Thursday, 20 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Most Holy and Most Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, also known as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, a great day and occasion dedicated to one of the most important central tenets of our Christian faith, in our belief and firm conviction that God Himself has given us His own Precious Body and His own Precious Blood to be partaken.

We believe that in the celebration of the Holy Mass, or more appropriately, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest minister as the representation of Christ Himself, acting in persona Christi, unites the offerings of the bread and wine made at the Offertory with the offerings that Christ Himself had made to His heavenly Father as our one and true Eternal High Priest from the Altar of His Cross at Calvary.

The bread and wine themselves have been completely and fundamentally transformed into the essence and material of the Lord’s Body and Blood Himself, in what is known as the Transubstantiation. Therefore, while the bread and the wine themselves still appear to be the appearance and texture of bread and wine, but the moment they are consecrated by the priest they become completely and truly the matter and the essence of the Lord’s own Body and Blood.

There are those who doubted the veracity and truth behind this seemingly mysterious and otherworldly transformation, as by our eyes and senses, by the appearance and by the taste and texture, the bread and wine seemingly remain unchanged as they were. However, this is where our faith is essential and necessary, because we truly believe that each and every one of our priests, moulded and ordained in the same order of priesthood as Christ is, and representing Christ Himself, has truly been given the power and authority to turn the bread and wine into Our Lord’s Body and Blood.

The Lord Himself made it clear in one occasion as He taught the people about Himself as the Bread of Life, the Living Bread Who has come down from heaven to the midst of His people, to give them the true Bread by which all of those who partake in this Bread will never hunger again and will have a share in the eternal life promised to all those who have received this Bread worthily and with faith.

He was not just mentioning this Bread of Life randomly at that occasion without reason. In fact, He was referring to His very own Flesh and Body, His own Blood as He made that teaching to the people. The Lord speaks only the truth, and therefore, how can the Lord bluff or lie to the people about His own Body when He spoke of it then? He spoke of His own Body as real Food, to be partaken by His people, His faithful ones.

And in today’s Gospel passage, we heard yet another occasion in the Gospel, when the Lord miraculously provided for the need of His people, in feeding the five thousand men and countless other women and children when they were hungry and without food, giving them bread and fishes to eat, out of merely five loaves of bread and two fishes that were available. This occasion was in fact a prefigurement and premonition of what was to come in the Sacrifice of the Cross, though the people then did not know it as yet.

As the Lord offered the bread and the fishes and giving thanks to His heavenly Father, He was representing His own upcoming sacrifice, in which He offered Himself instead as the perfect offering for the oblation and atonement of all of our sins. In the olden days, lambs and other animals were used in sacrifices according to the Jewish laws and customs to be the sin offerings to atone temporarily for one’s sins.

And in the time of the Passover, if we remember, the people chose a young, unblemished lamb to be slaughtered and as a sign of God’s providence and salvation, with the blood of the lamb being smeared and placed on the doorposts of the houses of the people of Israel, as sign for God’s Angels to ‘pass over’ them as they scourged the whole land of Egypt for the firstborn sons of the Egyptians.

Therefore, at the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Holy Sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross, we mark our new Christian Passover, in which a new Covenant had been made by God to be binding between Him and all of us. He offered not the imperfect offerings of lambs and animals of this world, but His own Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood, as He was ‘slaughtered’ on the Cross for the crimes that His enemies had charged on Him.

He laid down Himself and offered His Body and Blood as the perfect sacrifice and offering before God, on the Cross which is His Altar. He is our Paschal Lamb by Whose Blood we have been marked as those who are faithful and worthy to be saved from eternal damnation and destruction because of our sins. By His Most Precious Blood, if we refer to the Book of the Revelations of St. John, the holy martyrs have been washed and made clean in their own outpouring of their blood, and thus, we too are made clean by His Blood.

The Lord Himself has given His all for our sake, laying down His own life and giving His own Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood for us all to partake, in that same Sacrifice at Calvary, to which each and every celebrations of our Holy Mass are united to, not as separate and different sacrifices as some would have misunderstood it, thinking that the Lord is being sacrificed and offered again and again, but in fact, the truth is every time the Eucharist is celebrated, it is the same Sacrifice of Our Lord at Calvary again.

And this is what we truly believe, that God Himself has truly become present in our midst, in the form of His own Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and therefore, He is truly and really present in that Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist we receive and partake, a Holy Communion that each and every one of us members of the Church share with one another, and that is why we become the part of the Church, the Body of Christ.

If God Himself has come into our midst and entered into our bodies as we receive Him, then it is of the utmost importance that we understand what this means for us, and how we live our lives from now on, or else we scandalise our own faith and God by our unworthiness and by our own actions that are against His ways. What do I mean by this? I mean that if we believe that the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist then we will do our very best to make sure that we are properly prepared and worthy to receive Him.

Of course this must be understood also in the context that the Lord also seeks to gather all those who have been lost to Him, in extending His mercy and forgiveness to those who have sinned, and the Eucharist is one way that this reconciliation has been made in full. Yet, if one is to receive the Eucharist, the Most Precious and Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord in a state of continuing sin, then it is also a scandal to our faith.

We have to be properly predisposed and be prepared to receive Him into ourselves. And we do not have to look far but see how in the liturgical celebrations, we do our very best in everything, to make use of the finest and greatest materials to contain the most Precious matter of God’s Body and Blood, using only precious and incorruptible materials such as gold and silver for the chalices and ciborium used to contain the Sacred Host and Blood of the Lord.

And the Tabernacle housing the Lord’s Presence in that same Eucharist is also made using the finest materials, in a way comparable to that of the Temple of God in Jerusalem at the time of Solomon, where everything that is finest and good were used to adorn the whole Temple, with the Ark of the Covenant being the most precious of all, made using gold and finest materials, and so holy that no one was allowed to touch it.

Then, we know of an even better Tabernacle, the one who had contained the Lord Himself for nine months in her womb, and she is none other than Mary, Our Lord’s own Mother, who had borne our Lord and Saviour in her, and for this very purpose, the Lord made her, as the finest Tabernacle, not crafted by human hands unlike our chalices, ciborium, Tabernacles or the Temple of God in Jerusalem, but the perfect and unblemished human being, not tainted by the corruption of original sin, Mary, conceived and born without sin.

God did so much to prepare His own Mother to bear His holy and most sacred Presence in her, to show that when God is truly present in our midst, there can be nothing less than doing our best just as He has done His best, to bear His Presence, for nothing evil and wicked can truly exist in His Presence and survive. In the same way therefore, do we realise that when we receive the Lord into ourselves through the Eucharist, we too have become the Tabernacles and Temples of God’s own Presence?

St. Paul spoke of this, how by receiving the Lord into ourselves we have made ourselves into Living Temples, the Temples of His Presence and the Temples of the Holy Spirit. And if we sully the sanctity of this Holy Temple, that is our body, heart, mind and soul with the corruption of sin, it is indeed a great sin and wickedness we have committed against God Himself. That is why, as Christians, we are called to be worthy and to be ready to welcome the Lord’s Holy Presence into ourselves.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where and when we are called to recommit ourselves in our faith, to live in accordance with our faith again if we have fallen away and went astray from the true faith. We are called to turn towards God, Who is ever loving and merciful towards us. We only need to ask, and He will forgive us our sins, and that is what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is for, readily available through our priests.

Let us all from now on truly show it in our lives, in our every actions, in how we consciously and actively participate in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in how we reverently receive Him in the Most Holy Eucharist, to show everyone that truly, the bread and wine which we brought to Him in offering, has become nothing less than God’s own Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood, which He offers to us generously for the sake of our salvation.

May the Lord, Who is ever present in us, and Who is our Bread of Life continue to be with us, and guide us in our journey of life, so that each and every one of us who have worthily received Him into ourselves, may be transformed by His Presence into beings truly worthy to be called God’s own beloved people and God’s own beloved children. May God be with each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 16 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after the Solemnity of the Pentecost, the Universal Church again celebrates another great and very important Solemnity, one that is concerning the very centre tenet and distinctiveness of our Christian faith that is the belief in God Who exists in Three Divine Persons and yet, at the same time, is also One and Indivisible. And that is why on this Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

On this day, we focus our attention on Who we worship, God Who is ever loving, merciful and compassionate towards us, He Who is One, and only One, but existing in Three distinct Persons, namely the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The true nature of the Most Holy Trinity has eluded many people and many among us the faithful throughout time, but all of us must realise and know Who is Our Lord Whom we worship, so that we can better appreciate our faith in Him.

We do not believe in three different Gods, as the most common misconception about the Most Holy Trinity is often about. We believe that even though there is distinction between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, but they exist in perfect unity and harmony with each other, as the one and only True God. Three Divine Persons but One Unity in One Godhood. That is what the Most Holy Trinity is about.

Yet, throughout the history of the Church, particularly during the early days of Christianity, people constantly were conflicted on the nature of their God, and there had been many divisions, conflicts, disagreements and bitterness over the nature of the Most Holy Trinity, the relationship that the Father has the Son, and with the Holy Spirit, and the nature of the Son Himself, the relationship that He has with the Father, and also with the Holy Spirit.

And there were those who doubted and questioned the divinity of the Son in particular, those who doubted that Jesus Christ Our Lord is God as well as Man in the same person. And there were those, like the Arians, who considered Christ as being lesser than the Father. They regarded Him as a Being Who was created and therefore not equal with the Father, not co-eternal with Him. And therefore, they did not believe in the Most Holy Trinity in the way we believe today.

At that time, many people actually subscribed to the teachings and the faith of Arius, the one who propagated the Arian heresy. And there were bitter struggle for the belief of the faithful as those bishops and priests who remained true to the orthodox and genuine Christian teachings struggled with the many bishops and priests who embraced Arianism. And one of the most courageous and faithful defender of the true faith was St. Athanasius, the Patriarch of Alexandria, whose defence of the faith in the Most Holy Trinity and the equality between the Son and the Father is memorialised in the now famous Athanasian Creed.

The Athanasian Creed was an expansion of the usual Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed we have always used, in which the Athanasian Creed is a much more detailed and clearer version of the Creed where in particular, the nature of the Most Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit is explained clearly and succinctly against the heresies of the time that tried to diminish the Holy Trinity or mislead the people with wrong ideas and thoughts about the Trinity.

In the first part of the Athanasian Creed, it is clearly mentioned that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three equal parts of the One Godhood of our one and only True God, avoiding the idea of worship of more than one god and at the same time, also stressing on the importance and distinctiveness of each of the three members of the Most Holy Trinity. The Father is not the same as the Son, and the Son is not the same as the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the same as the Father, and yet all three are united perfectly and indivisibly as one indissoluble union of perfect love.

And being equal, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not submitted to the Father or less equal from the Father in anything, neither created nor made. The Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, has existed with the Father from the very beginning, from before the beginning of time, co-equal, co-eternal and equally omnipotent and Almighty. He is not created but rather begotten from the Father, remaining distinct and yet inseparable from the Father and the Holy Spirit. He assumed the appearance and flesh of man, uniting in Himself, the Divinity of the Son of God and the humanity of the Son of Man.

The Holy Spirit meanwhile is also co-equal, co-eternal and omnipotent as well as Almighty as the Father and the Son is. He is not created by the Father either, nor is subservient or created or begotten from the Father or from the Son. Rather in this case, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, equal in all things, and is God’s Spirit that is in all things and performs His works in all things.

Many have tried to explain the concept of the Most Holy Trinity, with St. Patrick of Ireland being the most prominent one. St. Patrick made use of the three-leaf shamrock as a way for him to explain the Trinity of Christian God to the pagans then living in the land that is now called Ireland. He used the three-leaf shamrock, now closely associated with St. Patrick himself, as the representation of the Most Holy Trinity, as if any of the three leaves is taken out, the whole shamrock becomes incomplete.

Therefore, just as a person can clearly distinguish each of the three leaves of the three-leaf shamrock, we can distinguish between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit clearly. But at the same time, they are also perfectly united as One, just as the three-leaf shamrock is part of the one whole shamrock leaf, which if any of the parts are taken out, the whole shamrock becomes incomplete just as the Most Holy Trinity is not complete without any one of its members.

Another way for us to try to explain the concept of the Most Holy Trinity is that of a lighted candle. A lighted candle has three main important properties, that is the light produced by the candle, the heat produced by the candle and the flame produced by the candle burning. All these three cannot be separated from each other and yet they are also easily distinguishable from each other.

The candle cannot have light without the burning flame, and without the flame there can be no heat either. And neither can there be flame without heat to make the candle burn in the first place, and with heat energy comes light that is produced by the heat of the reactions of the burning of the candle wax. And lastly, without light, it does not make sense for a candle that is burning to have no light, as flame always produces light and heat.

We can see from this example alone, how flame, light and heat are easily distinguishable from each other, as the light is clearly different from the heat, and flame itself is distinct from the light. The flame has a limited shape but the light illuminates the entire room far beyond the physical reach of the burning flame, and the heat can be felt on our bodies when we stand nearby the burning candle. Yet, each one of them cannot be separated from the other, or else we would not have a burning candle.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having listened to what the Most Holy Trinity is all about, and how we try to explain this concept both to ourselves and to others, now that we have probably greater understanding and grasp of this concept, we must then also be aware of the significance of the Most Holy Trinity of Our God to ourselves as Christians. We must first and foremost remember that as Christians we are called to model ourselves on God Whom we believe in.

If Our God exists in a perfect love and harmony in the Most Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, then surely our Christian communities must also have this same love within us, that in the Church of God to which we belong to, we must be united in love and not being divided one against the other. And each and every one of us, just like the members of the Holy Trinity, are unique and have our own distinctiveness that we can bring in to enrich the good works and wonders of the Church of God.

Are we able to practice what we believe in the nature of our loving Triune God, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in our own lives? Are we able to imitate the loving examples and unity of the Three Divine Persons in our own Christian communities united in love and harmony with each other? This is how we as Christians reflect God in our own lives, in showing the same love that He has within Himself, which He has shared with us and now, we share with one another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith, commitment and devotion to Our God, the Most Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Let us all be witnesses of our faith in Him, in each and every moments we live, in our every actions so that all the people around us may see our faith and come to believe in God, the Most Holy Trinity as well, fulfilling what He has commanded us all to do, to make disciples of all people of all the nations and baptise them in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Let us glorify our God, the Most Holy Trinity once more, with the prayer “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

Sunday, 14 April 2019 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, after going through five weeks and more of the season of Lent, a time of preparation and rediscovery of our faith, we finally come to the beginning of the Holy Week, when we celebrate the most important moments and mysteries of our faith, commemorating that very moment when salvation came into our midst, through none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Saviour of all.

Christ was the Saviour promised by God to all His people, the culmination of the grand plan He has revealed to man, ever since the beginning of time, when man first fell into sin and because of that, sundered from the fullness of God’s love and grace. And God fulfilled His promises perfectly and completely in Christ, the One He sent into this world, bringing the salvation and true hope into our midst, that we may all be saved.

And this Holy Week, we enter into the most crucial moment in all the history of the whole world and our whole existence, the moment when God completed His plan of salvation, by none other than the Passion, suffering and death of His own Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. And on this Palm Sunday, the day that marks the beginning of Holy Week, we enter and immerse ourselves into the very important events that mark that moment of our salvation through Christ.

On this day, we heard from the readings of the Scripture, two very opposing and contradictory accounts, of what happened on the actual day when the Lord Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem in glory, which we commemorate with the blessing of palms and procession on this day, with the account of the suffering and death, the crucifixion of the same Lord Jesus on the cross, which happened just merely a few days apart.

In the Gospel passage which related to us what happened when the Lord Jesus came to Jerusalem for the time of the Passover, we heard how the people gathered to welcome the Lord Jesus as if He was a glorious and conquering King, entering the city of His reign, with palms raised and garments spread along the way on which He would enter on a donkey, as prophesied by the prophets. This event reminded us all that indeed, Jesus Christ is our Lord and King, the One Who has been promised to us, as our one and true Master.

But His kingship is not like any other kingship. He Himself mentioned on a few occasions throughout the accounts of the Gospels on the events of the Holy Week. He mentioned before His disciples, when they wanted to defend Him as He was being betrayed by Judas Iscariot and was about to be arrested, that had His heavenly Father wished it, He could have sent legions of Angels to protect Him. And before Pilate, Jesus Himself said that His kingdom was not of this world.

And this is why, many of the people abandoned Him, betrayed Him and rejected Him. And do we all realise that it was the very same people who welcomed, praised, glorified and sung ‘Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!’ that just a few days later cried out before Pilate, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ and ‘We have no king but Caesar?’. This is because many among them did not have true faith in God, but were following their own selfish, wicked and sinful desires.

Some certainly followed the Lord to be famous, while others misunderstood and thought of Christ and His kingdom as one like of this world, and therefore, hoped to gain popularity, power, prestige, and all sorts of other worldly recognitions and pleasures, as what two of His own disciples showed us, when St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee came up to Him with their mother asking for special favours over that of the other disciples.

And the others had various other reasons, many of whom were motivated by the desire of self-advancement, self-praise, self-gratification and other forms of worldly desires, that indeed quickly turned from one of apparent faith and dedication, into one of betrayal, as Judas did, and into apathy and lack of conviction to defend their faith, as what many of the people did, easily following the popular sentiment, of what was first the popularity of Christ in acclaiming Him as King and then condemning Him when the tide of events turned against Him.

Even Christ’s own disciples fled in fear and abandoned Him. And in the accounts, we heard how this King of ours, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, turned from complete glory into utter humiliation, that He was not just stripped from His dignity as even a human person, but even treated in the worst manner possible, and made to suffer the worst of the worst of injustices and treated as the worst and lowliest of criminals for sins and mistakes He did not commit.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, before we continue further, we ought to spend some time now to reflect on our own lives, on our own actions, on our own faith in God, on our own way of following the Lord and how we have lived our faith life all these while, especially as Christians, as those who profess to have faith in God. And we ought to remember that we are truly perhaps, just as terrible as those same people whom we just talked about earlier, all those who betrayed, abandoned and left the Lord behind for our own selfish desires, gain and purposes.

Many of us seek the Lord only to feel good and high, and perhaps seeking that spiritual satisfaction and fulfilment, or any other means to satisfy ourselves and to make ourselves feel good. And we often only remember the Lord when we have a vested interest, a desire that we want Him to fulfil, in our wishes and prayers, that when all those things have been fulfilled, or in the case when they were not fulfilled, we left the Lord behind and abandoned Him.

Many of us live our Christian life in most un-Christian like manner. Many of us only thought of fulfilling the barest minimum of our obligations as Christians, in coming for and attending the celebrations of the Holy Mass every Sundays of the year, and not more than that. And in this case, many of us even struggled to fulfil this barest minimum of what the Lord has called us all to do. We only hoped and wished what was best for ourselves, and not wanting to make the sacrifices for the Lord.

And even though we call ourselves Christians, how many of us continue to do what is wicked, sinful and unbecoming of ourselves as Christians? How many of us continue to act in manner that is selfish, greedy, condescending towards others, and being ignorant of the sufferings and troubles that others experience, often because of our own actions? How many of us continue to succumb to the temptations of the flesh and acted immorally, causing scandal within our own families and communities?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the sad and unfortunate reality of our world, and especially our Christian world today. Many of us profess to be faithful to God, and yet, our hearts and minds are not completely attuned and focused on Him. We are still so easily swayed by the many temptations of the world, of desire for power, glory, fame, renown, human praise and the pleasures of the body and mind, that we can easily abandon our faith or not having true faith in God, as how the Israelites and the people at the time of Jesus had done.

Yet, it is to all of us, these delinquents, rebels, stubborn and hardhearted people that Christ has come, to deliver us all from all these attachments to sin and our wickedness. He, Who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, willingly emptied Himself of all glory and honour, taking up not just the humble appearance of a Man, like us, but even more so, to be humiliated, ridiculed, rejected and made to suffer, enduring the worst of punishments, so that by all of that sacrifice and selfless giving of Himself, He may free us all from our sins and bring us to the salvation He promised us.

Every wounds that had been inflicted on Christ’s body, as He endured all the unimaginably painful suffering throughout the moments of His Passion, are in fact all of our imperfections, mistakes, our sins and rebelliousness, all of our iniquities and faults, all of our refusal to obey the Lord’s will and our selfishness. Every time we sin, we are causing that wound in the Body of Christ to fester and be even more painful, even as He endured it all and bore the burden of our sins on His cross.

Christ, in truth, showed us all, what it truly means for us to be Christians. First of all, all of us must be filled with love, the love for God and the love for our fellow brothers and sisters. It was love for His Father and the love that He has for each and every one of us, even the greatest and most wicked of sinners, that allowed Christ to endure the bitter and terrible pain of His suffering and death on the cross. Without His enduring love and compassion for us, God would not have done everything all the way to suffer death just that all of us may live.

And as Christians, we must be humble, and the greater we are, the humbler we are to be before God and men alike. For Christ Himself said, that He came not to be served, but to serve, and He showed His disciples at the Last Supper, what they ought to be doing to one another, loving one another as brothers and sisters, and to care for each other with true and genuine love. The Lord did not allow pride and ego to be in the way, and just as He rejected Satan’s advances through the temptations he attempted on the Lord, we too should cast aside our own pride and ego.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we journey through the Holy Week, let us all delve deeper into our understanding of our faith and our own relationship with God. If all these while, we have been distant and have not been spending our time with God, because of the many distractions and temptations we faced in life, then now is the perfect opportunity for us all to reorientate ourselves and to rediscover our true purpose in life, not for our own self-glory, but rather, for the greater glory of God.

Let us all grow deeper in our faith and in our conviction and dedication to love the Lord and to serve Him through our actions and deeds in life, that are pleasing to Him. Let us all also follow the Lord wholeheartedly from now on, carrying our own crosses with Him. He has called us and we should respond to His call. Let us all turn to Him with all of our hearts and with all of our might, and embrace the great love He has for us, that He was willing to suffer and die, just that we may live and not perish.

May the Lord continue to bless us all and may He continue to guide us as we continue to progress through this holiest of all periods and times of this year. May He sow in us all the seeds of faith, hope and love, so that we may grow ever deeper in faith, ever more hopeful in our lives, and be ever more filled with love at all times of our lives. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 7 April 2019 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this fifth Sunday of the season of Lent, we are just one week away from the beginning of the Holy Week on Palm Sunday, the beginning of the most important week and time in our entire liturgical year. And traditionally this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Lent is also known as the Passion Sunday, marking the beginning of the two weeks Passiontide period spanning the period from today to the Resurrection of Christ at Easter.

At this occasion therefore, the Lord wants each and every one of us to delve deeper into the mystery of His Passion, suffering and death on the cross, as we approach the time when we will commemorate the most important events in our history, the time when God Himself willingly gave His all and fulfilled the promises that He had made with our ancestors, the promise of salvation and liberation from sin, and the promise of freedom from the tyranny of Satan and sin, and to make with us a new and everlasting Covenant.

That is why today’s Scripture readings focus on the love and mercy of God being shown and made evident before us, from the promises that God made to His people through the prophet Isaiah in our first reading today, where He reminded them of the many wonderful things that He had performed and done before them, since the time of their ancestors, and how He has loved and blessed them ever since. God wanted to show His people that His love and mercy is ever trustworthy and ever good.

And then, the Lord showed it firsthand through what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who wanted to corner and trap Him in an impossible situation, by bringing into His presence a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, and asking Him what should be done upon that woman. Their plotting and opposition were truly sinister and wicked, and we will go through the reason why.

First of all, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were hoping that Jesus would side with the woman who had been caught in adultery, based on how He has often spent His time in the company of sinners, people like tax collectors and prostitutes, with people who were sick with various diseases, those who were considered unclean in body and in spirit, all those who have been spurned and rejected by the society and looked down upon as sinners.

And if the Lord sided with the woman, by forgiving her outright and ignoring whatever the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had accused her for, then they could quickly seize on the opportunity and discredit the Lord Jesus, labelling Him as a friend of sinners and as a blasphemer, for allowing sin to continue to exist. This would have immediately brought a great problem for the Lord, Who would then lose His credibility, following and even trust by the people. And He could even be condemned by the authorities for such an action.

But then, if the Lord so chose that He would punish the woman in accordance with the Jewish customs and laws, then the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would also seize upon the opportunity to enhance their own position and prestige, by pointing out that in the end, the Lord Jesus was no different from them, and probably was a usurper and a fake who is trying to seize the teaching authority from the Sanhedrin or the Jewish elite, and He would have also ended in trouble for this choice of action.

Clearly the Lord Jesus was trapped and cornered by the action of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and all those who have opposed Him. But the Lord then made a move that His enemies did not anticipate at all. He asked that the one who was without sin cast the first stone at the woman, for the punishment for adultery according to the Jewish laws and customs was stoning to death. And the people gradually left the place, beginning from the oldest to the youngest.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have just heard and witnessed from the story in our Gospel passage today is the sad reality of our human life and our actions towards one another. We like to point out the shortcomings and faults in others, and we want to see others fail and we find joy in causing hurt and suffering in others, just because we hate or dislike the other person, or think that we are better than them.

That was how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were capable of doing such a heinous and wicked act, in trying to frame and discredit the Lord Jesus, by trapping Him in what was to be an impossible situation. But the Lord knew all that were going on in their minds, all their plots and thoughts, and surely, He must have been very sad to see many of His people behaving in such a way, condemning sinners and being selfish in their attitudes towards others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we see today, the great mercy of God as we saw how Jesus was merciful towards the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. When all the people who wanted to condemn her had left, and no one threw the stone at her, the Lord told her to go and change her life, no longer sin but obeying God’s will from then on. And just as none of the people condemned her in the end, He Himself said that neither did He condemn her.

This is a reminder to each and every one of us, that first of all, each and every one of us are sinners, and all of us are in need of God’s healing and help, for otherwise, sin will become our undoing. And no one can heal us from our sins, except for God. For it is He alone Who is able to forgive us from our sins and restore us to the state of grace in Him. Sin is indeed a very dangerous disease that is slowly destroying us and corrupting us from inside out, often without us realising it.

And that is why, today through the passages, we are reminded to come to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy. And then, as we are all sinners, none of us have any rights to condemn and be judgmental on others, just as what the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law had done, in wanting to condemn the woman to death, and having that sinister intention to discredit the Lord Jesus by using that opportunity.

That was why, the Lord Jesus said, ‘Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone’. This reminds us that before we accuse others and try to make others look bad or suffer, or punishing them for their faults, we must always try to contemplate deep in our hearts, and think whether we have sinned or done the same fault ourselves. When we point a finger to judge and demean others, do we realise that the other four fingers are pointing to ourselves?

We know of one parable of Jesus, where it was said that ‘Remove first the splinter from your own eye, before trying to remove the plank from your brother’s eye’. A lot of us have this hurt and angst within us, in our relationships towards each other, to our friends, to our family members, to the members of our community, and frequently, within our Church ministries and organisations, in our parishes and in our faith communities and groups.

And that is caused by the pride that we have within us, in refusing to admit that we ourselves are not perfect and we ourselves are in need of the same healing that the other person is needing. We often think that others need to change to suit what we want or what we expect of them, but how many of us actually stop to think that we ourselves are in need of a similar change in our own lives? When we allow ego and pride to take charge of our thoughts and actions, we will end up doing exactly what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been doing.

Let us instead follow the example of Christ, Who forgave and healed the adulterous woman from her sins. He told her to go and sin no more, and that is what we should be doing as well. God is so merciful and loving towards us, even towards His enemies, that when He was on the cross, He forgave even all those who have condemned Him. He, the Perfect One, willingly took up our imperfections and sins, and be punished for them, all because of His love and tender mercy towards us.

Are we able to follow Christ’s loving examples in our own actions in life? Are we able to reach out to all those whom we have hurt and who have hurt us, and forgive each other? This is one important challenge that I think we should take up in this remaining time of Lent, as we prepare ourselves to enter into the mystery of the Passion, suffering and death of Our Lord. It is essentially all about God’s love and generous mercy towards us.

Let us all look towards the cross of Christ, on the Lord crucified. Let us all look at how wounded He is, and realise that each and every one of those innumerable wounds are our own sins, that God has willingly taken up on Himself, that each and every one of us may be healed. Let us all be ashamed at our sinfulness, but with the hope that Christ will heal us from our sins, and instead of being prideful and judgmental to each other, let us all help each other to overcome the temptations of sin, and be loving and forgiving at all times, as Christ Our Lord Himself has done.

May the Lord our God continue to love us, and may He continue to shower us with His love and mercy. May God guide us always in our journey of faith towards Him, each and every days of our life. And may all of us be prepared to enter meaningfully into the commemoration of Our Lord’s Passion, suffering, death and resurrection. Amen.

Sunday, 31 March 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the fourth one in the season of Lent, we celebrate the occasion of the Laetare Sunday, which was known from the first part of the Introit of today’s celebration of the Holy Mass, ‘Laetare, Ierusalem…’ or ‘Rejoice, Jerusalem…’ speaking about the coming of the salvation and consolation of the fallen city, which had once fallen from grace, but would once again rise in glory, by the grace of God.

Therefore, this Sunday, we are reflecting on this joy that is expected to come, the joy of our Easter celebration and hope. That is why if we notice, that in today’s liturgical celebrations, the rose vestments are used instead of the typical purple of the season of Lent. This is a reminder of this joy that is expected to come, and that is why it is kind of a brief interlude and reprieve in the midst of the penitential nature of this season.

While we go through this time of Lent, the time of self-introspection, evaluation, purification and self-mortification, today we remind ourselves that ultimately, all of these are for a singular purpose, and that is for us to embrace the hope in the joy that is to come, the true joy that comes with our reconciliation with God, Who loves each and every one of us, that He wants us all to be reconciled with Him, and to be forgiven from our sins.

And we heard all of these in our Scripture passages today. In the Gospel passage in particular, we heard of the story and parable of the prodigal son that the Lord Jesus told to His disciples and to the people. This parable of the prodigal son is telling us of the great love that God has for each and every one of us, even though we mankind have sinned against Him, repeatedly and unrepentantly again and again.

In that parable, the younger of the two sons of a rich person went to his father to ask for his inheritance, and thereafter went on to squander his inheritance and wealth in faraway land. He lived with splendour and was living immorally, until the time when he ran out of money. When he had nothing left with him, he was forced to fend for himself and everyone abandoned him. He was left all alone, suffering humiliation and hunger.

In fact, his hunger was such that he did not mind to have a part of the food that the pigs were having, as he was taking care of them. But even so, no one allowed him to eat of the pig’s food. This was a sign that that prodigal son’s life and worth was even less than that of a pig, a total humiliation for any human being, and indeed, the pit of agony and suffering into which that prodigal son had fallen into.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the story of the prodigal son is the story of humanity, of each and every one of us sinners. By sin we have been cast out of God’s grace and presence, and because of the temptations of our desire and the temptations of worldly pleasures, we have been brought into this miserable and suffering-filled existence, just as the prodigal son had suffered as mentioned earlier.

Yet, everything was not lost for the prodigal son, as there was still one last path that the prodigal son remembered that he could take. He remembered how his father’s servants were even living more prosperously and in better condition than he was at that time. Thus, the prodigal son was betting on the last hope he had, by going back to the father hoping that he would at least make him one of his servants. He was so humiliated and embarrassed that he almost did not want to return to his father.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what each and every one of us also should expect, in the one and only hope that we have, the hope in our loving God and Father. He is indeed our one and only hope, for as we can see clearly from the parable, that the prodigal son had nothing left on him and had no hope in all those things that he thought once as treasures and worthy. His friends all left him, his money failed him, his properties and goods were gone. But his father alone is his last and only hope.

God is indeed our loving Father, and just as the father in the parable showed mercy and compassion for his prodigal and lost son, then God has shown us His mercy and compassion, to all of us who are coming back towards Him, with humility and the desire to be forgiven from the wicked things and sins we have committed just as the prodigal son turned back to his father in tears and regretting all that he had done.

We are called today, to reflect on our own sins and our own wicked acts, those selfish and prideful, ambitious and greedy attitudes, all of the self-serving, self-glorifying and wicked actions we have done all these while in life. All of us have sinned because of these, and while some among us may not realise it, whether we have committed sinful acts small or big, or whether it is seemingly minuscule or serious, sin is still sin, and sin separates us from the love and grace of God.

It was the greed, pride and desire within the mind and heart of the prodigal son that led him to take such a drastic action of demanding his inheritance and going off to a faraway country where he fell into wickedness and into the trap of desire. When our hearts and minds are centred on worldly things such as wealth, power, glory, ambition, and all sorts of other temptations, and not on God, we will crave even more and more of those things, and as a result, likely to fall deeper into the depth of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us have been like the prodigal son in our life, and many of us have not lived our lives righteously in accordance to God’s will. Many of us are putting our hopes and ambitions on worldly pursuits, for us to be wealthier, to have more money and financial security, to have more friends and relationships, to enjoy more of the goods of this world, to be more famous and glorified by others, to gain more renown and prestige in our community, among many others.

We are hoping to find joy in all of these, without realising that our true joy lies in God alone. Similarly, like the prodigal son, who thought that his happiness lies in being free in doing whatever he wanted, by getting his portion and doing everything he liked, away from the father who loved him, we too have lived in ways that embrace our own hearts’ selfishness and our own human desires, for pleasure and for the indulging of the flesh.

Yet, as mentioned earlier, none of these ‘joys’ of the world will last. Those things are impermanent and temporary at best, illusory in nature and imperfect. We can never be truly happy with them, and as we have seen in the prodigal son’s story, they cannot be depended on, when times of trouble and trials come for us. In the end, there is nothing more dependable and there is no true hope but in God alone.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do you know why all of us Christians practice certain things such as fasting and abstinence during this season of Lent, and are also encouraged to spend more time in prayer, and also to go for the Sacrament of Penance by confessing our sins before the priests? That id because, in this time of Lent, we are called to peel off from ourselves the many layers of pride, of ambition, of haughtiness and vanity, the layers of greed and desire from ourselves, and rediscover who we truly are.

It is by restraining our desires and tempering our human pride and greed that we will be able to realise just how despicable and wicked our state has become, just as the prodigal son discovered at the moment of his greatest humiliation and weakness, when he had to endure a fate even worse than animals, and valued even less than animals. It is the moment when we die to ourselves in the flesh and in our worldly existence that we can finally find the way forward to God.

Yet, it takes a lot of courage for us to be able to make that journey back to the Father, our loving and ever merciful God. Indeed, the prodigal son also must have had a lot of thinking and consideration before he finally mustered the courage and threw away his ego and pride, in reaching out to his father, and be willing to humble himself and beg for his father’s forgiveness. Similarly therefore, it will take us a lot of effort for us to overcome this fear, doubt and reluctance in us, for us to finally accept God’s offer of forgiveness and mercy.

God offers us His forgiveness freely and generously, but more often than not, we are not able to commit ourselves to the path of mercy and forgiveness. Either we are too easily tempted by the temptation of worldly things, or we are afraid that God will be angry at us, and thus we continue to live our lives the way it has been lived, and we fall even deeper into the pit and trap of sin. That is why, today, on Laetare Sunday, after we have journeyed through this season of Lent to realise just how despicable and sinful we are, now we turn our focus for a while to look forward to where our destination is.

We look forward knowing that God is awaiting us all, wanting to embrace us with love, with mercy and compassion, welcoming us back to His embrace. If we can close our eyes for a moment and imagine in our minds of the moment when the prodigal son came to the embrace of his father, can we imagine just how joyful he must have been, in gazing at his beloved father once again? And he was welcomed to his father’s house again, to be the son of the house once again, receiving what he had once lost.

And that is exactly what we are going to experience, all of us, God’s scattered and lost children, all of us who have been scattered and lost because of our sins and disobedience. We are looking forward to this true joy of being reunited fully with God, our loving Father, which is the joy of the Resurrection, the joy of Easter. And now that we know what lays ahead of us, are we now willing to make the new commitment to love the Lord, our God, with all of our hearts and minds from now on?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make this our commitment to live more in accordance to the path that God has shown us. Let us embrace with joy and with courage the mercy and love that He has offered so generously before us. Let us all keep strong to this hope we have in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Who has come to us to show us the fullness of God’s everlasting love and mercy towards us. May God show us His compassion and may He forgive us all our sins when we ask Him for this grace. Amen.

Sunday, 24 March 2019 : Third Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third in the season of Lent, we heard of God’s call to His people, that each and every one of us ought to heed, as we continue to live our lives in this world. He is calling on each and every one of us to reform our way of life and to turn away from sin, that each and every one of us may be saved from our current wretched state, and be worthy of God’s grace and love.

In the first reading today, we heard of the calling of Moses, when God appeared before him at Mount Horeb, the mountain of God, as he was shepherding his flock. The Lord appeared to him as a burning bush that miraculously was not burnt by the fire. Moses approached the burning bush and God called him from within the fire, revealing to him Who He was, and what His will was for Moses, the calling He made to him to be the leader of His people, Israel.

In order to understand this better, we need to understand the context and the historical condition of the time, that is, at the time, the Israelites have been living in Egypt for a few centuries after their forefathers came there to escape the great famine of the time of Joseph, son of Jacob. The Israelites flourished in Egypt, and their numbers grew rapidly, but this created fear among the Egyptians and their Pharaohs, who then enslaved the Israelites and tried to destroy them as a race.

Moses was one of the male children of the Israelites who were supposed to be killed in accordance to the law meted by the Egyptians in trying to destroy the people of Israel. But Moses was saved when his mother put him in the basket in the water, and the daughter of the Pharaoh saved him from the waters, adopting him to become her own son. Later on, as Moses grew up, he saw the injustice and the oppression that his own people had to experience, and in one occasion, murdered one of the guards who were torturing one of the Israelite slave.

As a result, Moses had to flee from Egypt to the wilderness of Sinai, as the Pharaoh and his guards wanted him for his murder of the Egyptian. There in the desert, Moses found a new life as a shepherd and married into a Midianite family. It might have seemed that Moses would remain there till the end of his life, while the Egyptians would continue to enslave and oppress the Israelites, God’s own chosen people.

But God had an entirely different plan, as what we have heard today from our first reading passage. God called Moses to become His instrument to bring His people out of their slavery in the land of Egypt, and lead them towards the Promised Land which God has promised to Abraham, to Jacob and his descendants. This is God’s plan, and He revealed it all before Moses at the burning bush, calling on him to be His servant.

Initially, Moses had his reservations, as he was not sure how the Israelites would welcome him or know his purpose in Egypt, the land he had fled from many years ago in fear of his own death. But God reassured him and told him that He would be with him, and He revealed His Name before Moses, to be told to the Israelites as the sign that God has not forgotten His people after all the years of suffering that they had gone through, but would free them and lead them to their own land as He had promised.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings have deep meaning and revelation to each and every one of us as Christians, those whom God had called from among the world, to be His disciples and followers, servants and friends. God called on us to follow Him just as Moses had been called and led by God to be the leader of His people, Israel. Therefore, there are two main messages that we have to heed from these passages today.

First of all, we must endeavour to be free from the chains of slavery that we have suffered from all these while. We may be wondering these questions in our minds right now, ‘We are slaves? We do not know about that, I thought we have always been free?’ or that ‘How can we be slaves if we are not suffering in this world, but instead we live in abundance and plenty of happiness and joy in this world, being prosperous and good in all things?’

That is because many of us perhaps do not even realise that each and every one of us are enslaved, right now, because of our sins. Slavery of sin has enthralled us all, and the chains of sin have kept us from truly being free in the Lord. Every time we disobey God, we sin against Him, and this sin keeps us chained to even more sin, and the desires, greed, pride, ego, jealousy, hatred and all negative things inside us keep us bound to the bondage of sin.

And we cannot free ourselves from the bondage of sin, for no one can forgive and remove from us our sins, except that of God Himself. Fortunately, God is so loving and so forgiving towards us all, His beloved children, that just as He sent Moses to the Israelites as a deliverer and liberator, He has sent Jesus Christ, His own beloved Son, to be our Saviour and Liberator from sin. He extends to us His generous love and mercy through Christ, Our Saviour.

Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, the land of their slavery, and made a Covenant between them and God. Similarly, Christ Our Lord also led us all out of the land of our slavery, that is sin and darkness, and made a new and Eternal Covenant between us and God. And while Moses brought the Ten Commandments, God’s Law to the Israelites, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Law and the fulfilment of the Law of God, that He revealed before us all.

Through Christ, we have been forgiven our sins, and He has lovingly sacrificed Himself, bearing for us the burdens and chains of our sins. But unfortunately, we are often still consciously wanting to bind ourselves back to those chains of sin, just as if we read the rest of the Book of Exodus, Deuteronomy and Numbers, how the Israelites continuously grumbled and complained against God and Moses, rebelling against Him and thus sinned.

They argued that it was better for them to have remained in Egypt and therefore remained being slaves, rather than for them to die in the middle of the desert. This was despite the fact that God had cared for them so well, that even in the middle of the desert, God gave them food to eat, the bread of the manna from heaven, and clear and sweet water to drink, and they had all that they needed even in the middle of the barren desert.

That was why they had to journey for forty years in the desert, a long journey before they enter the Promised Land. In the same way, therefore, we live our lives today in parallel with what the Israelites experienced. The Israelites went through the baptism of water, as they passed through the Red Sea that God opened before them, destroying the armies and chariots of the Pharaoh in the sea behind them, as the symbolic sign of their liberation. In the same way, we have been freed from the chains and bonds of sin, through our own baptism.

But along the rest of the journey, in our lives today, we can still be tempted by sin. Our life today, from the moment of our baptism till the end of our earthly life, is like the journey of the Israelites, with all of the challenges and difficulties. The temptations of the devil is all over the place throughout our journey, as the devil, who was our slavemaster, wanted us to be enslaved once again to sin. Yet, God provides for us, just as He has provided for the Israelites.

We heard last Sunday, that our Promised Land is heaven itself, for according to St. Paul, our citizenship is in heaven. And that is the very Promised Land that we are heading towards. God is leading us towards there, but at the same time, if we look at the example of the Israelites again, there were many who did not make it towards the Promised Land because of their refusal to obey, their sins and defiance against God.

That is why, this journey towards God and His eternal glory, our final destination in heaven will not be an easy one. It will be filled with challenges and difficulties, but this is exactly what St. Paul in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Corinthians reminded us, that God is with us along the way, and we should heed His words and obey His laws, and do not follow the path of the wicked, who will lead only into death and eternal suffering.

In the Gospel today, we are reminded to be fruitful and to bear good fruits, as the Lord in His parable reminded us that those trees that do not bear fruit ought to be cut down and be destroyed. God gives us another chance in this life, just as the gardener pleaded for the trees, to be given more time and fertiliser to grow, that they may grow in due time and produce fruits. Now, it is up to us, whether we want to be fruitful and bear good fruits of our lives, or whether we prefer to remain barren or produce bad fruits.

What are these good and desirable fruits, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the fruits of love and faith. That is why, today, we are also secondly challenged by God, just as Moses is called by God, to be the leader of God’s people, that each and every one of us may lead one another, our fellow brothers and sisters, by bearing the true faith in ourselves. How can we expect others to believe in the Lord if we ourselves have not believed in Him? And how can others believe if we have not practiced our faith? Anyone who profess to believe in God and yet act in ways opposite to that faith are hypocrites.

That is why, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded to make good use of the wonderful opportunity that God has given to us all, by doing what the Church has prescribed for us in this season of Lent, that is to restrain our greed and desire, our pride and ego through abstinence and also fasting. Let us all turn away from our past sins, wickedness, selfish actions and any moments when we have caused hurt and suffering in one another.

And let us also be generous with love and with our giving, in sharing our blessings with those who have little or none to get by with. Let us all not be ignorant of their pleas for help, and be willing and be courageous, like Moses, in answering God’s call to free His people Israel. Moses could have refused the Lord and remained in a good life with his new family, but he chose to follow the Lord and embark on the arduous path, not just in liberating the Israelites, but in leading them for many decades to the Promised Land.

Just as Moses endured so many difficulties, even plenty of people who were not thankful and rude towards him, and how he had to suffer rejection many times, and threats to himself, we too will encounter all these challenges throughout our life and journey towards God. But we must keep heart and remain faithful, for remember, our end point and last destination is heaven, where we truly belong and God will reward all of us who have borne good fruits of faith and love for Him.

May the Lord continue to guide us through this season of Lent, that we may make good use of the opportunities given to us, that we may draw ever closer towards God, and be ever more righteous and upright in all of our actions and deeds. Let us all heed God’s call and commit ourselves to Him, as Moses had once done, and devote ourselves to Him from now on, with hearts and minds full of faith, love and dedication. Amen.

Sunday, 17 March 2019 : Second Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate the second Sunday in the season of Lent, we listened to the words of God speaking to all of us and reminding us of the nature of this season of Lent as a time of change and transformation, that we may transform ourselves, our lives, our actions, our habits and our every aspects, from one that is wicked and unworthy of God, into one that is good, righteous and worthy before God. This is the Covenant that God made with us mankind.

The Scripture readings today began with the narration from the Book of Genesis, recounting to us the moment when God made His Covenant with Abram, the man whom He called from the lands of Ur, to become the ancestor of many nations. God knew Abram’s heart and mind, and He saw the faith and love that Abram had for Him, and that was why, He chose Abram from among all the other men and women of his time.

God made a Covenant with Abram, promising him that He will always be faithful to the Covenant and the promise that He made to Abram and his descendants, that he would become the father of many nations. This was amazing considering that Abram at that time was already quite old, with a wife, Sarai, who was also equally quite old and likely way beyond childbearing age. Without a son to carry on his legacy, Abram was the unlikeliest person to be the father of many nations.

And yet, Abram chose to believe in God, and placed his trust in Him. He sealed the Covenant with God with the offering of sacrifices, which marked the beginning of God’s Covenant with Abram, His servant, who therefore was known as Abraham. Abraham received the blessings of God’s grace, and from then on, became the father of many nations through his son, who also was a father of many nations.

The change of name from Abram to Abraham is a significant marker in the Scriptures as the moment whenever a great change of life and a new commitment has been made. For example, Sarai also received a new name, Sarah because she was to become the mother of many nations just as Abraham became the father of many nations. Initially she did not believe that God was serious in the promises He had made, but eventually believed when a son was born to both her and Abraham, Isaac.

There are many other examples throughout the Scriptures where name changes occurred, most prominently being Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, who became known as Israel after the Covenant that God had made with his grandfather was renewed and reinforced, as Israel became the progenitor of the race of the first chosen people of God. And we have more examples in the time of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.

Some of the Apostles also had their names changed indicating a great change that happened in their lives. Simon received a new name from the Lord, being called Cephas or Peter, which means ‘Rock’, as he left behind his previous identity as a fisherman of Galilee and accepting the role for which he was soon to be known, as the Rock of foundation of God’s Church. Levi similarly was called Matthew, after he left behind his tax collector job to follow the Lord.

And we know of the Apostle, St. Paul, who was once known as Saul. Saul was a great enemy of the Church, persecutor of the faithful, destroyer of the communities of the Christian faithful in his many purges during the earliest days of the Church. However, when he encountered the Lord on his way to Damascus, he went through a great conversion experience, and had his life completely overturned and changed, as he embraced a new identity as God’s champion, and the defender of the faith as Paul.

We have seen from these few examples, as well as many others which have not been mentioned today, how God changed the lives of many of His people throughout history. And as Christians, we too have been changed by God, through our baptism. Do we realise that at baptism we choose our baptismal names? For those of us who were born as Christians, the names have been chosen for us, while those who became Christians as adults, chose our baptismal names for ourselves.

These baptismal names are taken from the names of the saints of God, God’s holy men and women, those whom the Church had deemed and declared to be good, righteous and virtuous enough, to be deserving of the glory and honour of being with God in heaven. And they are our role models in life, in how they have exemplarily lived their lives, obeying God’s commandments and living righteously in all the things they have done.

We adopt the baptismal name with the names of those saints because we hope to emulate the good examples of those saints in our own lives, in turning towards the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our minds. And through baptism, we go through a complete conversion experience, where we have been freed from our past, sinful life and enter into a new life in the grace of God. That is why through the Sacrament of Baptism, each one of us had gone through a change so significant that it heralded a new era of hope in our lives.

In the second reading passage today, we listened to the words of St. Paul in the Epistle he wrote to the Church and the faithful in the city of Philippi, where he mentioned that our citizenship is in heaven, and how the Lord will transform us, in body, mind, heart and soul, in our whole being, as how His own Transfiguration, as recounted to us in our Gospel passage today, has prefigured and told us. And this is because Christ has made with each and every one of us, the New and Eternal Covenant, the Covenant of the Cross.

Thus, linking this Covenant, that is True and Eternal with the original Covenant between God and Abraham, we see finally the full truth of God’s love and compassion, His care and mercy for each and every one of us His beloved and faithful ones. By His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, He wanted us to know, through what His disciples witnessed, the ultimate fate and promise which He has given to us, to all those who have been faithful to Him. We shall be transfigured to be like Him, at the time that God appointed.

Therefore, each and every one of us are called to be transfigured or changed, completely in body, mind, heart and soul, just as much as Abraham committed himself to a total change in life and attitude, and just as much as the Apostles, St. Peter and St. Matthew embraced a new life of service and faith in God, and in how St. Paul turned his life almost completely upside down by embracing the faith and the same Covenant that God had forged with us all.

Yet, we must also not forget that a Covenant involves commitment and promise made between two parties, in which each one promises to be faithful and true to one another. God is ever so faithful and true to the Covenant that He has made and renewed again and again with each and every one of us, that in the Gospel today, He left behind His glorious Transfiguration, and descended down the Mount of Tabor, to go down the road to Jerusalem, where He would eventually face His suffering and death on the cross.

The Lord showed us all that if we want to follow Him faithfully, then we must be prepared to, in His own words, carry our crosses and follow Him, to share in the cross that He has borne, and to suffer just as He has suffered for our sake. It is not easy to become a Christian, as we will often need to cast away our past way of life, rejecting the pleasures and excesses of the world, resisting the temptations of the flesh, and to be righteous in our words, actions and deeds, even when the world and the society around us are against us.

The Lord humbled Himself and emptied Himself of all glory, so that by His humble obedience, He had saved us all through the love that He has for each and every one of us, so great that He was willing to go through such suffering, such pain and such humiliation just so that we may be saved from our fated destruction because of our sins. Are we able to do the same as He has done? He has been faithful to the Covenant that He has made with us, so are we able to be faithful to that Covenant?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why during this season of Lent, we are all called to retrospect on our lives and reflect on how we have acted towards one another, how we have spent our time and effort in fulfilling the commitment of our Covenant with God. Have we embraced that profound change that the Covenant of God has brought into our lives? Have we rejected the path of sin and disobedience, and resisted the many temptations found in this world?

This Lent, let us all grow more generous in the giving and sharing our blessings with one another, in our almsgiving and care for the needs of those who are not as fortunate as we are, in our love and attention for those who are lonely, unloved, ostracised and rejected by the society. Let us all also resist the temptations of the flesh and of our body, by the genuine and pious act of fasting and abstinence throughout this season of Lent.

Let us all grow ever closer to God, and become truly worthy to be partakers of the Covenant of God, the New and Eternal Covenant which He has made with us all, by the outpouring of His Most Precious Body and Blood on the altar of the cross, the Most Worthy Lamb of God slain for us for our salvation and redemption from sin. He has given everything for us, as the proof of His faithfulness to the Covenant He made with us. Again, are we able to do the same for Him? Are we able to give everything in our lives for Him?

May this Lenten season be a turning point in our lives, the moment when we embrace the Covenant that God has made with us, and allow God to enter into our lives and transform us, completely in body, mind, heart and soul, that we become God’s holy people. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.