Wednesday, 23 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John of Capestrano, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Sacred Scriptures in which we are reminded of the importance for us to stay vigilant and resist the temptation to sin. Sin is a very dangerous threat to us and if we allow sin to have its way with us, we will end up being dragged deeper and deeper into the darkness and in the end, we have nothing left but eternal regret and despair.

And St. Paul reminded us all in his Epistle to the Romans in our first reading today that all of us truly belong to God, and as Christians, we who believe in God and take Him as our Lord and Master should only obey and listen to Him alone, and not to any other things. It is when we allow ourselves to be tempted and swayed that we end up falling into sin, and from sin into eventually damnation.

We are all called to resist the temptation and urge to sin, restraining the desires of our body and mind. As these temptations can easily lead us astray and make us to forget what it is that we, God’s people ought to be doing with our lives, just as the Gospel passage today elaborated further to us. In that passage we heard the Lord Jesus teaching His disciples using a parable describing the actions of the stewards of a master.

In that parable, the actions of a lazy steward was described, as that steward delayed in doing the will of his master when the master was away on a journey. The lazy steward indulged in all sorts of things, in drunkenness and gluttony, and also abused the other male servants and maids. He thought that he could get away with all that because of his position and thinking that the master would not return so soon.

That was when he was truly very wrong, as the master returned and caught that lazy steward in all of his wickedness and he got his well-deserved punishment. This is something that all of us must keep in mind as we go on living our own lives, as the Lord’s way to remind us to be truly faithful to Him. The stewards represent all of us, God’s people and His servants, just as the master is a representation of the Lord, our God.

And sin leads us to fall astray just as the lazy steward fell into those temptations, disobeying his master and failed to do as he has been told and instructed to do. In the end, the lazy steward met a terrible reckoning as he delayed on and assumed that the master would not have come in time for him to rectify everything and sort things out first. He was wrong, and we can be wrong too, if we choose to follow the example of the lazy steward.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we must not delay any longer in rejecting sin and in turning away from the path of sin and wickedness we have been walking along all these while. We must embrace God and obey Him from now on, for we do not know when the end of our mortal existence in this world will come to us. If we keep on delaying and dragging our feet, it will come eventually to the point when we will regret for not having done something much earlier.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must realise just how much God loves each and every one of us and how He is always willing to welcome us back to His presence and how He wants to embrace us all with love, forgiving us our sins. But are we willing to be forgiven and to take the necessary steps needed to embrace His love fully by being repentant of all of our sins and by leading a holy life from now on.

Today perhaps we can imitate the good examples of St. John of Capestrano, a holy priest and dedicated servant of God who can show us what it truly means to be a good, dedicated and faithful steward and servant of God. St. John of Capestrano was a member of the Franciscan Order dedicated to the service of God, ministering to the people of God, calling them to a renewed faith and a holy life in God.

He was also remembered for his dedication to God, that he zealously opposed the falsehoods of the many heresies that sprung up during the years of his ministry in the fifteenth century, a few hundred years ago. He went about spreading the truth of God and wrote extensively against the heresies. On top of this, he was remembered for his courageous participation in the Crusade against the enemies of the faithful.

St. John of Capestrano showed us all what it means to be a true disciple and servant of God, and we are all therefore called to follow in his footsteps. Are we able to dedicate ourselves in the same manner as this faithful and holy servant of God? Let us all discern our lives carefully and think of what we can do from now on to serve the Lord ever more courageously and faithfully, delaying no more and embracing fully His ways. May God bless us all in our journey of faith and remain with us always. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures in which we are reminded of the frailty and the weakness of our flesh and our human existence because of sin, the cause of our downfall and our troubles. Through sin as St. Paul mentioned in our first reading today within his Epistle to the Romans, we have been made unclean and unworthy before God, and because of this we have been sundered from God’s loving grace.

As a result, we had to suffer the consequence of sin, which is death, and death leads into separation from God. Unless we get rid of these sins from ourselves, we will face eternal separation from God which is hell for us. Hell is the state of rejection of God’s love and grace in which there can be no recourse or way out, because even though God had generously offered His loving and tender mercy, but we consciously rejected Him and His mercy.

But what St. Paul also mentioned in the same reading passage today, is that no matter how terrible and powerful sin may seem to be, and how difficult it may seem to be for us to overcome sin, but God’s grace is even all the more powerful and bountiful. We must not lose hope or despair just because we think that our sins are too great to be forgiven, for this is exactly what the devil wants, that we feel so unworthy that we reject God even involuntarily.

God has made available for us His salvation and loving grace through none other than Jesus Christ, His begotten Son, Who entered into this world as the New Adam in contrary to the old Adam in a figurative way. While the old Adam sinned by disobeying God and by listening to the temptations of evil and his own desires instead of listening to God, Christ as the New Adam became the archetype and progenitor of a new existence of humankind in faith.

By His commitment and dedication to the mission that His Father has entrusted to Him, and by the total obedience to the will of God His Father, the Lord Jesus showed us all what it means to be a true disciple and follower of God, being faithful and obedient in all things. It is through obedience and adherence to the will of God that we show our love for God and our faith in Him, as opposed to the sins which we have committed against Him.

But we must also realise that such a path would not be easy because there will be plenty of challenges, opposition and difficulty in our journey. Yet, if we choose to delay and wait, it will not turn out good for us, because the longer we delay and wait, thinking that we still have the time, the even more difficult it will be for us to turn away from sin, because sin is powerful and addictive, and it will make us to want to sin and disobey even more.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord warned His disciples to be ever prepared, for no one but He alone knows when the exact moment of reckoning for all of us will be. None of us know when exactly our earthly existence will end and when we will be called back to the Lord to give an account of our respective lives, on all the actions we have taken in our lives and even what we have failed to do in those same lives.

God has called us all to be faithful to Him, to do what He has taught us to do, to follow His will and to be righteous, good and just in everything that we say, act and do. And today, all of us can be inspired by the examples shown by one of His holy ones, and in particular because many of us are familiar with this figure, who is none other than one of our recent Popes, Pope St. John Paul II, who was the Bishop of Rome and Leader of the Church for over twenty-seven years.

Pope St. John Paul II, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Krakow, Poland was a holy man in piety and action, having also suffered greatly in his early years, losing all of his closest family members by the time he reached his twenties due to sickness and other occurrences, and also suffering directly the terrible effects of the Second World War when he had to face the bitterness of the world and the terrible realities of war and human greed.

And through the many years of the Communism in Poland that followed, Pope St. John Paul II had a difficult ministry as a young priest at first, and then as the Auxiliary Bishop and then Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow. He had to deal with the difficult opposition and even persecution of the faithful and the Church from the government authorities. Yet, the then Archbishop Wojtyla remained committed to serving the people of God, his flock, devoting his time, effort and attention on them.

As Pope, during the long twenty-seven years of reign and pontificate, Pope St. John Paul II contributed greatly to the Church and the faith, in the field of evangelisation and in maintaining the orthodoxy and relevance of the Catholic faith in the midst of the ever changing world. He was also instrumental in bringing down the Communist regimes throughout Central and Eastern Europe and was also known for his peacemaking efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we know and are well aware of, Pope St. John Paul II is truly a great role model for all of us on how we should live our lives faithfully in God from now on. Let us follow his good examples and therefore becoming good and faithful disciples of Christ from now on. May God continue to bless us and guide us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Monday, 21 October 2019 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the folly for us to trust in worldly things and the importance for us to look beyond those temporary, earthly things and instead look for the true inheritance we have in God, where our true glory and fate lie. We must get rid from ourselves all the unhealthy attachments to worldliness.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of one man who came to the Lord asking Him to be the judge between him and his brother on the matter of family inheritance as he held his brother to have violated the terms of the inheritance. That man wanted to gain what was rightfully his and we can well presume that he was not happy or might even be angry at his brother for such an action.

That was why then the Lord told the people the parable of the rich man who wanted to build for himself bigger granaries and storage rooms to allow him to gather more of his harvests and possessions even though he already had a lot of all those things. He was not satisfied with what he already had and wanted even more, as his greed and desire were aroused within him.

The Lord warned us through this parable just how futile and folly the rich man’s pursuits and plans were, as the Lord pointed it out just how feeble and fleeting our human existence and strength are, reminding us of our own mortality. If the rich man were to die the next day, all of his plans would go to naught and the bitter truth for him is that none of his hard-earned riches and possessions were going to be able to help him or remain with him.

Just as he entered into the world with nothing, he would also leave it with nothing. That is the reality of our existence in this world that we should also be aware of as well. We must realise that if we put our trust and attention on all these worldly things and being obsessed with them as the rich man had done, there would be nothing left for us in the end but an eternity of regret. We should focus instead on seeking the true treasure of our life in God, one that is everlasting and real.

That is why we need to learn to detach ourselves from our excessive dependence and desire to seek worldliness above everything else. Our unhealthy obsession and attachments to those things distract us from our true Christian virtues and faithfulness. We must instead learn from the example of Abraham, our father in faith, who was mentioned in the part of the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in Rome.

Abraham was a rich man with many possessions and goods in life, but he did not allow all those things to disrupt or affect his faith and trust in the Lord. He was totally faithful and devoted to God, following God whenever He called him and followed Him wherever He directed Abraham to go to. He lived faithfully and virtuously, using his wealth and possessions responsibly and for the greater glory of God instead of for his own selfish purposes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be like Abraham in faith, and let us follow his examples in how we too should be living our lives with faith. Let us all trust in God in everything and let us distance ourselves from excessive desire and greed, the desire for worldly satisfaction and pleasure, seeking instead the true treasure that we can find in God alone. Let us all be ever closer to God, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 20 October 2019 : Twenty-Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us listened to the words of the Scripture in which we are reminded of God’s love and providence for each and every one of us as He has shown throughout all the time and history. And we are called to reflect on that love which God has lavished on us each and every moments of our lives. That is why He wants us to know that we are beloved and blessed because of this.

God brought His people to victory even against difficult odds as we heard in our first reading passage today how He led them to victory in the battle against the Amalekites, the sworn and bitter enemy of the Israelites, who were a powerful nation and a warlike people that could have subjugated the Israelites if not for God’s help and providence. This is symbolised by the acts of Moses who followed God’s instructions and raised his staff on a hill above the battle.

Since a long time ago, the staff is a symbolic tool used by the shepherds who took care of his many sheep and goats and other animals. As those animals often fed and grazed on hillsides and mountainous terrains as was common throughout the land, the shepherds used the staff both as a tool to guide them in their movement around as well as a visible sign for the flock of where the shepherd was and for the flock to follow. The staff guided the flock and made sure that the animals complied.

And in this case, by lifting up the staff high, visible for all the people to see, God wants all of His people to know that He was there with them, as their Shepherd and Guide, as their Master and King. Those Amalekites wanted to destroy the Israelites, subjugate and enslave them, much like the ravenous wolves seeking to hunt and consume the sheep and animals. But the shepherd is there to protect, and in this case, God Himself stood by His people.

When sheep or any other animals are in danger or are in need of something, they will make noises to alert the shepherd of the incoming danger. Then any good and committed shepherds will come and rescue their flock, and if necessary, they will even risk themselves to be hurt to protect their flock because they love their sheep and all those animals. Shepherds often spend so much time with their flock that they developed strong loving relationship with them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all God’s beloved people, the sheep of His vast and innumerable flock. He through Christ His Son revealed that He Himself is our Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, Who lays down His life for His sheep. This phrase is a very significant one, especially in the context of what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. And how is this so? That is because the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites is a mere microcosm of what the battle raging daily about us is.

For just as we are the sheep of the Lord’s flock, there are many of those seeking our destruction and suffering just as the Amalekites preyed on the Israelites. And these enemies of ours are the wicked and evil forces led by the devil, consisting of his fellow fallen angels and the demons ruling in this world. They are constantly active, waiting for the opportunity to strike at us and drag us with them into damnation in hell.

But we must not be afraid brothers and sisters in Christ, for God our Shepherd Himself is by our side, standing by us and being with us. If those shepherds can protect their sheep and their flock against those wolves and all seeking the destruction of their flock, all the more that God, the one and true Good Shepherd will be with us and protecting us, providing for us the help from our enemies because of His infinitely great love for each and every single one of us.

Now, let us all look at our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus used a parable to explain about God’s love for us, that is so great beyond anyone’s love and any other love we may have known. He compared the love of God to that of the evil judge who was pestered by a woman who wanted the judge to adjudicate for her case and to give her what her rightful claim has dictated.

The Lord used that parable as a comparison to prove the point that if that evil judge could give in to the demands of the old woman when she incessantly sought for his help, then all the more that God Who is filled with love for us will provide for us when we ask Him for help. And linking to what we have just discussed earlier on, we cannot fight alone in this constant battle raging about us, the spiritual conflict between us and the devil.

God is ever loving and generous with us, and we just have to ask and He will listen to us. But are we having enough faith and love for Him that we want to call on Him? In our Gospel passage today, we heard in the last part of that passage how God said that if we ask Him, He will listen to us and heed us. Of course whether He will act in accordance with what we have asked of Him is a different matter, as He will act according to His will and not ours, but nonetheless, God as our loving Father and Creator always listens to us, just like the shepherds are always keeping a close watch on their sheep and flock.

But this then comes to the last sentence of the Lord’s words today, that when the Son of Man comes into this world, will He find faith on earth? And this is important because unless we have faith, we will not be able to ask God or seek God, either because we are too proud to admit that we have shortcomings, that we are weak and are in need of help and therefore we try to solve everything on our own and with our own strength and judgments, or that we are too preoccupied and distracted that we cannot even recognise God’s presence in our midst.

Many times we have misunderstood God, thinking that we are perfectly alright by ourselves, or that we can do everything with our own power and ability, or that we only seek Him when we are in need of help and then forget about Him when we no longer need Him, treating Him like a means to achieve what we wanted rather than to put our complete trust in Him and to love Him just as He has first loved us.

And when we try to do everything on our own, that is when things go badly for us because we tend to make flawed judgments and choices in life, and are easily tempted by the devil and all those seeking our destruction as we are cutting ourselves off our Lord and Shepherd just as if a sheep decides to run away on its own and isolating itself from the flock and the shepherd. And that is the perfect opportunity for the wolves and all the predators to strike at the lone sheep.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all pray that God will give us the grace to have a stronger faith in Him, that our hardened hearts and stubborn minds can be softened and opened to allow Him to enter into our lives and transform us. Let us all pray for the grace of better faith and to be able to love God more in our daily lives, that we may draw ever closer to Him with each and every passing moments of our lives.

And as St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy in our second reading passage today, one of the best ways for us to move forward in faith is by focusing on the Word of God in the Scriptures, in which are contained the truth of God as He has revealed it to us. It is by deepening our knowledge and understanding of the Sacred Scriptures that we can know more about God. If we do not know a person well how can we then build a strong and meaningful relationship with that person?

In the same way therefore, unless we know God well and from then, building up a good and healthy and living relationship with Him, how can we then be close to God? How can we know what His will is for us if we do not know him well? As I mentioned earlier, we have to open ourselves up to the Lord, love Him and putting our trust in Him as our Lord and Shepherd then we can truly depend on Him and be close to Him.

The Lord knows us all very well, and He knows each and every one of us because He Himself created us all out of His great love. But do we love Him just as He has loved us? Have we spent the time and effort for Him just as He has done so for us? And how do we show that we love Him? It is by living our lives with faith and genuine commitment, by proclaiming the Word of God as His witnesses, not just by words but through real action in our lives.

That is what St. Paul had written to St. Timothy, urging us all the faithful people of God to preach the Word of God through our lives, at each and every moments of our daily living, through our every actions and deeds, our interactions and good works. This is how we stand by our ground in this ever challenging conflict with the devil and all those seeking our destruction. We have to put our focus on God, our Shepherd and Guide, and through Him, we must be beacons of light in this darkened world, as God’s warriors of faith.

This is how we will triumph in the end, like the Israelites crushing the Amalekites. We will triumph against the evil one and his forces, and God will guide us through to the eternal life and glory in Him that lies in the end of our journey. Our journey may be challenging and difficult, but as long as we stay by the Lord and remain faithful to Him, we will triumph in the end. But if we choose to cut ourselves off from God, then we will likely fall and end up in eternal damnation, something that we surely do not want.

And we must not forget that our triumph came through Christ and His act of ultimate love for us on the Cross. Just as Moses lifted high up his staff high up and bring victory against the Amalekites, Christ Himself was lifted up high on the Cross before us all, that all of us who saw Him will gain the same reassurance of ultimate victory against the devil and all of his forces. And we must remember how He went through all the pain and sufferings for our sake, and because He loves us all so much. The Cross is our hope and strength amidst even the greatest darkness, and we must always focus our attention on Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect and discern well what we can do with our lives to serve God ever better, devoting our time and attention to Him, deepening our relationship with Him by spending our time reading the Scriptures and in prayer, and living our lives as according to what He has taught us. Let us all be true disciples of Christ from now on, and be His willing and exemplary witnesses and evangelisers in our respective communities. May God bless us all and be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 19 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the reassurance which God has given us that He is always with us, protecting us and providing for us, and for always being faithful to the Covenant which He had made with us despite our own inability to commit to that Covenant. In the Scripture passages today, we are reminded of God’s promises to us which He had made from time immemorial and renewed again and again.

In our first reading today we heard of the Lord’s promise to Abraham, the Covenant which He had sealed and made with the father of many nations and our father in faith. Abraham was then without a child although he and his wife were already old and Sarah, his wife past childbearing age, and he had relegated his hopes to have his estates and patrimony passed on to one of his own trusted servants rather than to the heir of his body.

But Abraham trusted in God just as he trusted Him and listened to Him when He called him out of the lands of his ancestors in Ur, Mesopotamia. When God first called Abraham, Abraham entrusted himself in the Lord and left behind family and land, following God to the land which He had promised to him and his descendants, a land which He has blessed Abraham with. And Abraham stayed faithful to the end, devoting himself to God and God fulfilled the promise which He has made with him.

We have seen how God made Abraham to be the father of many nations, blessing the descendants he has gained from the grace of God. What seemed to be impossible for man, God has made possible, for indeed there is nothing that is impossible or too great for God to do. And through his faith, Abraham gained what he has been promised, for God is ever faithful, and even when His people were unfaithful, God is always ever faithful, for according to St. Paul, He cannot deny Himself and the love He has for us all.

And in the Gospel today the Lord again reiterated His faithfulness to the Covenant which He had made with His people, and as long as they are faithful to Him, they will not be disappointed and they will receive what God has promised to them as Abraham had once received. But at the same time, God wants us all to know that just as Abraham did not have it easy through his many years of following and obeying Him, we too will encounter difficulties and challenges along the way.

This was a premonition of what the disciples and the Apostles would have to face as they were sent on their missions to be witnesses of Christ’s truth and salvation. They would face bitter persecutions and challenges during their ministry, being arrested, tortured and rejected by the people they ministered to, and even betrayed and abandoned by those who were close to them, their own families and friends.

But they held on fast to their faith, as Abraham once had, and spent their energy and strength to serve the Lord wholeheartedly despite all those challenges. And today, we have yet more of these holy predecessors of ours, whose lives have been exemplary and whose actions and deeds can become our inspiration as well, as we look upon the examples of the Holy Canadian Martyrs, the Jesuit missionaries of North America as well as St. Paul of the Cross.

The Jesuit missionaries of North America, St. Isaac Jogues, St. John de Brebeuf and their companions were those who braved the tough challenges of evangelisation in distant lands in the wild and untamed nature of the North American continent, in what is now part of Canada in Quebec. They preached the word of God and His salvation to the natives, many of whom were reluctant and apprehensive of the message of the Gospel they received.

They had to endure bitter cold winters, wild animals and shortages of food, attacks from hostile tribes and torture from those who were captured by those hostile to the missionaries. And yet, they refused to back down and remained strong in their faith and in their strong resolution to serve God. Many of them were martyred but their efforts and their inspiration served to strengthen the faith of many and made firm the foundations of the Church in those lands.

Meanwhile St. Paul of the Cross was a mystic and the founder of the Passionist Order, renowned for his great piety and personal austere lifestyle, through which he inspired many people to live their lives with greater faith and commitment to God. His extensive writings and works became source of strength and conviction for many of those who followed in his footsteps through the centuries since. He showed us all how one can live his life so focused and centred on God and obey His will so well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of our courageous and dedicated, faithful and committed predecessors in faith? Let us all make a new resolution in our lives that from now on we will be ever deeper in our commitment to God and in being ever closer to God. Let us all put our trust in God and be faithful to His Covenant and remember the great love and faithfulness He has always shown us despite our rebelliousness and stubbornness all these while. May God bless us all and be with us always. Amen.

Friday, 18 October 2019 : Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together as the Universal Church the feast of one of the four great Evangelists or the writers of the Four Holy Gospels. Today we honour the memory of St. Luke the Evangelist, the writer of the Gospel of St. Luke, notable for his meticulous method of writing and attention to details, being written many decades after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

While St. Luke was not counted among one of the Apostles, unlike that of St. Matthew and St. John, but St. Luke was mentioned quite a few times in the Acts of the Apostles and was known to be a very important Church father for his many works of evangelisation and ministry among the people of God. St. Luke followed St. Paul during some of his missionary journeys and it was also likely that the Acts of the Apostles was authored by him.

St. Luke had contributed greatly to the Church and his role in the early establishment of the Church and the faith cannot be underestimated. He was a physician and doctor by trade, but after he had found Christ, he went on from treating the people of their physical illnesses into treating their spiritual shortcomings and sickness too. He dedicated his whole life to the service of God and did his best to deliver and proclaim the truth of God to the people.

And he also faced the difficult challenges and persecutions just as the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord had experienced. He continued to serve the Lord faithfully regardless of these difficulties and did his best to be a faithful witness of the Gospel of Christ. His numerous contributions especially in the early codification of the New Testament works helped to ensure that eventually when the Scripture Canon was assembled a few centuries later, the faithful had his immensely useful works in hand.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we ought to reflect on our own lives, on whether we have lived our lives as true Christian disciples as St. Luke had been in his own life. And in today’s Scripture readings, we are reminded of just how challenging it can be for us to be true disciples of Christ, as St. Paul clearly showed his frustration in his second Epistle to St. Timothy, how he was abandoned and left behind by his travel companions and many deserted him when they encountered difficulties in their journey.

The Apostles and disciples of the Lord even had to risk their lives and suffered greatly through all the rejections and persecutions they encountered throughout their missions, just as the Lord Jesus Himself had predicted as mentioned in our Gospel passage today, in how He was sending them like sheep among wolves. But at that same time, the Lord also reassured all of His disciples that He would be with them and the Holy Spirit He would send to them would be their strength and guide.

Then now, we need to realise that in our own lives too, we shall be subjected to similar kinds of persecutions and challenges, not necessarily in the same manner as what the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had faced during their days, but these oppositions we face may even be mental and spiritual in nature, and also even from those who are dear and close to us, our own family members and friends among others. Throughout the history of the Church, we have had many similar examples facing our predecessors trying to dedicate themselves to holy lives in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Luke the Evangelist, the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord? Are we able to dedicate our lives and serve God with conviction and commitment each and every moments of our lives? We must remember and heed also what the Lord had also said in our Gospel passage today, that the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers to gather the harvest of the Lord are not sufficient.

We are all called to be those labourers, to gather the harvests of the Lord, by being true disciples of His in our world today by being His faithful witnesses in the world, not just by words but also through concrete deeds and actions. And we do not have to start big or being ambitious, as in fact, in whatever little things we do in our daily lives, we should truly embody what we believe in as Christians and be true disciples of Christ in everything and at every moment.

May the Lord continue to watch over us and guide us, and may He bless us all in our works and in our endeavours from now on that more and more people may come to believe in Him through us and through our living and real examples in life. Amen.

Thursday, 17 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day through the Sacred Scriptures all of us are reminded of the salvation which God has brought into this world through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom He sent into the world to be its Saviour as He Himself has promised and which promises had been renewed again and again, from time to time, through the many prophets that God sent to His people.

God has loved us all from the beginning of time, even when we have gone astray and fell into sin, by the temptations of the world. God wants us all to be forgiven and healed, made whole and reconciled with Him. But it is us mankind who often refused to listen to Him and preferred to continue walking down our wrong and mistaken path which ended up in us getting ever more and more distant from Him. And one way of how this has happened is because we mankind misunderstood the Law He has given us.

God gave the Law to His people and revealing His love to them because through the Law He wanted them all to order their lives and to return to righteousness, abandoning all that are sinful and wicked, embracing only what is right and true in God’s eyes. The Law of God is a guide through which God wanted His people to be able to discover His love and to love Him wholeheartedly, and therefore, share that same love with their fellow brothers and sisters.

The essence of that love for God and for our fellow men is enshrined in the Ten Commandments, the heart and focal point of the Law which God has revealed through Moses. But the people failed to understand this and the meaning of the Law, and instead, they were preoccupied with the other matters and details of the Law, the rules and regulations and prescriptions which according to the Jewish tradition number some six hundred and thirteen.

And the Pharisees at that time took great pride in supposedly obeying and adhering strictly to all those rules and regulations, customs and practices, looking down on the rest of the people whom they thought to be less pious and less worthy than they were. And they also imposed the strict observance and practices on the rest of the people, persecuting all those who did not comply with their preferences.

But in doing so, they have in fact forgotten about the true intent and purpose of the Law, and of all things, they were the ones who were supposed to be custodians and teachers of the Law, and therefore guide the people to the truth of God. Their failure to embody the Law as it should have been was the reason why the Lord rebuked and criticised the Pharisees and their actions, which were done mostly for self-preservation and glory rather than for responsible and for the right intentions.

That is why today we are all called to reflect on our lives thus far and how we have lived them. Have we been truly faithful to God in all things and at all times? Or have we instead allowed our pride, ego and desire to corrupt us and to make us to sin as the Pharisees had done? Let us recall God’s great love for each and every one of us, and His willingness to forgive us and to be reconciled with us so that we may indeed find our way to be worthy again of God.

And let us all be inspired by the examples shown by a courageous man of God and disciple of the Lord, who was one of the early Church fathers, namely St. Ignatius of Antioch whose feast day we are celebrating today. St. Ignatius of Antioch was one of the early leaders of the Church, being the successor of St. Peter who founded the See of Antioch prior to his establishment of the See of Rome. St. Ignatius would continue the good works that St. Peter had started.

St. Ignatius dedicated his life to his ministry and spent much effort in caring for his flock even amidst terrible and brutal persecutions against the Church and the faithful, writing extensively to the larger Church community encouraging them to keep the faith. He was eventually arrested and brought to Rome, where according to Apostolic tradition, he was brought into the Colosseum with other Christians and had ravenous beasts released at them. Nonetheless he remained steadfast and welcomed his martyrdom with faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should also devote ourselves to God, love Him and be faithful to Him just as St. Ignatius of Antioch had done. Let us ask for the intercession of St. Ignatius that God will continue to strengthen our faith so that we may draw closer to Him and grow deeper in our love and relationship with Him. May God bless us all and remain with us always. Amen.