Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the most wonderful love of God which He has shown us by sharing with us His blessings and graces, His kindness and providence by the sharing of food and sustenance for His people, as highlighted in our Scripture readings today. The Lord also wants to unite His people through the same breaking and sharing of the bread that is in essence, at the centre of our Christian faith.

In our first reading today we heard the account of the activity of the prophet Elisha from the Book of Kings during his ministry in the land of the northern kingdom of Israel. The prophet Elisha was followed by a large number of people, about a hundred in total, and a man they encountered brought them offering of bread from barley and wheat, about twenty loaves all in all. Those bread were nowhere near enough to sustain the whole multitude of people, and hence, the follower of the prophet asked him how he could get enough food to feed all of them.

The prophet reminded that follower and told him to do what he asked him to do, to give all the offered bread and food to everyone, and that God would provide for His beloved ones and they would not be lacking. True enough, everyone miraculously had enough to eat, and everyone had their fill just as the prophet had said, as God miraculously multiplied the bread for them all, and gave them all the share of bread and food to eat in the midst of their ministry and works.

This is a close parallel to what we know even better in the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and thousands of others in the Gospel as we heard earlier today. In that occasion, the Lord fed the whole multitudes of thousands assembled before Him, with even much fewer food, only five loaves of bread and two fishes offered by a young boy. The Apostles, especially St. Philip wondered how they were to go and obtain the food and sustenance to provide for all those people when the Lord asked them to provide the whole multitudes with food.

The Lord prayed and broke the loaves of bread, and also did the same with the fish, distributing them to the disciples who then gave the food to the assembled multitudes, all of whom received enough food and things to eat, had their fill, and still, twelve basket-full of leftovers were gathered. Everyone had enough and were happy, and the Lord showed to all of them, as well as to all of us again how wonderful God’s love and grace is, how He cared for each one of us. He did not send the people away, but fed them from the food which had been offered to Him, and provided for them in their hour of need.

How is this significant for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is exactly how it is like at every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, at the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the offertory, we bring the bread and the wine as offerings to the Lord, which the priests gathered and took, giving thanks to the Lord just in the same manner as the Lord Jesus having given thanks to His Father, and then gave the bread for all of us to partake and share. But even much more so than what had happened in the past, at the Eucharist, which the Lord Jesus Himself instituted at the Last Supper, He gave Himself, His own Precious Body and Blood to all.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, at the pinnacle of our faith, at its very core, is our belief in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, that in miracle that surpasses any other miracles, not only that God feeds us and gave us all food to eat, but He Himself came down upon us, to be in our midst and to be with us. He has given us all Himself as the sustenance and food, to be partaken and shared among us that we truly become part of that One and united Body of Christ, the Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The Church of God of which we are part of is united through this Communion, by the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ, as we gather together to celebrate the Holy Mass and the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, God did not just provide for us in our physical needs, but even more importantly, He shared with us the spiritual nourishment, His true and Real Presence that comes to dwell within us, and we become the Temple of His Presence, as He dwells in us with the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us in our path in life.

And as we therefore reflect on all these words of the Scripture we received this Sunday, then we should spend some time to discern and reflect on our attitude in the Church as one united community in Christ. Unfortunately, in the past few years and decades, especially in recent years, there have been those who wanted to harm the unity of the Church, either by being exclusive and Pharisaical, extremist and hardline in their ideologies and way of thinking, or by disrespecting and disobeying the core tenets and teachings of the Church.

I refer to those fundamentals and extreme groups who sought to either change the Church teachings or to adapt activities and ways that are not in accordance with our faith or sacred tradition, as well as those who have taken in to the extremes ideas such as being against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council that had been legitimate and inspired by the Holy Spirit through the assembly and discussion of all the bishops and the assembled prelates of the Church.

All these things caused divisions within the Church, as it had happened previously in the long history of the Church. It set brothers against fellow brothers, families against others, and segments of the faithful against other segments, groups against groups. And because of this, we ended up losing sight on the true calling we have as Christians, to keep the unity among us and to live together with faith, celebrating and sharing together the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Unity in the Holy Mass.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall and reflect on the love which God has shown to all of us, His faithful and beloved people, let us all therefore strive to put aside our differences, and abandon our illogical and unhealthy ideologies, especially those based not on the truth of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church, but on the basis of human prejudices, ambition, and even selfishness and evil. Let us all put aside all the things that divide us, and instead, focus our attention on the Lord, our God.

Through Him we have received this new life, for He Who is the Bread of Life, has given us all new life, that we receive, partake and share not just mere bread alone, but in truth, we have received nothing less than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, that we who partake worthily of Him, become one Body and one Church, and through this unity and the sharing of this holy union with God, we are made whole once again, and receive the assurance of eternal glory and true joy in Him.

Let us all remember what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Ephesians, part of which is our second reading today, that we all have to strive for unity of the Church, through the Holy Spirit, and nurture a spirit of charity and love, of generosity and kindness towards one another, that we share this blessing and grace of God we have received with each other, that we remind ourselves of the need to build a truly united and harmonious community of the faithful and Church, that we do not only love the Lord with all of our might and strength, but also our fellow brethren, as part of the same Body of Christ, the Church of God.

Let us all therefore grow ever more in our faith in the Lord, deepen our relationships with Him, and entrust ourselves to Him with ever greater commitment and devotion, with greater trust and desire to seek Him in each and every moments of our lives. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower each and every one of us to live together as one united Church, one united community of the faithful. May God bless us all and our every good works and good endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 24 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us with regards to the matter of faith and believing in God, which is something that each and every one of us have to take seriously, and which we have to ponder and discern so that we know the path going forward in life as God’s faithful people, and not fall into the many traps or obstacles that threaten us in our way towards God and His salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard how the people of Israel made and renewed the ancient Covenant that their ancestors had established with God, as they all solemnly bound themselves to the Lord and committed themselves in that solemn Covenant, promising to obey the Lord and to follow His Law and Covenant wholeheartedly as they should. This happened not long after they had disobeyed and refused to believe in the Lord, making a golden calf idol to be a god over themselves, even though they had themselves seen and witnessed the wonders of the Lord, His love and might.

This is related to what we then heard from our Gospel passage today, with regards to the parable that the Lord had used to teach His disciples and the people, regarding the sowing of seeds of good wheat and the sabotage by an enemy who sowed the seeds of weeds that harm the wheat. This is used by the Lord often, in referring to farming and agriculture in His parables because many among the people were involved in that field and most of the people would have been familiar with the concepts that the Lord used to explain His ideas and teaching.

The enemy referred to the devil and all those seeking our ruin, while the sower and owner of the field is the Lord. We are the field on which the Lord had sown His good seeds, the seeds of faith, hope and love, the seeds of Christian charity, justice and righteousness. Yet, as we heard, at the same time, the devil and his forces also sowed the seeds of doubt, fear, infidelity and pride, the seeds of human greed and ambition, and the seeds of rebellion and selfishness, wickedness and evil. Through all these, the enemy wants us all to perish, by choking the good out from us, just as the weeds if left unchecked, would kill the wheat.

In agriculture and farming, the farmers always struggle to maintain the balance between the crops and the weeds, constantly making sure that the good plants thrive while the weeds are controlled, prevented from growing and thriving, and removed. Unless this is done meticulously and patiently, the wheat and all the good crops will perish or will not end up well. That is why, linking back to the first reading today, we are all reminded to put away from our hearts and minds, all the corruptions of our sins and evil ways, and turn wholeheartedly towards the Lord.

We ought to excise from our hearts, our minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings, the weeds sown by the devil. We must be vigilant lest we fall into the many temptations we find all around us. We must be careful and do whatever we can to resist the lures of evil and seek the Lord with commitment and zeal. In order to do this, we ought to look at the Lord and His faithful servants, all of our holy predecessors whose lives had been worthy and good, in their obedience to God and in their pursuit of sanctity and righteousness in all things.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Sharbel Makhluf, also known as St. Charbel Makhlouf, a renowned holy man from Lebanon, a truly holy and pious servant of God, whose life and even stories of what happened after his passing still inspired many Christians to this very day. St. Charbel Makhlouf was a Maronite Christian who was drawn from an early age to a life of piety and faith in the Lord, responding to God’s call and became a monk, dedicating his whole life to the Lord. As a monk and later on a solitary hermit, St. Charbel Makhlouf led a life wholly dedicated to God.

Yet, wonderful things happened when he passed away and miracles began to happen at the saint’s tomb, which led to many people, even non-Christians who came to believe in the Lord through the many miraculous things that happened at St. Charbel’s tomb. His piety and faith also inspired many others to walk in his footsteps and follow in the way of how he had lived his faith. We too should be inspired by how this saint and holy predecessor of ours had lived his life, and we should follow his examples and commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord and commit ourselves to the Lord, to His Law and commandments, and walk in His path from now on wholeheartedly. Let us grow in faith, and remove from ourselves, from our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, from our whole beings any distractions and temptations that may tempt us away from the Lord and His salvation. May God bless us all, and guide us to the right path, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 23 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bridget of Sweden, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today from the passages of the Scriptures that we have received, we have heard how the Lord revealed and passed down His Law to the people of Israel during the time of their Exodus from Egypt, in what we now know well as the Ten Commandments. Then, we also heard from the Gospel passage on the explanations that the Lord gave on His own parable of the sower, as He explained to His disciples what He meant by each of the symbolisms found in that parable.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord speaking to Moses on the details of the Commandments which He was giving them, as He made His Covenant anew with them. Those set of Ten Commandments served as the basis and the core of the Law which He gave to His people as the foundation and solid bedrock of faith, and as the guide for them all to follow so that they would not lose their way and remain true to the path that He has shown to them. Those commandments reminded them and also all of us first and foremost, that God is our Lord and Master, and as the One and only One to Whom we ought to give honour and glory, and love with all of our might.

That in essence is the meaning and purpose of the first three Commandments, from the First to the Third one, to love the Lord with all of our heart and with all of our strength, and then to have no other god or idol beside Him, and honouring His Name and His holy day, as God’s beloved people and as those who truly had faith in Him. Then, the other seven Commandments refer to the love that each and every one of us then ought to have for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men and women, all those who we encounter in life, even strangers and acquaintances.

All of these God has given to us so that by our faith and dedication, by our actions and commitments to the Lord, through our righteous deeds, we may grow ever stronger in our love for God, and that the seeds of faith, the Law and Commandments of God, that have been sown in us may grow wonderfully and bountifully on the rich and fertile ‘soil’ that is our souls. This is what the Lord had referred to in our Gospel passage today, as He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower to all of them.

The Lord is reminding all of us just as He reminded His disciples at that time, of the great importance for us to be open to the words of the Lord, to His Law and Commandments being spoken and delivered to us, and placed within our hearts. And we cannot forget that each and every one of us are the recipients of God’s most generous gifts of love, of faith and of hope. He has given us all these so that we may grow ever stronger in our devotion and commitment to the way of the Lord. We have to nurture and cultivate this faith we have, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Lord in walking down this path.

We are all called to resist the temptations of the world, all those things that kept us away from the Lord, from His truth and love, as those seeds that landed by the roadside, amongst the thistles and brambles, and on the rocky grounds had shown us, and which the Lord said that all those cases were due to people having failed to resist the many temptations present in the world, and all the allures and false promises made by the devil that led us further away from the Lord and His salvation. As long as we lack the true faith in the Lord, we shall falter and fail to bear rich fruits in the Lord.

How do we then become fruitful and bountiful in the Lord? It is by internalising and truly understanding the Law of God, His Commandments and all that He had taught us and revealed to us. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have all claimed to uphold the Law and in zealously defending them and imposing its strict rules and regulations on the people, and yet, they failed to realise how they had not been able to understand the true meaning and intention of the Law, and instead, being enslaved by their own desires and ambitions for power, fame and worldly glory.

Today, all of us are called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Bridget of Sweden, a holy woman and religious whose faith and commitment to the Lord was truly renowned throughout Christendom. She was remembered for her deep piety and devotion to the Lord, while at the same time, showing great compassion to the poor and the needy, and did her best to establish a congregation of like-minded people, to serve the people of God and care for the poor, those who would eventually be known as the Brigittines, after their founder, the Order of the Most Holy Saviour.

It was told that St. Bridget of Sweden went on several pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy See, caring for others in need along the way, at the time when much of Christendom were suffering from the Black Death pandemic that claimed numerous lives. She led a group of priests and others who went about doing the works of the Lord and His Church in the various communities of the faithful they encountered. It is through all these that we can see what it means to bear rich and bountiful fruits of our Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect therefore on our lives, in how we have walked in the path we have trodden thus far. Let us all be ever more faithful, and be ever more attuned to the Lord’s will, obeying His Law and Commandments, not just for the sake of obeying them, but rather, understanding and appreciating them fully, with all of our strength and might, that we may bear rich spiritual fruits and be ever closer to God. May the Lord strengthen us and give us the courage to follow Him with all of our commitment, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 22 July 2021 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the closest followers of the Lord Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. St. Mary Magdalene was mentioned several times in the Gospels, as one of the most fervent disciple of the Lord. She was according to some traditions, the repentant woman and adulterer, or prostitute who had turned towards the Lord and became His disciple. In the same tradition, the Lord also exorcised seven demons or evil spirits from her.

St. Mary Magdalene was honoured by the Church because she has indeed shown faith and dedication as one of the Lord’s closest followers, who have followed Him throughout His ministry, and dedicated herself to Him and His cause, staying by His side even throughout His Passion, His suffering and death, being there with Mary, the Mother of God, by the foot of the Cross. And she was also there when the Lord first made His appearance again after He has risen from the dead.

For this reason, St. Mary Magdalene has often been considered the Equal of the Apostles, since the very beginning of the Church, and she is also known as the Apostle to the Apostles, being the one who brought the Good News of the Lord’s Resurrection to the assembled Apostles on the day of His glorious Resurrection. It was St. Mary Magdalene who joyfully broke the news of the Lord’s return to the disciples who were fearful and afraid after having lost their Lord and Master, and it was St. Mary Magdalene who once again inflamed their hearts with hope.

St. Mary Magdalene was just an ordinary woman, and according to some tradition, even was an unworthy woman in the eyes of people like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as if she was a prostitute as some tradition mentioned, then she was truly a filthy and unclean person that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law considered as less than human beings, as sinners that were condemned to damnation and destruction because of their vices and sinful actions. This attitude and prejudice remained even though those prostitutes and others like the tax collectors and people who suffered from diseases and demonic possession could repent and turn away from their sinful ways.

But the example of St. Mary Magdalene showed all of us that there is no end for sinners, and there is bright future even for those who have been great sinners, no matter how unworthy they are before the Lord and man alike. St. Mary Magdalene and her conversion to the faith and her commitment to the Lord showed us that God called and chose all of His people even from among those deemed as the most unworthy, that they might turn towards the light and inspire others to follow their examples as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, we are also called to follow in the footsteps of St. Mary Magdalene, to be converts to the true faith and to redirect ourselves and our focus on the Lord. Though we are sinners and we may have been unworthy, but God through His love has always ever been so generous in His kindness and patience, in reaching out to us and calling on us to repent from our sins. In God alone we can find healing and redemption from our sins, and the story of St. Mary Magdalene is a proof and assurance for us, that even great sinners can become great saints.

What truly matters is our focus and internal disposition towards the Lord. We are all called to respond to His call to holiness and to abandon our past, sinful lives, as St. Mary Magdalene had done, and then respond to the call to be part of the Church’s mission, that is to testify for our faith and to be the bearers of God’s truth and Good News to all of His people, as St. Mary Magdalene herself had done when she brought forth the news of the Lord’s resurrection and broke the wonderful news to them, despite many of them at that time not believing in her words.

Let us all therefore walk in the footsteps of St. Mary Magdalene, following her piety and faith, her humility to follow the Lord and casting aside our past sinfulness. Just as she humbled herself in one occasion, to wipe the Lord’s feet with her tears and drying them with her hair, let us all tearfully and sorrowfully also seek the Lord, full of regret and sorrow over our sins and waywardness. Let us all turn away from all those that are evil, and face the Lord once again with true and genuine love, and be the source of inspiration in faith for one another.

May the Lord be with us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us that we may courageously follow Him with greater zeal and dedication, in each and every moments of our lives, and that we should persevere with faith, no matter what challenges, trials and temptations we may encounter. Let us all sinners be sinners no more, throwing away the shackles of our sins by the Lord’s grace and forgiveness, and be fully reconciled and reunited with Him. May God bless us all and His Church, all of His faithful ones, all the same, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that God has sowed the seeds of faith in all of us, and through what He has sown and nurtured in us, He hopes to see all of us to grow wonderfully and to bear fruits, rich and plentiful, and not being barren or unproductive. This is what we are being reminded of as we recall the Scripture readings that we have just heard being proclaimed earlier on.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of the Exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt, as they began their journey through the desert towards the Promised Land of Canaan, the lands of their ancestors, and a land overflowing in much riches, in milk and honey, in food and prosperity. Yet, at that time, in the desert, where the Israelites were journeying through, there were no food or provisions, in a place where life can scarcely persevere or survive. They were grumbling and complaining against the Lord because they did not have much to eat.

That was where the Lord showed His love and His might before all of His people. Through Moses He told them all that He would provide for them and for all their needs, that they would indeed know who it is that really cared for them, and how He remained with them and would journey with them together to the promised land. He gave them the manna, the bread from heaven, for them to eat on every single day. When the Israelites complained that while they were enslaved yet they enjoyed good and enough food to eat in Egypt, the Lord ‘sowed’ the very desert with the manna.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are to link what we heard from the Book of Exodus to the Gospel passage today, the manner in which the manna appeared before the people of Israel was almost like that of seeds being sown, as the manna were collected from the ground as the morning mist and dew settled, on every single day save for the Sabbath day. Hence, in a way we can see how even the desert itself bore fruits as the Lord sowed the manna there, and through that, the Israelites had food to eat for the entirety of their journey, which lasted a whole forty years long.

In our Gospel passage today, then we have heard the famous parable of the sower, which many of surely have heard and known about. The parable of the sower was used by the Lord to teach the people and reveal to them how He has given them the gift of faith, to each and every one of them, and how He then expects each and every one of them to nurture those gifts. The sower spread his seeds in many places, and the various seeds ended up and landed in different types of soils.

In all those different conditions where the seeds landed in, only the seeds that landed on the rich and fertile soil managed to grow and produce rich and bountiful products, while those seeds that fell by the roadside, or among the thistles and brambles, or on the rocky grounds, all failed to germinate and grow, or failed to stay alive, and were eliminated as a result. This represents all those, according to the Lord’s own explanation, who have received the gift of faith, and yet failed to fully internalise those gifts and failed to do what they ought to do to make those gifts of faith bear fruit.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because too often we depended on our own strength and on our own way of thinking, rather than entrusting ourselves to the Lord and putting our faith in Him. Like the Israelites of old, they were easily swayed by the temptations of hunger and worldly desires, by pleasures and other comforts to abandon and even betray the Lord, for pagan idols like that of the renowned golden calf idol that they made as god over themselves despite having seen and known what God had done for them.

This is why we need to trust in the Lord, as if God was able to provide food and ample sustenance to the whole multitude of over six hundred thousand Israelites through the desert for over forty years without fail, then everything is also possible for us. If we live with God as the centre and focus of our lives, and with Him as our God and our source of strength, then we shall not find ourselves failing in the end. We may indeed struggle and face challenges and temptations to give up and to abandon our faith, but if we remain firmly focused on the Lord, we shall be able to persevere, just as how our many predecessors had done.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence of Brindisi, one of those predecessors of ours whose life and dedication can become great inspiration and guide for us on how we ourselves can lead a life that is dedicated and committed to God. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was a great priest and missionary, who as a Capuchin priest reached out to many of the Jews and the Protestants during the height of the then Counter-Reformation, which through his great piety and charism, managed to lead a great number of people to the true faith and the Church.

He dedicated much of his life and efforts to advance the cause of the Lord, and was renowned for his writings and works, his works on theology and the nature of faith which inspired many others through the subsequent years and centuries. St. Lawrence of Brindisi showed us all how as Christians we can walk in the path of the Lord and remained faithful to Him, and through our examples, we can even inspire many others, our fellow brothers and sisters, to lead a holy Christian life and help many more people in their journey towards God and His salvation.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen our faith, that we may always be ever courageous and committed to Him, to live our lives as Christians to the fullest and to bear rich fruits of our faith, in the manner that the Lord had described in the parable of the sower. Through our efforts, we may inspire so many others to turn towards the Lord, and hence, by those efforts, we bear many multitudes of rich and genuine fruits of the faith, for the greater glory of God. May God bless us all in our every efforts and good endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop 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 Scripture, we are called to reflect on our faith in the Lord and what it means to be Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His own people. He has called us to walk in His path and to trust in Him, and as long as we are faithful, we have nothing to fear, for God Himself will always be by our side. If God has always been faithful even when we have been unfaithful, then how much more blessed we shall be then, if we are faithful?

In our first reading today, we heard the moment when the Lord delivered His people, the people of Israel, from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, as He led them through the Red Sea, safe and sound, walking on the dry seabed as He opened the sea before them. And we heard from the Book of Exodus today, the moment of the final triumph as the Lord delivered the Egyptian chariots and armies into the sea, crushing them before Him.

The sea engulfed and destroyed all those who had pursued the Israelites across the sea, and finally the people of Israel were truly free, as they would no longer be under the tyranny or rule of the Egyptians and the Pharaoh. The Lord Who loved them and had compassion on them had shown them the undeniable truth and proof of His enduring and ever generous love for them. He rescued them from their great sufferings and restored hope to them.

Through this, all of us are yet again reminded of all the great and wonderful things that the Lord had done for our sake. Just as He has blessed and taken good care of the Israelites, thus, He has done the same for us, and will continue to do the same for us. However, it is we ourselves who often disobey Him and disregard Him, ignoring Him and preferring to follow our own paths rather than to trust in the Lord and His path. And in this day’s Gospel passage, we heard the Lord reminding all of us that those who follow the Lord and obey His will, they are all beloved and blessed by God, as those considered to be His own brothers and sisters, as intimate part of the family of the faithful.

All of us are therefore reminded of the need for us all to have faith in the Lord and to walk courageously and faithfully in His path, remembering all that He had done for the sake of His beloved people. We have to keep this faith alive in us, and grow ever stronger in our commitment to the Lord, and be role models for one another in how we are living our lives so that we may help more and more people to turn towards the Lord with renewed faith. Let us all not be easily swayed by doubt or fear, or by any other temptations that often prevented us from truly finding our way to the Lord.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Apollinaris, a famous bishop and martyr of the faith, who was the Bishop of Ravenna in today’s Italy. According to Church tradition, he was made the Bishop of Ravenna by none other than St. Peter himself, the Bishop of Rome and first Pope. St. Apollinaris of Ravenna was appointed as the shepherd of the growing flock of the faithful in Ravenna, caring for their spiritual well-being and needs, and leading them through the challenging times of the earliest days of the Church there. St. Apollinaris laboured hard for the sake of the Lord and His Church, establishing firm foundation for the Church and the population of Christians under his care grew rapidly.

It was told that the miracles he performed during his ministry inspired many to turn towards the Lord and became Christians. This however also led to fierce opposition by the pagans who viewed the growth in the Christian faith and Church as great threat to themselves. As such, St. Apollinaris and his flock were persecuted, with the bishop himself attacked and made to suffer, enduring difficult trials and challenges, suffering from wounds and torture, sent into exile and prison. Yet, St. Apollinaris endured all these obstacles and strove to do his best to remain firmly faithful to the Lord.

Through to his eventual martyrdom, St. Apollinaris inspired many Christians that came after him, and many others who chose to turn to the Lord because of his examples, which strengthened and encouraged many other Christians to do the same, and become beacons of God’s light among the people of this world. How about us then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we not inspired in the same way as well? Are we not ashamed that while so many others had been inspired and moved by the Lord’s love and by the faith showed from His faithful servants, yet we are still unfaithful and lacking in commitment and love for the Lord?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore turn towards the Lord with renewed vigour and zeal, and rediscover that love and faith that we ought to have in the Lord, and for the Lord. May the Lord bless us all and may He guide us all in our journey, efforts and good endeavours that we may ever be closer to God and conform ever more to the path that He has set before us all. May God be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Reflections on the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes, for the good of the Universal Church

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I am sure that many of you are left with questions and even disappointments after listening to the publication of the new Motu Proprio ‘Traditionis Custodes’ (Custodians of Tradition) by His Holiness Pope Francis on 16 July 2021 regarding the rules and regulations on the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Roman Rite using the 1962 Missal, also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite or Usus Antiquior.

There are undoubtedly many different responses from all segments of the Church, from utter dismay and anger by those who felt betrayed and oppressed by the new stricter regulations, to those who are rejoicing and exuberant because they had long opposed and were vocal critics of the ancient Mass and tradition. Unfortunately, the nature of these responses is exactly why the release of this Motu Proprio is an opportunity for the entire Church to reflect carefully on what our faith and our authentic liturgical expression is all about.

First of all, Traditionis Custodes does not equate the banning or attempt to make the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite illegal, unlike what quite a few individuals and groups had been saying. Unsurprisingly, these are the same groups and individuals that had been the very reason why Traditionis Custodes had been promulgated and published in the first place. These are the clear minority among those who treasure faith and tradition, and yet, are the most vocal and radical in their viewpoints, which unfortunately led to the broad characterisation and prejudice against the entire communities of the faithful favourable to the Extraordinary Form and tradition as a whole.

On the other extreme, we also have those who will not stop at anything to ‘change’ the Church and its teachings, a relativistic attitude to conform to worldly preferences and desires, to change the Church teachings and ways to suit the comforts and conveniences of men. These are also usually the same ones who are most jubilant and happy at the imposition of strict regulations as stipulated in the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes. In any case, these people who represent extreme attitudes are incompatible with the Universal Church, and were the ones that caused divisions within our Church and the communities of the faithful.

As such, we have to first of all appreciate that the ultimate goal of Popes since the efforts of Pope St. John Paul II in liberalising the use of the Extraordinary Form through the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei in 1988 and Pope Benedict XVI with Summorum Pontificum in 2007, is to bring together all the faithful in one expression of faith through the liturgy, encompassing both the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council while appreciating the riches of the tradition of the ancient liturgy, from which the Ordinary Form ultimately also stemmed from.

What the Popes intended is for all the faithful communities to benefit mutually from the best of each liturgies, the theology and the rich symbolism of the ancient Extraordinary Form, its adherence to the rubrics and emphasis on the Sacrificial nature of the Holy Mass, while also appreciating the beauty and outreach of the vernacular and the more widespread use of the Scriptures and its contents in the Ordinary Form, which remained faithful in all to the true essence of the Mass, that is the celebration of the Lord’s one and only Sacrifice at Calvary.

Unfortunately, there were those who continued to be stubborn and refused to acknowledge, respect or accept the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Although indeed there were abuses and grave errors in how some interpreted the Council and how they took the liturgy to the extent of liturgical abuse, but it can’t be denied that the actions of those who refused to accept the decisions, documents and developments of the Second Vatican Council have led to division within the united Church, the Body of Christ, with some even insisting on more extreme ideologies, rejecting even the Pope and other teachings of the Church.

That is why as we continue moving on forward as one united Body of Christ, the Church, we must make sure that the provisions of the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes are adhered to and followed. We have to trust in the Lord and the Holy Spirit, that the bishops to whom the authority had been entrusted in the management of the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form, will exercise prudence and sound judgment, charity and generosity in extending the permission to celebrate to all those who have been deemed suitable to celebrate with reverence, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, for the benefit of all the faithful.

We also pray that the Lord will continue to bring us to true unity, that we will no longer be divided by our ideologies, and especially not by our liturgical preferences. The Holy Mass is after all, the same, valid and worthy, regardless whether it is done in the Ordinary Form or in the Extraordinary Form. What is important is the need for us to be reverent in our celebration of the Holy Mass, to be inclusive in our worship and to put God first and foremost in all things, especially in our worship above all else. That is why we should neither discriminate or be prejudiced against either the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form, or to be lacking in proper reverence and respect of the Lord, as some of the worst liturgical abuses had done in the past decades.

Let us all look deep into our faith and the traditions that our forefathers had upheld, and together with the Pope, our bishops and priests, and as one Universal Church, be more united to the Lord through prayer, and resolve to commit ourselves to better and ever more perfect unity through Him, that we may benefit from the riches of both Forms of our most noble Roman Rite, and grow ever stronger in our faith, with each and every passing moment. Let us all grow ever stronger in charity and compassion towards others, and develop a most loving and inclusive community of the faithful, united in the Lord, in purpose and mission, in our love and reverence to the Lord.

Peter C.M. David Kang

康銘琮

Singapore

18 July 2021

Monday, 19 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to have faith in the Lord, to believe in Him and to trust in Him, that each and every one of us may grow in our faith in Him and not to be easily swayed by doubt and fear, or by worldly temptations and pressures among other things. The readings of the Scripture that we have heard today from the Book of Exodus on the moment of Israel’s liberation from the Egyptians, and the Lord’s words to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law ought to serve as good examples of this.

In our first reading today we heard of the time when the Israelites were already journeying away from the land of Egypt to the shores of the Red Sea, when the Pharaoh changed his mind about letting the Israelites go free, and sent his forces, his army and chariot to go after all of them. The people became afraid and panicked after they saw the Egyptians and their chariots coming for them, trapping them between the chariots and the Sea. They were desperate and began to blame Moses and the Lord for having brought them out of Egypt.

This was the example of how we let our fears and insecurities to rule over us and cloud our judgments, leading us to lose our faith in the Lord, just as we did not have strong faith in Him from the very beginning. We placed our trust more in our own strength and capabilities, and when these failed us, we gave in to despair and desperate actions, that actually brought us even further away from God and fell deeper into sin and into the clutches of the evil ones. Too often we worry and are concerned excessively because we have no trust and faith in the Lord.

And therefore, just as on that day on the shores of the Red Sea, when the armies and the chariots of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh were bearing down on the Israelites, many among the people of God lost heart and grumbled against the Lord instead of entrusting themselves to Him, despite having seen for themselves how God had intervened on their behalf, in sending ten great plagues that struck Egypt, the Egyptians and their Pharaoh so hard that these all forced the latter to agree to let the people of Israel to go free. They had seen so much, and yet, failed to believe, because they had not allowed the Lord to enter into their hearts yet.

This is therefore can be compared to the attitudes of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who in our Gospel passage today were mentioned as asking the Lord to give then signs so that they might believe in Him. They had in fact seen so many of the Lord’s miracles and wonders as they relentlessly pursued the Lord and hounded Him throughout His ministry, as they followed Him from place to place, seeking to find evidence against Him. They had seen all these, and yet still refused to believe in the Lord, and even dared to ask Him for more signs.

Why did the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law did these things, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they had hardened their hearts and minds, and closed them against the Lord, Who had ceaselessly and patiently knocked against the doors of their hearts and minds. They fell to the temptations of their worldly desires, of their pride and ego, their ambition and also want for power and influence, for fame and worldly glory, all of which led to their downfall, as they continued to resist the Lord’s good works and disobeyed Him, again and again.

No amount of miracles and signs would be enough to sway them all as long as they allowed themselves to be bought over by worldly desires and temptations. They saw the Lord as great rival of their own power, prestige and influence, and thus, that was why they worked so hard against Him, to the consternation of the Lord and His disciples. But the Lord remained patient and loving even towards them, and revealed how He would give them the ultimate Sign, as He was to be laid on the Altar of the Cross, to suffer death and then to rise again from the dead into glory on the third day, while alluding to the story of the prophet Jonah.

Through that, the Lord wanted to remind them and also all of us, that when we encounter challenges and trials, difficulties and hardships, we must not lose faith in Him. On the contrary, in fact we have to redouble our faith and commitment to Him, seeking Him with ever greater sincerity and zeal. This is what each and every one of us are supposed to do, and what all of us are called to do as Christians, to be those people who trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and might, and dedicate ourselves each and every moment of our lives to glorify the Lord.

May the Lord be with us and may He strengthen us, reminding us of how He has rescued His people by the shores of the Red Sea, opening the sea before them, leading them through and crushing the armies and the chariots of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians, showing them and all of us, that in the end, if we stay faithful to the Lord, we shall triumph and if we remain in His grace, we shall gain eternal life and true joy, through Him. May God bless us and our good endeavours and efforts, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 18 July 2021 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are all called to seek the Lord, our true Guide and Shepherd, that we should turn our focus to Him, and follow Him and dedicate ourselves as His faithful disciples and flock, and remember the love with which He has patiently guided us, showed us the way forward, and nurtured us all with generous love and dedication. As we heard in our Scripture passages today, the Lord has always loved us and showed us His kindness, wanting us all to return to Him and be reconciled with Him.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people regarding the presence of wicked and unfaithful shepherds who had misled the people of God into the path of sin, as they cared more about themselves and their desires and ambitions rather than about those whom they had been entrusted with, which resulted in the people of God walking down the wrong path and losing their way, and in the end, were picked up easily by the devil and all seeking our downfall and destruction.

Contextually, by the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel, God’s chosen people had gone through a long way in falling deeper and deeper in the path of disobedience and sinfulness against God, in their rebellious attitude against their Lord and Master. Far from the days of David and Solomon when the people of Israel were faithful and true to the Lord, for many generations they had fallen into sin, and lost their way, amidst the many temptations of the world. They were tempted and swayed by worldly glory, wealth, possessions and pleasures, that they began to veer off the path that the Lord has shown them.

And most responsible for this was the attitude and actions of the leaders of the people, the kings of Israel and Judah, and the elders of the people. Many of them were unfaithful and wicked in their ways of life and in how they exercised their authority. Their indulgence in worldly excesses and unlawful actions, and their promotion of pagan idol worship and the pagan gods led to many among the people to be swayed and turning away from God as well. That was why the Lord sent many prophets and messengers to His people, as He wanted all of them to be reconciled to Him, and to find their way to Him.

But the people were stubborn and refused to listen to the truth and to reason, abandoning the Lord ever more and persecuting His prophets and messengers. The Lord patiently reached out to them nonetheless, and sent more and more servants on their way to both Israel and Judah, leading the people and hoping that they would come to see reason and the love with which He has loved them. From the very beginning, God has always been committed to us, and He never forgot why He created us. It was out of love that He created us, and His desire to share that love with us, overflowing from His Heart.

This is what He has resolved to do, to continue to love us and to reconcile us, just as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus, that Christ Jesus, the Lord and Saviour of all, had come into this world to reconcile all of God’s beloved ones to Himself, and to break the barriers and walls that separated us from God, that nothing else can hinder us from the fullness of God’s love and grace. This is what He desired to do, and which He had intended for us, and by His coming into this world, Christ has opened for us the path to God and to fullness of grace in Him.

And contrasted with the false, wicked and evil shepherds that were highlighted by the prophet Jeremiah, here was the one true Shepherd of all, the Good Shepherd of all of God’s people, the One Who would gather all of them into one flock, calling on all of the scattered flock of the Lord to be reunited to Him, and through Him to God, Whose love for them endures forever. While in the past, the sins and wickedness of the people of Israel and Judah had led them to be scattered among the nations, as they were defeated and conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively, but God had gathered them back and returned them to their homeland, as they repented from their past faults and disobedience.

Thus, in the same manner, God is also seeking to gather us all, His scattered flock, just as He came into this world, revealing the truth of His love and the salvation He promised to all. He has come as our Shepherd and Guide, showing the path for us to be reconciled with Him. In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord saw that the multitudes of people following Him had been following Him and seeking for guidance and help, like that of sheep without a guide or shepherd. That is why, the Lord came to their midst and taught amongst them.

Such was His love for them that even though He and His disciples were tired and exhausted from their ministry, but He still taught them patiently and revealed to them even more about God’s love. He has shown us yet and again, just how much He loves each and every one of us, despite all of our stubbornness and constant refusal to listen to Him. If we are to reject Him and continue to refuse to believe in Him, then it is our own conscious refusal that we shall be judged against. God has made His mercy and love available for us, easily and generously, and we have to appreciate the chances we have received.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these this Sunday, let us all spend some good time to reflect and ponder upon all that God had done for us, all the love which He has shown us, His great and enduring patience in seeking us and hoping that we may be turned away from our waywardness and end our stubborn refusal to listen to Him and obey His will. He as our Good Shepherd has always devoted Himself to us, and patiently sought us out, that every single one of God’s lost and scattered flock may be found and reunited with Him.

Such was His love for us, that to this extent, that He laid down His life for our sake, just as He Himself said how the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. The Good Shepherd put Himself between us and danger, the destruction that is due upon us because of sin and death, and instead, bearing His Cross, He took upon Himself all these burdens and consequences of our sins and our punishment, and died on the Cross out of pure love for us, that by His wounds and His death, we can be healed and restored to perfection through Him.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all, from now on, bear witness to this ever wonderful and generous love of God, and be thankful for all that God has done for us. Let us all never take Him again for granted, but do our best from now on, striving to live faithfully in His presence, and to follow Him with all of our might and abilities, and do whatever we can in order to seek Him, and to make Him known to more and more people. Let us all be shepherds to one another as well, guiding each other in our journey of faith and life, that we will not be easily swayed and tempted to abandon God and His truth.

May the Lord, our Good Shepherd, our most loving God and Father, continue to watch over us and strengthen us at all times, that He may always help us to persevere through the trials and challenges in life, and that He may always guide us down the right path, resisting the temptations and pressures that lead us to the path of sin. Let us all renew our faith and commitment to the Lord, our loving Shepherd, and be ever more faithful from now on, ever onwards. May God bless us all, in each and every one of our good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 17 July 2021 : 15th 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 listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to turn towards the Lord and remember constantly His mercy and love by which He has led us all these time through the journey of our respective lives. The Scripture readings today serve as good reminders for us to recall all the good things that the Lord had done for His people, from the Israelites in the days of the Exodus and then all that the Lord Jesus, our Saviour had done as He came and dwelled in our midst.

In our first reading today, we heard of the moment when the whole multitudes of the Israelites began their journey out of the land of Egypt after the Passover and after the last great plague ravaged Egypt so badly that the Pharaoh finally relented and let the Israelites to go free. The Pharaoh and many other Egyptians had lost their firstborn sons and suffered from all the great plagues that God sent against Egypt for their refusal to let the Israelites to go free and return to their homeland in Canaan.

God led the people of Israel out of Egypt, with all of their possessions, and all of their companies, a huge multitude of people blessed by God, a whole nation of over six hundred thousand people after four hundred and thirty years in Egypt. This was indeed a proof of God’s blessings to the house of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as Jacob’s family alone, extending to over seventy people, had by then therefore blossomed to a large nation, despite all the efforts by the Pharaoh and the Egyptians to snuff them out.

Despite the harsh treatments and slavery they experienced during the last decades of their stay in Egypt, the Israelites grew and spread ever more in numbers, and God was with them throughout the way. And Moses was sent to them to lead them out of Egypt, which became true by the great plagues which God had sent against the Egyptians. As we heard in that passage from the Book of Exodus, it was truly a joyful time for the people of God, finally free of their enslavement and being led to the land promised to them.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard the mention of Our Lord Whose coming into the world was the fulfilment of the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah, as the Lord had once spoken to His people through Isaiah that He would send His servant to the midst of His people, One Who would carry out His will and Who would suffer for them on their behalf, that through the sufferings and humiliations He had to endure, He has brought us healing and freedom, the freedom from the tyranny and bondage to sin.

Thus, all of us are therefore reminded of how we ourselves have been liberated from the slavery of sin, much as the Israelites had been liberated from their bondage at the hands of the Egyptians. We have been blessed by the great grace with which God has patiently showed us His love each and every moment, that despite all of our stubborn attitude and sinful, wicked behaviour, God’s love and mercy are still greater than all of these. He desires nothing else other than for us to be reconciled to Him, and in order to do that, we have to abandon our sins and reject our wicked attitudes and actions.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our own way of life and how we have been living as Christians all these while. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or have we allowed worldly desires and ambitions, temptations of the flesh and pleasures to distract and mislead us in our path in life? Have we allowed the devil and his lies to make us trust in him more than we trust in God? These are just some of the questions which we really ought to ask ourselves, and ponder if there are still more that we can do to be faithful disciples and followers of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and let us all turn towards Him with renewed zeal and desire to serve Him and to love Him wholeheartedly, that we may indeed be faithful disciples of His, in everything that we say and do in life. Let our every actions, words and deeds proclaim the glory of God in the midst of our own communities, and let us all ourselves be sources of inspiration to one another, in how we are living up to our faith, that more and more may come to know of God and His love, and how He has freed us from the bondage to our sins. May God be with us always and bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.