different from our thoughts.

It is this same message which in our second reading today, St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, about the choice that we must make in life, between following our human desires and wants, or following God’s ways and will. We may even be torn between the two choices, and coerced or pressurised to do what the world wants us to do. Yet, as Christians all of us must persevere through these and stand up for our faith.

Are we able to overcome the desire to be pampered and the sense of privilege and the desire to be satisfied? Are we able to get rid of our greed for money and the wish to be rewarded for our work? Many of us tend to look down on others whom we deem to be less holy and not as good as us, and we tend to despise them and even become angry when they were counted among us the faithful, because we think that we deserve better than that.

And that is because we think and act in terms of the world, in terms of our own standards and ways. But we often forget that God does not work upon the same way and standard as ours, as He does not differentiate us based on how much we have done, and how great we have become in the sight of this world, but rather, whether each one of us have that genuine love and commitment to Him, from our hearts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listen to these words of the Scripture and the reminders given to us by the Church, let us all strive to become what the Lord had wanted us to be, that is to become smaller in our pride and instead become greater in our humility. The more devout and faithful we are to the Lord, the more humble we should become, and the more love we should show, not just for the Lord but also for our fellow brethren, especially those who are still in the darkness and have not yet heard of the Lord’s salvation.

Therefore, let us all rejoice whenever the Lord brings one of our brothers and sisters to salvation through His Church. Let us welcome them with love and care, compassion and mercy, and let us also not become obstacles in the works of God’s love, but instead give our very best to help those who are still separated from God’s love, that they too may be saved, and together we may give glory to God forevermore. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 17 September 2017 : Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we heard the Scriptures telling us what God wants from each and every one of us Christians, that all of us who believe in Him and therefore, are Christians, must be filled with forgiveness, the readiness and willingness to forgive, and to let go of the anger in our hearts and minds, and forgive those who have slighted us, caused us pain, suffering or sorrow.

That is the essence of what we have heard from the Scripture passages this Sunday, beginning with what we heard from our first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Sirach. In that passage, grudge and wrath were mentioned as the two major obstacles for all of us in seeking God’s pardon and forgiveness. That is because when we are filled with grudge and wrath, anger and hatred against another, then we cannot be forgiven ourselves, since we ourselves have not forgiven those who have wronged us.

It is in our human nature to bear grudges against another, hatred and jealousy towards those whom we perceive to be better than us, to be more privileged than us, to be more fortunate than us. We are easily angered by those who have caused us pain, suffering, harm or loss of face, and there are many, many reasons for us to hate others and to have revenge on what we have been slighted or discomforted with.

Yet, it is far more difficult for us to forgive others, to let go of the anger and all the emotions pent up within us. It is much more difficult for us to keep ourselves cool and to be able to embrace our enemies, and all those whom we dislike. But as Christians, in truth, all of us are challenged to do so, as the Lord Himself taught us that the way forward for us, is to learn to forgive one another.

Do you know why is it that we find it so difficult to forgive? That is because we are often too full of ourselves, too selfish and too filled up with our ego, that we cannot bear to make ourselves to forgive those who have wronged us, or even to seek to be forgiven. It is our pride that has become our undoing, because we have allowed pride to blind us and to prevent us from seeing and understanding the love of God.

We feel entitled in our lives, and we often feel that we have the right to demand justice and to have people begging forgiveness from us, just because we feel that we are wrongly treated or that we do not get what it is that we wanted. Yet, how can we be forgiven, if we ourselves do not open ourselves, our minds and our hearts to forgive others?

In the Epistle or the second reading today, we heard St. Paul telling the faithful and the members of the Church in Rome, that all of us, each and every one of us belong to the Lord, and all of our lives belong to Him alone. We live for Him, and our existence is thanks to Him alone. Without His grace and blessings, and His love for each and every one of us, we would not have existed at all.

And yet, many of us place far greater importance on ourselves instead of the Lord. We are often so focused on ourselves, that we forget that it was, in the first place that by the grace and mercy of God, that we have been able to live in this world. That is because, as what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, God, our Lord and Master, have forgiven us all our debts, our mistakes and shortcomings, as represented by the Lord Jesus in His parable.

In that parable, Jesus spoke of a servant who owed his master a lot of money, ten thousand pieces of gold in fact. The master wanted to punish the servant, threw him into slavery with all of his belongings and family, but when the servant frantically begged to be given a second chance before the master, the master had pity on him and forgave him from all of his debts, his entire huge debt of ten thousand gold pieces and more.

Yet, we heard then that the same servant, upon being released from the bondage and the great burden he had, turned onto another servant who owed him money, a sum far smaller than what the servant owed the master. The servant refused to listen to the pleas made by the servant who owed him small amount of money, and put the latter into prison.

This upset the other servants who reported the case to the master, who was angry at the servant whom he had forgiven from his debts. The master then sent the servant to be punished even more and demanded from him to be punished according to his original debts, where he would remain in prison and suffered whatever fate that was originally intended for him.

In this parable, the master is the Lord our God, while the servants represent each and every one of us, God’s people. And indeed, all of us have great debts that we owe to the Lord, and this debt is none other than the multitudes of our sins, all the wickedness we have committed in life. And as the master had had mercy on the servant, forgiving him the entirety of his huge debt, so has our Lord forgiven us the great burden of the multitudes of our sins, because He loves each and every one of us.

Yet, if we refuse to forgive others, and choose instead to be obstinate and succumbing to our ego, placing ourselves ahead of the others, trying to satisfy our desires and wants, keeping anger and hatred stoked against our brethren, then we will end up being the same as the servant who had been forgiven and yet refused to forgive his fellow servant.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time to reflect on this, even as we remember how we have treated each other all these while. Let us think about all the times we have been angry against our brothers and sisters over various matters, be it over money, over other forms of worldly possessions, over fame, influence, glory and many other things that we consider to be precious. Yet, despite all of our anger, hatred, jealousy and bitterness, do we realise that all the things that made us to be angry, to be filled with hatred, jealousy and bitterness, are nothing to the extent of our sins against the Lord?

Do we realise that our faults against each other are but like a pinch of sand amidst the entire huge desert, or like a small cup of water against the entirety of the world’s oceans, representing all the faults, mistakes, all of our shortcomings and the debts of disobedience that we owe the Lord our God? And yet, He forgave us our sins, while He could have just willed us to be destroyed and annihilated for our sins.

And at the same time, He forgave us through the most loving and selfless acts of all time, by His assumption of the human flesh, becoming one like us, so that through the Divine Word made Man, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, He died on the cross for us, bearing the heavy burdens of our sins and trespasses upon Himself, so that we may not perish because of those sins, but live in the renewed grace of God, which He willingly bestows on those who repent from their sins and desire to be reconciled with Him.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, the cross is the ultimate price which the Lord had paid for our sake, out of His everlasting love for us, His mercy and compassion for us sinners. If He had forgiven our sins, so great and so terrible they were, then should we not have done the same as well to our fellow brothers and sisters? Shall we not forgive those who have wronged us, because ultimately we ourselves may have wronged them?

Let us all, as Christians, truly mean it whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer, and not just utter the words without truly understanding, appreciating and meaning them. Do we mean it when we pray to the Lord, asking Him to ‘forgive us our trespasses, just as we forgive those who trespassed against us?’ We often focus too much on the first half, expecting to be forgiven from our sins, and yet, we forget to do what is necessary in the first place.

In that prayer of supplication to God, it is clear that we ourselves must first forgive those who have slighted and wronged us, before we are even worthy to be forgiven from our own sins. Let us all not walk in the same path as the servant who refused to forgive the other servant while he himself had been forgiven. Let us all instead take up the challenge to become true Christians in spirit and in deed, by being forgiving, merciful and compassionate towards one another in all things.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our lives, that we may be ever like Him, loving, compassionate and ever ready to forgive those who desire to change their ways and repent from their sins. May God be with us all in our endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 10 September 2017 : Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us heard from the Scriptures about the importance for each one of us as Christians to be good listeners, and to pay close attention to what the Lord had taught us, that we will not fall into the temptations of the devil, and that we will be able to live harmoniously and in peace with one another.

This is important because each and every one of us make up the living Body of Christ, the Church. And in the ages past, and even until today, disagreements and lack of peace and harmony among the faithful has become a great source of sorrow for the Lord and for all of us. We have witnessed so many periods of disunity and divisions to the Church because of the falsehoods and the heresies that the devil had struck the Church with, tempting its members to deviate away from the Lord and His truth.

Divisions in the Church has happened many times, and it is often due to the disagreements coming from personal preferences and ego, the pride and ambition of the members of the Church who refused to let go of their ego that they might listen to the voice of reason and the truth as espoused in the teachings of the Church. Instead, we saw how many people broke away from the Church over their disagreements.

Many people refused to listen to reason, and they closed their hearts and minds to the words of truth, because they felt that their way and their thoughts, opinions and methods alone were correct and others were wrong. That was exactly how and why the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law refused to believe in Jesus, as they were adamant in keeping their beliefs about the laws of Moses, and to them, Jesus and His teachings were unacceptable.

That was how many of the people embraced heresies and went into open rebellion against the teachings of the Lord in His Church, and even decided to make their own ‘churches’, as splinters being forcefully torn apart from the holy Body of Christ, His Church. Yet, from time to time again, the Lord and His Church prevailed, and all those who tried to impose their falsehoods on the faithful faltered, because God was not with them.

How should we handle these matters then, brothers and sisters in Christ? First of all, if we refer back to what we have heard in the Gospel passage today, we will see that violence or anger is not the way for us to adopt, as none of these will end up in good results. As I have just mentioned, one of the main reasons why the divisions and disagreements have occurred was because of the stubbornness and the ego of the parties involved, that they refused to listen to the reason and the truth.

If we ourselves also end up being filled with anger, violence and hatred against others simply because they disagree with us or because they believe in falsehoods of the devil and in the heresies mentioned, then it may be difficult for us to reconcile our differences and for us to show them the way to the truth of God. Instead, as what the Gospel has shown us, we should seek to communicate and have dialogue with the ones involved, through prayer and seeking guidance from the Lord.

Why is that so? That is because it is easy for us to lose ourselves to our emotions, anger and hatred if we do not let God to take charge of our actions. We should open our hearts first and listen to the Lord, asking Him what is His will for us, and how we should proceed forward, especially when dealing with those who disagree with us, or with those who espouse the false teachings and ways of heresy. That is why I emphasised earlier on the importance of listening, and not just listening, but attentive listening in all of us.

Many of us are too ready and willing to shout out our ideas and proposals, our suggestions and demands, and yet we are not ready to allow our ears and our minds to listen to what others have to say. And if we are not even able to listen to what others are saying, how can we then convince them to listen to us? How can we convince them to believe in our true faith if we do not lend them a listening ear and mind first?

I am not saying that we should compromise on our faith or allow those who have fallen into heresy to continue in their sinful ways, as that is in itself a great sin, for then we will not just end up condemning them to the fires of hell, but also ourselves for having failed to help them and by compromising our faith. Rather, what we all need to do is to show an open-minded and welcoming attitude, and through that, to bring everyone to the invitation to prayer and discernment.

That is also how we ought to resolve the disagreements that will surely come up from time to time amongst the different members in the Church, between the priests and priests, between the priests and the laity, and amongst the laity themselves. As Jesus Himself said that, when two or more are gathered together in His Name, He Himself will come among them and be with them. How can we go wrong if God is with us, and His Spirit gave us His wisdom?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time today to think through carefully about how we have lived our lives thus far, and how we have acted in our dealings with one another. Have we thus far acted with pride and ego in our actions, and have we refused to listen to the words of others but instead being stubborn and unreasonable?

Can we heed what the Lord had told us all through the Scriptures? Shall we all restrain our ego, our pride, and the desire to be the first and the greatest in everything? Let us all also learn from the examples of our Lord Jesus Himself, Who even though He was the Almighty God and King of all kings, but He willingly lowered Himself and came upon us, that He might serve us His people and show His everlasting love.

Shall we all overcome our innate reluctance and unwillingness to be attentive listeners and open our minds and hearts to others? Shall we then do our best to bring together all the scattered children of God, all those who have been separated from God’s loving Church, by welcoming them back with love and compassion, and by gathering them to the Lord in prayer, by showing them through our own examples, that in prayer, they may come to realise the errors of their ways and come back to the Lord in repentance?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all do our very best from now on, that we may be able to listen to God as well to listen to our brethren, let us all throw far, far away all forms of ego and pride, all the things that have become obstacles on our path, all that have caused divisions and disagreements among the faithful people of God. Let us all reject all that Satan was trying to do in order to detract us and to snatch us away from God’s salvation.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He give us the strength and the courage to do His will, to surrender ourselves to what He wants us to be, and to be faithful disciples, who are concerned about our brethren, especially those who have fallen away from the path towards God’s salvation. Let us all be good and attentive listeners while at the same time being good evangelisers, through our gentle and loving actions showing the truth about God.

May the Lord bless us all and every endeavour we make, that eventually all the faithful people of God may be united together once again in His Church, without any more divisions or disagreements. May He continue to guide His Church and empower all of its members to always walk faithfully in His ways. Amen.

Sunday, 3 September 2017 : Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday readings we heard of the reminder that as Christians, all of us must carry our crosses in life and follow the Lord in our respective journeys of faith. We cannot be idle or be ignorant of our obligations, that we have to endure challenges, difficulties and even persecutions as those who believe in God. That was what the Lord Jesus told to His disciples as He foretold His own Passion, suffering and death on the cross, as He would be condemned by His enemies.

In that passage we heard, Jesus clearly told His disciples upfront of what was going to happen to Him, and how the chief priests and the Pharisees would arrest Him and made Him to suffer, endure the torture and humiliations, until His death on the cross, but at the same time, He also revealed the truth about His upcoming glorious resurrection from the dead, in which He would be triumphant over death and evil.

But His disciples were dismayed at what He had said before them, and they refused to believe that it was true, particularly St. Peter, who took Him aside and even berated Him for having said such things. Yet, the Lord Jesus rebuked St. Peter and warned of Satan’s influence, tempting Jesus not to proceed with His plan of salvation. Such was what Satan usually used to tempt us to break away from the way of the Lord, that is by manipulating our fears and our natural selfishness.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we mankind are by our nature, prideful, filled with ego and the desire to protect ourselves first before anything else. It is our nature, and our world’s customary ways that we should seek our own personal advancement and glory before we even care to look at others. And that is what the devil has been tempting us to do since the very beginning, to seek the greater glory for ourselves, and not that of God.

And Satan has done it through the world, by the force of persuasion and pressure, for us to conform to his way, and not the way of the Lord. In the second reading today, in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, St. Paul begged the people of God to live righteously and faithfully in accordance with the ways of the Lord, and not to give in to the world’s demands, that they would not be shaped by the world they lived in, but instead be shaped by the Lord’s ways.

This is therefore the challenge which the Lord presented to us all, Christians who live in this world today. Are we able to resist the temptations of the devil through this world, the temptation to satisfy our personal needs and desires, our ego and pride, our greed and all that have become barriers in our relationship with God? Are we able to dedicate ourselves to God in the manner that our Lord Jesus Himself had done, and as His Apostles and many other holy saints had done?

It is easy for many of us to forget about our priorities in life, when we are inundated with so many worldliness, with so many busy schedules and work, in our daily commitments, in all the things we do in our lives, and we end up being engrossed in our pursuit, for power, for wealth and possessions, for recognition and fame in our society and amongst our friends, for pleasures in various kinds and types, to satisfy our needs and desires.

But if we ask ourselves, what is the purpose and meaning behind all of that? How will gaining all of those things benefit us in the end? We human beings are by our nature very difficult to be satisfied, and no sooner that we have gained what we want, we will start to crave for more of what we have received. That is our natural human greed, the temptation of Satan to please ourselves and to satisfy our needs and our ego.

We have to realise that no matter how much wealth we accumulate, how great power and authority we gather for ourselves, how much fame we attain, how great a prestige and honour we have received, and how mighty we are in the sight of the people of the world, none of this will be carried by us over to the world that is to come, when we meet the moment of our death and the time for us to render the account of our lives to the One Who will judge us, that is God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we have been so busy trying to preserve ourselves and attain our selfish desires, ahead that of serving the will of God, then in the end, there will be nothing for us to gain, but death, condemnation and eternal suffering. For God will reject all those who have not obeyed His commandments, all those who gave in to the temptations of the devil and all forms of worldliness, and consider them to be outcasts.

And the Lord Jesus Himself showed us the perfect example of obedience to the will of God, as even though He knew that He would have to endure great sufferings, pains and even death on the cross, for the sake of the people, many of whom did not even recognise His work among them, and even though He knew that He would die for the sake of sinners who were often tempted to fall again and again into sin, Jesus went on regardless.

Jesus was also tempted by Satan, who tempted Him to turn the stone into bread when He was hungry during His forty days of fasting, and then, he also asked Him to fall from the top of the Temple in Jerusalem, so that the Angels might lift Him up and all the peoples who saw Him might praise His miraculous deeds. And lastly, we know how the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms and the grandeurs of the entire world, trying to persuade the Lord to abandon His mission. But Jesus did not give up.

All of these should bring us to the realisation that for each of us Christians, the path forward is not necessarily an easy one. And there will be challenges, opposition and temptations that we will face, pressuring us to give up the faith. And we will face those pressures both from outside, from even our friends and families, as well as from within. Now the question is that, are we able to handle those pressures? Are we able to turn away from our pride, ego, greed and all the temptations of the world?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us Christians are not truly faithful to the Lord, and that is why we easily fall into temptation, because our relationship with Him is not strong. We are often too distracted by the business of our lives, that we end up forgetting about God and getting more and more distant from Him. This is not what each of us should be doing. Remember, brethren, that the devil is always active trying to snatch us away from God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, remembering this fact, let us all, each and every one of us Christians pray for strength, that we will be able to persevere through the challenges and difficulties we will encounter, and indeed have encountered in our journey of faith. Let us all spend more of our time to do what the Lord had asked us to do, to love our fellow brethren, to be generous in giving our time and attention to those who are less fortunate than us, rather than being preoccupied with our own selfish needs and desires.

Let us all seek God through our actions, and let us draw closer to Him, knowing that it is in Him alone that we will gain true and complete satisfaction in life, and not in the false promises and the pleasures offered to us by Satan or his allies. Let us carry together our crosses in life with faith, always trying our best to remain strong in faith and generous in love, that God will always bless us and that He will bring us all into His eternal kingdom. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.