Saturday, 26 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we mark this last day of our current liturgical year, and beginning the season of Advent tomorrow, we are all reminded again of what awaits us at the end of time, if we are to remain faithful to the Lord. We are reminded that we have always been intended to live in everlasting happiness and bliss. The Lord created each one of us to share and bask in His love and grace, but unfortunately because of sin, through our disobedience against God, we have been sundered and separated from God. But that did not stop God from loving and caring for us. In fact, He redoubled His efforts to reach out to us and wanted to help us out of our predicament and troubles.

That is why, He revealed to us His plans and His works, in how He will liberate all of us from the clutches of sin and death. He showed St. John the Apostle of what will come at the end of time and awaits those who are obedient to Him, listened to His call and answered it, and embraced His path towards salvation and eternal life. St. John saw through the Lord’s Angel, a vision of the New Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, one that is heavenly and perfect, unlike the old, worldly Jerusalem, at the end of time. That all will happen after the final triumphant victory over all sin, evil and death, and when Satan, with all of his forces and all those who have rejected God, betrayed and abandoned Him, and refusing to embrace His compassionate love and mercy, have been cast into eternal suffering and annihilation.

Essentially, St. John saw the revelation of what true paradise is like, in which mankind will no longer suffer any want or need, or endure any more physical, mental or spiritual hardships and pains, sufferings or trials, or challenges and difficulties because they have already existed in God’s presence and gained perfection through Him. No longer shall they ever be separated from Him again, and they shall exist forever in His Presence, continuously praising Him and enjoying the full fruits of their hard and faithful labours in this world. I am sure that is what many of us are looking forward to in our lives, as we want to be reunited with God and to find our way to achieve this eventual state of oneness with Him. However, the path going towards this state will be one that is filled with obstacles, challenges and trials.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must all realise that living as Christians is not an easy as it may seem to many of us. Some among us may have or have had this misconception that being Christians means that we have been assured and guaranteed salvation and grace from God without us needing to do anything else. As the Apostles mentioned, and sacred traditions and teachings of the Church ought to remind us, that if our faith is not made alive through real and concrete actions and deeds rooted in that genuine faith, then that faith is dead and meaningless to us, and will not avail us on the path towards salvation and eternal life in God. Our dead faith is no better than that of unbelievers and hypocrites, and we must keep that in mind lest we end up walking down that path.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus Himself reminding His disciples and hence all of us to be vigilant and ready for His coming, the coming of the end times as He has promised. This means that we should indeed not remain idle in living our lives as Christians, but we should do our best to practice our faith and to live this life as justly and filled with righteousness as possible, doing our best to obey the Law and commandments of God. This is how we are called to embrace God’s path and how we can find the surest path to the eternal life through God and His salvation. We have to be active in proclaiming God’s words and truth, His love and kindness through our own actions, by which we show the world and all those whom we encounter in life, what true Christian love is all about.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us spend some time to reflect upon our lives and our actions in this world. Let us use this opportunity and the reminders that God had presented to us throughout these few weeks to help us to discern carefully our path forward in life, that if we have been wayward in how we live our lives, we may find the true path towards the Lord and His salvation. We have to keep ourselves firmly centred on the Lord and keep our focus on Him so that we can strive to resist the temptations to walk away from Him and betraying Him for the comforts and pleasures of the world. We have to be ever vigilant and strong, and be inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, who have committed themselves to God and devoted themselves, often suffering a lot in the midst of their efforts to walk in the path of God.

And we are all called to show that same love for God to our fellow brothers and sisters as well because as Christians, each and every one of us, even strangers and all those whom we encounter in life, and even those who have hated, hurt and persecuted us, are all equally beloved children of God. Hence, it is important that all of us diminish our sense of self-importance and hubris, diminishing our pride and ego so that we may truly and genuinely show the love that God has taught and shown us to one another. Just as the Lord Himself has loved us when we are still so despicable, rebellious and wicked, so we are called to love one another in the same way, and be great examples of what it truly means to be Christians, as the disciples and followers of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our path and journey of faith through life, and may He empower and strengthen us that we may persevere more amidst the many trials and challenges in life, and all that we may encounter in our path. May He stay by our side and lead us through the challenges and trials of the year ahead, and grant us the grace and blessings in the path we walk, that we may remain true to Him and be good examples and inspirations for one another. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 26 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 21 : 34-36

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Be on your guard : do not immerse yourselves in a life of pleasure, drunkenness and worldly cares, lest that day catch you unaware, like a trap! For, like a snare, will that day come upon all the inhabitants of the earth. But watch at all times and pray, that you may be able to escape all that is going to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Saturday, 26 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 3-5, 6-7

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks with music and songs of praise.

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth and the mountain heights. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hand shaped the dry land.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we are His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Saturday, 26 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Revelations 22 : 1-7

Then the Angel showed me the river of life, clear as crystal, gushing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of the city, on both sides of the river are the trees of life producing fruit twelve times, once each month, the leaves of which are for healing the nations.

No longer will there be a curse; the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the City and God’s servants will live in His presence. They will see His face and His Name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light or lamp or sun for God Himself will be their light and they will reign forever.

Then the Angel said to me, “These words are sure and true; the Lord God Who inspires the prophets has sent His Angel to show His servants what must happen soon.” “I am coming soon! Happy are those who keep the prophetic words of this book.”

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we must not be ignorant of what we are all called to do as Christians in our daily living, and to heed the signs of the times. For each and every one of us as Christians, we are all called and expected to make good use of our lives and all the talents, abilities, opportunities and all other things that the Lord had granted us, so that our lives may be truly fruitful and worthy of God. We must not be idle in our lives or worse still, act in ways contrary to our beliefs, as what unfortunately many amongst even us Christians have done, and are currently doing in our lives. To do so is truly unbecoming of our Christian identity, and is truly a scandal of our faith, which is something that many amongst us have to account for in the end.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the moment of the final defeat of Satan, the great enemy at the end of time, and the ultimate triumph of God and the faithful over all those who have long persecuted the holy people of God. The Lord will triumph over all evils and all the forces of the wicked, and that vision of St. John saw of this great victory and the final defeat of evil serves to encourage all the faithful people of God who at that time had been facing a lot of struggles, trials, challenges and persecutions, having to endure prison, and even martyrdom for their belief and faith in God. Many, like St. John himself, had to suffer because they believed in God and refused to worship the pagan gods and idols, or the Emperors, who back then were often regarded as divine.

All the things that St. John witnessed in his heavenly vision became source of hope and encouragement for the Christians all over the world who were persecuted for their faith. St. John the Apostle witnessed how the mighty forces of the devil met their deserved end and defeat, crushed and conquered by the might of God, and God will come to save His people, just as He has once saved the people of Israel from their enslavement in Egypt and from the tyranny of the Pharaoh. Also highlighted in today’s passage of St. John’s vision is the occasion of the Last Judgment, when all the people, living and dead, all will be assembled before God and face their final and eternal fate, be it that their names are listed in the Book of Life and hence worthy of God, and therefore worthy of enjoying the eternal bliss and joy with God, or whether their names are not found in the Book of Life, and will be cast out into eternal darkness and oblivion, to suffer for eternity.

In the relatively short Gospel passage we have heard from today, the Lord reiterated this again, as He reminded all of His followers that the coming of the time of reckoning can be anytime, and while no one will know or have known the exact time and occasion of when it will happen, but the signs from the Lord are clear. And anyway, regardless whether the coming of the Day of Last Judgment is imminent or not, we must always be ever ready to welcome the Lord when He comes again, and it means that we should always be ever prepared in everything we say and do. In all things we must always be filled with the zeal, passion and faith to live our lives faithfully as is expected of us as Christians, and not to allow temptations of the world to distract or even mislead us down the wrong path. We must be careful or else before we realise it, we are already deep in the path towards damnation and destruction.

Clearly, as we heard from all these passages from the Scriptures, we are all being reminded as we have been in these past two weeks towards the end of the current liturgical year, of how important it is for us to remember to always put the Lord as the centre and the focus of our lives and existences. We should not replace Him with other focuses or pursuits which we may have or desire. Unfortunately, more often than not, this is exactly what happened to us Christians, as we are often easily distracted and tempted to succumb to the allures of worldly comforts and pleasures, to all of our greed and ambition, our pride and ego. And all of these can lead us to our ultimate downfall if we are not actively resisting those temptations and pressures, as well as striving to live our lives in a most genuine, Christian manner as we have been called and expected to do in our lives.

Today, we mark the occasion of the Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of the great saints of the Church and one of the most renowned martyrs of the faith. Hopefully by reflecting upon her lives, actions, examples and faith, we may find inspiration and strength to dedicate ourselves and our own lives to God in the way that this holy woman of God had done. St. Catherine of Alexandria was the daughter of nobleman or a Roman governor in the land of Egypt, during the years of the final persecutions against Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and his fellow co-Emperors and successors. One of those, Emperor Maxentius conducted intense persecutions against Christians in his domains, and St. Catherine went directly to the Emperor to rebuke him for his actions and cruelty against Christians.

At that time, such an action definitely merited death penalty, not only because St. Catherine was a Christian but she dared to rebuke the person of the Emperor, who by the time had become very feared and powerful position. Yet, this holy woman of God fearlessly defended her faith before the Emperor and others, and not even many pagan philosophers, the best of the best assembled by the Emperor to debate her can best her in wisdom and understanding, and she utterly trounced them through God’s wisdom and power. St. Catherine also resisted the temptations of power and worldly comfort herself when the Emperor, who was mesmerised by her beauty and eloquence, tried to woo and persuade her to become his bride. She chose to suffer and die in martyrdom than to betray her faith and principles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us hence strive to do our best to obey the Lord and His commandments, as well as putting Him as the centre and focus of our lives. Let us all be genuine in being faithful to Him and do whatever we can to live our lives, in even the smallest things and actions we do, in accordance with His will, His Law and commandments. As Christians we have been called to love God first and foremost, and then to love our fellow brethren in the same manner without distinction or prejudice. Hence, let us try our best to do that, so that by our faith made manifest and alive through our actions and works, we may truly be deemed worthy by the Lord on the Day of Judgment, and receive from Him the promised everlasting life and joy. May God bless us all in our every works and efforts, for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 29-33

At that time, Jesus added this comparison, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as their buds sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”

“Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all this has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 83 : 3, 4, 5-6a and 8a

My soul yearns, pines, for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young, at Your altars, o Lord of hosts, my King and my God!

Happy are those who live in Your house, continually singing Your praise! Happy the pilgrims whom You strengthen. They go from strength to strength till they appear before God in Zion.

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Revelations 20 : 1-4, 11 – Revelations 21 : 2

Then an Angel came down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the Abyss and a huge chain. He seized the monster, the ancient serpent, namely Satan or the devil, and chained him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss and closed its gate with the key, then secured it with locks, that he might not deceive the nations in the future until the thousand years have passed. Then he will be released for a little while.

There were thrones and seated on them were those with the power to judge. I then saw the spirits of those who had been beheaded for having held the teachings of Jesus and on account of the word of God. I saw all those who had refused to worship the beast and its image, or receive its mark on the forehead or on the hand. They returned to life and reigned with the Messiah for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection.

After that I saw a great and splendid throne and the One seated upon it. At once heaven and earth disappeared, leaving no trace. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before the throne while books were opened. Another book, the Book of Life, was also opened. Then the dead were judged according to the records of these books, that is, each one according to his works.

The sea gave up the dead it had kept, as did death and the netherworld, so that all might be judged according to their works. Then death and the netherworld were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. All who were not recorded in the Book of Life were thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that no matter how challenging and difficult the obstacles, trials and persecutions we may have to face in being Christians, as those whom the Lord had called and those who had devoted themselves to Him, we must always have faith in God and in the fact that in the end, the Lord will be triumphant. And all of us who remain faithful to the Lord will be justified and share in the triumph and victory of He Who conquers sin, evil and death. That is something which all of us need to remember, as we continue to progress through our lives and activities daily, so that we do not end up losing sight on the true destination that we will reach through Christ.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations, we heard of the details of the vision of St. John the Apostle seeing the great defeat of Babylon the great, the mighty enemy of all the faithful, and how the persecutions and oppressions against the people of God will finally cease and those who persecute them will face their just consequences and punishments. The Lord will not let those who are faithful to Him to suffer without good reason and without being avenged, and their blood and sufferings will be paid dearly by those who have inflicted hurt on their own brothers and sisters, and those will be thrown down and cast into the eternal darkness and annihilation together with the devil and all of the other forces of the wicked and evil, all the fallen angels, demonic spirits and more.

Some people back in the early days of the Church associated that Babylon with what is in fact a connotation to the time when the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and Jerusalem, a few centuries before the coming of Christ, and destroyed the city and its Temple, persecuting the people of God and bringing them into exile. That Babylon by the time of the Lord and afterwards would come to be associated then with Rome, and its bitter persecutions of Christians. That association became even stronger after the Romans, like the Babylonians in the past, destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple just less than four decades after the Lord Himself had predicted it, and there were many among the people of God who were killed or suffered because of that.

Hence, naturally Rome was seen as the great Babylon, and the Lord’s retribution and victory would be won against it. Indeed, later on after almost three centuries of persecutions, the Christian faith and Church was finally tolerated and the persecutions were mostly gone, and eventually the Roman Emperors themselves and the whole entire Empire would adopt the Christian faith as their faith. However, it also means that the vision of St. John the Apostle have not yet taken place yet, unlike some early Christians who would have believed that the events as recorded in the Book of Revelations to be happening immediately, or very soon afterwards. But only the Lord Himself knows the exact moment when all of that will happen.

The Gospel passage today essentially spoke of what I had mentioned just earlier, about the Lord Himself proclaiming to the people how the city of Jerusalem, its Temple and all the people inside it, will face destruction because of the forces arrayed against them in the coming years, which would indeed come true during the first Roman-Jewish war that came about because of the rebellions from a certain segment of the Jewish people against the Roman rule which eventually led to the great and bitter conflict culminating in the siege and downfall of Jerusalem, and how the magnificent Temple built just a few decades earlier by King Herod the Great was thrown down and destroyed right to its very foundations. Everything happened as the Lord had proclaimed, and He warned His followers of the signs of what would happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the lesson we then ought to learn from our Scripture passages today is that, while we may face daunting moments and trials, hardships and persecutions in our journey towards the Lord, but we must not give up our faith in God and we must not give in to the temptations, coercions and pressures to follow in the flow of the world, all the demands of those who seek to subvert the truth of God, and all those forces seeking our downfall and destruction. We should stand firm in our commitment to the path that God has shown and led us into, and follow the good examples set by our faithful and dedicated predecessors, all the saints and martyrs who had given their all to glorify God by their lives and examples.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, consisting of both the Christian missionaries who came to Vietnam to proclaim the Lord’s Good News and the local Christian converts and communities of the faithful. Like that of in the early days of the Church, the then Vietnamese government and authorities persecuted the Christians and the Church as they were highly suspicious of them because the missionaries came from foreign countries whom might be seen back then as attempting to sow dissent and act as agents to the foreign powers which back then had begun to interfere in the political and societal establishment of Vietnam and its neighbours.

To that end, the authorities persecuted Christians all throughout Vietnam, as people like St. Andrew Dung-Lac, who was one of the first local Vietnamese ordained to the priesthood, as well as the foreign missionaries, other leaders of the Church and more of the general Christian population, were gathered up, arrested and eventually put to death. Yet, despite the great challenges that they had to endure, most of those Christian faithful remained firm in their faith and chose to suffer and die rather than to betray their Lord and Master. Their courage and piety, their great dedication to God became inspiration for so many other people who are encouraged to remain firmly faithful to the Lord despite the challenges and trials facing them. Therefore, we too should be inspired and encouraged in the same way as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed zeal and conviction, with the strength, courage and spirit to dedicate ourselves, our every actions and deeds, our every energy for the sake of the Lord, for His Church and for His people. May the Lord continue to guide us all through this journey of faith, and may He empower us all to be ever stronger in faith and to draw ever closer to His grace and love, like that of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”