Saturday, 18 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by the Lord through His words passed through Ezekiel, His prophet, that all of us shall be judged justly and rightfully by the Lord in the end, by none other than our own actions and by our own words and deeds. If a person is righteous and just in his or her actions, then the Lord will bless the person for all the good things he has done.

God will not take into account of someone’s relatives’ actions in deciding the fate of that person. Everyone are responsible for their own individual actions, and in the end of the day, it is our refusal to obey the Lord, our rebelliousness, and our succumbing to the temptations of the world that become the sources of our condemnation, and what had dragged many among us into the fires of hell.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus severely rebuked His disciples for scolding the people who were bringing young children to Him. He told them that unless they had the same faith and act in the manner of the little children, they would have no part in the kingdom of God. Essentially, the Lord is calling all of us to be pure and true in our faith, just as the children are pure and blameless.

If we have seen children in how they act and do things, they are still very impressionable and teachable, as they are essentially blank slate awaiting to receive guidance and examples that they will grow to follow in life. When they believe in something, they will hold on to what they believe without any reservation, for they have not been corrupted by the many temptations and concerns in life.

This is ought to be contrasted with our own faith and how we carry out our Christian living. Many of us lived our lives and followed the Christian faith because we have ulterior motives in doing so, in desiring something or reward out of our faith and how we lived our lives. We even expect that God will do work for us and give us His blessings, and this attitude is prevalent among many of us Christians.

But, brothers and sisters in Christ, is this true faith? Is this what the Lord wants us to have in us? Certainly it is not. The Lord wants us to love Him just as He has loved us, and this requires us to have a pure faith and pure intention in living our lives. There are many temptations in life that can threaten this objective, and which many of us have fallen into, the traps that the devil has set up in our path.

Many of us fell into the temptations of pride and greed. We are too proud and think of ourselves, selfishly and arrogantly, thinking that the world revolves around us. That is why even within the Church and among us Christians, we often hear so many unfortunate stories and tales of people bickering and disagreeing with each other, sometimes even violently in Church, just because they cannot let go of their pride, ambition and desires of the world that pushed them to act in such a way.

But then, linking it back to our first reading passage today, from the prophet Ezekiel, we should be reminded that our every actions will have consequences and repercussions. For our righteousness and obedience to the Lord’s will we shall be praised and glorified, while for our refusal to obey, by our pride and arrogance, and all the wicked things we have done in life, we shall be found wanting and unworthy by God.

Now, are we willing to make the commitment to live our lives from now on, with greater effort to resist the temptations found in this world? Let us all learn from little children, in how they believe in something with a pure and true intention, without any ulterior motives or considerations that can prevent them from truly believing with all of their hearts, minds and souls.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, so that we may come ever closer to Him and be transformed in our actions and deeds, so that when once we acted in ways that sought only our own self-preservation and glory, we will from now on, seek only the greater glory of God and the well-being of our fellow brethren in the Lord. May God bless us all, and all of our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 17 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Scriptures, we listened first of all to the word of God concerning His people, pointing out their sins and wickedness through Ezekiel, the prophet of God in the exile land of Babylon. They have not been faithful and they have abandoned their God, and they have not obeyed the commandments and laws of God.

As a result, they have broken the sacred Covenant which they have made with their God. A Covenant is a sacred and solemn promise which is made between two parties, where both parties are bound by the same promise to be faithful to the Covenant, the terms and conditions that bound them to that very Covenant. In this manner, the people of God had promised to be faithful to God and to be obedient to Him, while God had promised that He would continue to love His people.

The Israelites disobeyed God’s laws and commandments, as what the prophet Ezekiel presented to the people from God’s own words, comparing their attitudes with the attitude of young maiden and woman who had been taken care of by her adoptive father, who represents God, and yet, despite the love that he has shown to her, she has defiled herself and made herself a prostitute among the nations.

But God, as He is ever loving and filled with mercy, continues to love us, as He has never abandoned us and He is always ever loving, even to the greatest of sinners. He continued to care for and to provide for His beloved ones, hoping that one day they may come to realise their mistakes and asking for forgiveness. At that moment, He will reconcile them again and reunite them with Himself, to enjoy His eternal grace and love.

In today’s Gospel passage, we heard about the Lord’s rebuke to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law with regards to marriage. The latter asked the Lord, trying to test Him with the question, whether divorce is something that is allowed according to the Law. To them, according to the laws of Moses, divorce is allowed as long as the two parties involved settled it with an agreement.

But the Lord Jesus rebuked them because using that practice and argument, it reduced the sanctity of marriage into a mere transactional relationship between two people. Marriage is not just merely a formality but it is in fact a blessed union, which God Himself has made, and is a sacrament in the context of our Church, as the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. All of these are founded upon the sanctity of marriage whereupon two people are joined together by God into one, inseparable unity.

And this unity is also stressed in relation to the strong unity between God and His people, which earlier has been mentioned as a Covenant. And thus, today, all of us are called to reflect on the mistakes made by the Israelites in the past, in how they have not been obedient to the Covenant which they made with God. Have we ourselves lived our lives in accordance with God’s ways?

In today’s Gospel, at the ending of the passage, we heard of the Lord speaking to the people, about what each of His people’s respective obligations and callings are. This is called our vocations in life, and there are indeed many different paths to which we are called by God. Some are called to a married life as mentioned, but there are also those called to a life of celibacy and perpetual virginity, and those who are called to be priests of the Lord.

Each of these pathways and vocations are not less worthy or good than the other, and all of them are ultimately about how we can be holy and devout in the way we carry on with our respective lives and vocations. God has called us all to be holy just as He is holy, and to be righteous just as He is righteous, and be faithful to the Covenant He has made with us all, just as He is always faithful to that Covenant.

May the Lord be on our side always, that He will continue to strengthen us in our faith, encouraging us all to remain committed to the Covenant that God has made with us through His Son, Jesus Christ, by His loving sacrifice on the cross. May all of us strive to remain committed and true in our dedication and faith, that by our every actions and deeds, we will bring greater glory to God. Amen.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, first of all, what He had told His people in exile in Babylon through the prophet Ezekiel, of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and Judah as a consequence of their abandonment of God’s laws and commandments. And then in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable which Our Lord Jesus told to His disciples and to the people, of a wicked servant who owed a great debt to his master.

In that first reading, what we heard in God’s words and commands to His prophet Ezekiel, happened at the time when the remaining people of God in the southern kingdom of Judah was facing increasing pressure from the Babylonians, who was the superpower of the time. The Babylonians ruled over most of the region and had subjugated most of the peoples and nations around them, including the kingdom of Judah.

This was the premonition of what would happen next, when the people of Judah and their king, Zedekiah, rebelled against the Babylonians, who immediately sent a punitive force that destroyed Judah, besieged Jerusalem and eventually destroyed the city and the Temple of God, leaving nothing valuable behind, and bringing most of the people to the land of Babylon as exiles.

The people of God in Judah has made a Covenant with God since the time of their ancestors, and God has repeatedly forgiven them their sins and constant disobedience, as they broke the laws and the Covenant again and again. God has entrusted them with the governance over the lands promised to them and their ancestors, and forgave them their debts of sin, but they acted wickedly and persecuted the prophets sent to them to guide them back to the truth.

This is related to what we have heard today in our Gospel passage, when the Lord Jesus told the people about a servant who was to be punished by his master, because of his massive debt of ten thousand pieces of gold, a huge amount of money at that time. But the servant begged the master to be merciful, and to give him more time to be able to pay off his debt, as he had his family to take care of.

The master saw his servant’s plight and had pity on him. He forgave the servant and even wrote off all of his debts. It was a great favour and care showed by the master towards his servant. Yet, that same servant, undoubtedly very joyful and pleased at his experience of being forgiven by his master, went to one of those fellow servants who owed him a small amount of money, and threatened him to pay off his debt immediately.

Despite the other servant’s pleas, begging for the servant to give him more time to pay off the debt, and unlike the master’s action, the forgiven servant refused to let the other servant go and was very harsh of him, demanding that the small debt be paid completely. The other servants saw the exchange between them and reported the incident to the master, who became very angry with the forgiven servant and threw him into prison, demanding that he paid every single coin he owed.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted to make it clear to each and every one of us, that we mankind, represented by the servants in that parable, are so beloved by God, the master in the parable, Who has willingly forgiven each one of us our sins, no matter how great they are, should we be willing to reach out to Him, and sincerely come to Him, begging for forgiveness and mercy.

Sin is our debt to God, and is the fruit of our disobedience against His will, His laws and commandments. And yet, God readily forgives us our sins, should we be sincere in our desire to repent. The Lord Jesus Himself came into this world, to bring forth this point about God’s great love for each one of us sinners. He Himself willingly took up our sins and gathering them on Himself, dying on the cross for our sake.

And that is why, just as our Lord and Master has forgiven us our sins, then we too are expected to do the same with our fellow brothers and sisters. We should not be like the wicked servant who has been forgiven by his master for such a massive debt, and yet could not forgive his fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt. This means that as true and genuine Christians, we must be true in our actions, in how we live our lives according to our faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, the first Christian king of Hungary. He was highly regarded as a model king and ruler, and as a devout Christian. He was widely acknowledged as the founder of the state of Hungary, and helped greatly in establishing the Christian Church and faith throughout his dominion.

Yet, despite his position, wealth and power, St. Stephen ruled with temperance, good judgment, and exhibited great generosity and humility throughout his reign. He truly cared for his people and did his best to improve their livelihood and cared for them. He did not abuse his power or oppress his people using his power and influence. Instead, he used the authority that God gave him with responsibility and tempered with love and compassion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples shown to us by St. Stephen of Hungary should be our inspiration and model, for which we ought to follow suit, in how we live our own lives, dedicating ourselves to God wholeheartedly and with genuine intention. Let us be exemplary in our Christian way of living, and be role models for each other in faith, from now on, that many more people may come to righteousness in God, through us. May God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church rejoices together celebrating the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. On this day, we gather together to remember the glory and honour which the Lord gave to His beloved Mother, Mary, Blessed-Ever Virgin, who has received graces and blessings beyond all other women and all other children of God.

What is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary? In order to understand this word, first of all we must distinguish it from the Ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven. For at the Assumption, declared in the year 1950 to be a dogma of the Church but has been believed since time immemorial, refers to the moment when Mary was bodily assumed in the body and spirit, into the glory of heaven without passing through the process of death.

This is different from the Ascension in that, while the Lord ascended into heaven by His own power, glory and majesty, and by His own will, but Mary was assumed into heaven by the grace and the will of God, and not by her own will or power. The Assumption of Mary was widely acknowledged by the Church teachings and tradition for many years before it was formally announced as a dogma in 1950, because of the Church fathers’ teachings on Mary, as the mother of God.

It is precisely because it was established definitively by the early Ecumenical Councils that Mary is none other than the mother of God, and not just merely the mother of Jesus Christ, the Man, since the divinity and humanity of Christ although separate and distinct but are united in Him, thus, if Jesus is both fully Man and fully God, we cannot say that Mary was just merely the mother of the human Jesus.

When the Lord Jesus was formed in the flesh in the womb of Mary, He was already fully Man and fully Divine. As such, the Divinity Himself has come down to dwell on the earthly body of man, such a glorious dwelling of God must be matched with a worthy vessel to contain His great majesty, glory and divinity. This is the mystery of God, Who is both infinite and omnipresent, and yet, at the same time, can be contained in His wholeness in a small host, the Eucharist, as well as in the body of a Man, born a baby through the Virgin Mary.

And if we look carefully at the accounts from the Scriptures, especially those presented in both the readings of the Vigil of the Assumption and this day itself, there is a lot of emphasis on the Ark of the Covenant and the Woman in the Book of Revelations. The Ark of the Covenant was where the two tablets of God’s Law, the manna and the staff of Aaron was kept, as the sign of the Holy Presence of God among His people.

The Ark was the centre and heart of the worship and celebrations of the people of ancient Israel. It was always carried around through the desert leading the people of Israel during their forty years journey towards the Promised Land of Canaan, and was placed in the richly decorated Tent of Meeting. The Ark of the Covenant itself was richly built and endowed in the most precious materials of the world, to signify the greatness of God’s Presence among His people.

The woman in the Book of Revelations, crowned with stars and adorned with sun and moon about her, is often alluded to Mary, whose depiction often showing her crowned gloriously with a crown of stars, the moon and the sun. The woman is also often associated with the Church, labouring in pain for the One Who was to rule the nations with power and authority. The Baby was none other than the Lord Jesus Himself.

And the woman represents both Mary and the Church, for recently, Mary has also been recognised in her title of Mary, Mother of the Church. For she is the One Who bore the Lord and Messiah of the world in her womb for nine months, as the worthy earthly Tabernacle and as the Ark of God’s Presence. Mary has been chosen and blessed by God, to be given the singular grace of freedom from the taint of sin.

This is what we know as the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church upholds that Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother without the taint of original sin, and therefore was free from the dominion and power of sin. And because sin is caused by the disobedience against God’s will, leading to suffering in this world and ultimately death, the freedom from sin also means, the freedom from death.

Thus that was why the Lord did not allow death to claim His mother, unlike all of us mankind who will eventually encounter death at some point in our lives, at the time of God’s own choosing and will. Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, for Christ came bearing the New Covenant between God and man. And as the Ark of God, Mary has been hallowed and prepared by God to be the one through whom He has entered into this world.

And if Mary did not sin, or that by the singular grace and will of God, free from original sin, then she should not be subjected to death, for death occurs only because of sin, and without sin, one should not die. Indeed, the Lord Jesus died, but not because of His own sins, rather, because of His own will and desire that through His death, He might unite all of us who believe in Him and share in His humanity, and bring us all into the new life He gives us, sharing in His glorious resurrection.

That is why, if God made very righteous people like Enoch and the prophet Elijah to come to Him directly without experiencing death, while they were still affected by original sin, all the more the Mother of God, conceived without sin and remaining ever pure and blameless throughout her life, should also be worthy to receive from God Himself, her Son, the crown of everlasting glory, not letting death to have any part of her.

In the end, the Solemnity of the Assumption has twofold meaning and significance for us all. First of all, through the dogma of the Assumption, we believe that Mary herself, more worthy than any other man, is the greatest of all saints, by the virtue of her motherhood of God and of her own great virtues in life, obedience to God and faith. And being in heaven, she is at the right hand of God, her Son, as His closest confidant as well as our own.

That is why many of us have special devotions to Mary, for she is just like our mother as well, listening to our petitions and prayers, asking her to intercede for our sake, just as she herself had done on the behalf of the wedding couple in Cana. We can trust in her and confide ourselves in her, just as we trust and confide ourselves in our mother’s love and care. If God, her Son, cares for and loves us all, it is only natural that Mary will also do the same to us.

Then, secondly, Mary is also the perfect role model for us all as Christians, for she obeyed the Lord completely and faithfully devoted herself to His will throughout her life. She followed the journey and ministry of her Son Jesus, Our Lord, all the way to the culmination of His earthly ministry in Calvary, the place where Mary herself witnessed with great anguish, her Son being crucified and died. Yet, she surrendered everything to God and trusted Him completely.

The Assumption is then a premonition and a revelation of our own future and upcoming fate, which all of us mankind should aspire to and look forward to. The glorification of Mary, assumed in the body and soul into heaven is a preview of our own glorious resurrection from the dead, when we shall leave behind our mortal and sinful past, to enter into the new life in God, in perfection of love and grace, without any more sin or sorrow.

Now, what we all need to realise is that, while indeed Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, bearing the Lord Jesus in her womb, but each and every one of us who are members of God’s Church and having received the proper instruction in the faith, and found worthy to receive the Lord Himself, present in Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we are also God’s Holy Temple and Dwelling House.

Yet, while Mary was hallowed and prepared holy by God, just as the old Ark of the Covenant was hallowed and made with the most precious of materials available, but we mankind preferred to corrupt and to make dirty, what God had made good and wonderful in our own bodies, minds, hearts, and souls. Through the sins we commit in our daily life actions, we make ourselves unworthy of God, and the consequences of these, are very dire indeed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on this great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, can we reflect on our own lives as well? Are we able to think through our every actions and deeds, all that we may have done in contrary of God’s will, and caused by our greed and by our own wickedness? All these things that had led us into sin against God?

Let us all turn therefore towards God, and devote our whole attention to Him from now on, if we have not done so. Let us all look towards Mary, the mother of our God, by whose intercessions, we have been helped each and every single days of our life. Let us all imitate her examples, her piety and commitment to God, that we may also one day share in the same glory that God has given Mary, His mother, most blessed among women and most faithful among men.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, whom your Son has willed that you be worthy of assumption into glorious heaven, in body and soul, our beloved mother and guide, pray for us all sinners, now and always, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings the Lord spoke to the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading, giving him a scroll containing His words to the people, and asking him to eat the scroll, tasting sweet as honey and then commanding him to go forth and tell His words, as well as His will to the people of Israel. Thus, Ezekiel went on and preached God’s words to His people in exile in Babylon.

And this is related to what we heard in today’s Gospel reading, taken from Gospel according to St. Matthew. The Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples when they were likely bickering among themselves about who would be greater than the other, and who was the greatest in the eyes of the Lord. This was not mentioned specifically in today’s Gospel, but a similar, likely to be the same event, was mentioned in greater detail in another Gospel account.

The Lord rebuked them all by bringing a child to Himself and saying to them, that unless they had faith like that of a child, they would have no part in Him and would not be worthy of Him. What He meant was that, as a child who came to Him and believed in Him, the faith that the child has was purer and greater than that of the disciples, who bickered and fought among themselves for influence and worldly power.

All of us who have seen a child before and observed how they behaved can witness how their innocence is pure and how they are still very impressionable and mouldable. If they come to believe in something at that age, they believe wholeheartedly and without reservation, unlike those who are of the older ages. Once we reach a certain age, our minds and thinking begin to be influenced by many factors and considerations in life, ever present in this world.

And therefore, what is the significance of today’s Scripture readings, brothers and sisters in Christ? First of all, as Christians, all of us must be pure in our faith and in our desire to love God. We must follow what the Lord had said, that each one of those who follow Him must have faith like that of a child, and that means, our faith must be truly something that is genuine and sincere, coming from our heart, desiring to be with God and to love Him at all times.

We should not have a kind of conditional love towards God, loving Him just because we want power, convenience, prestige, and all the things many of us often desire in life. All of these are in fact obstacles for us in our journey of faith towards God, and are hindrances that prevent us from truly being able to follow God’s will in our daily lives. We must be sincere and true in our commitment to God, at all times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then, secondly, today’s Scripture readings also pointed out our obligations as Christians, to be good guides to one another in the matter of faith. In the first reading, God told the prophet Ezekiel to go to the exiled people of Israel in Babylon, to speak to them all that He would speak to them through him, and he obeyed despite the challenges he had to encounter.

And in the Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus warned the disciples sternly that they should not misguide the young ones in faith, and this shows that all of us have the responsibility to keep one another in good faith in the Lord, and to live our lives with good adherence to our faith, so that in everything we say and do, we will not create any scandal or things that lead others to lose their faith and belief in God.

Instead, we must do what we can, to be exemplary in faith and in life, and to devote ourselves in all that we do, that we may keep one another in good faith, and bring even more souls to God’s love and saving grace. This is our responsibility and duty as Christians towards our fellow brethren. And perhaps we should follow the examples shown by the renowned saint, St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose feast day we celebrate today.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar, priest and missionary, who spent years in mission in Japan and other places, preaching the faith and being actively involved in evangelising works through the Militia Immaculatae organisation, before returning to Poland during the time just before the Second World War due to his poor health.

Despite his partial German ancestry and ability to claim privilege as a German during the time of the occupation of Poland by NAZI Germany, St. Maximilian Kolbe refused to do so, and continued doing his evangelising works until he was arrested and his printing and publishing house in the monastery was forced to close down together with the monastery itself. St. Maximilian Kolbe was imprisoned and eventually brought to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp.

In Auschwitz, St. Maximilian Kolbe continued to minister to the people who were suffering grievously, lifting up their spirits by his inspirational sermons and by his continued celebration of the Holy Mass. And when some people ran away from the camp and the prison guards selected some men to be killed as a punishment, St. Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of one of the men who exclaimed with fear as he had wife and children.

Thus, St. Maximilian Kolbe gave his life in exchange for another, and the man was spared from death. St. Maximilian Kolbe willingly embraced death, knowing that by doing so he had given a new hope to the man who was so concerned that he would never see his loved ones again. St. Maximilian Kolbe was thus a holy martyr of the faith and the Church, died defending his faith to the very end against the wicked and unjust ways of the world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Maximilian Kolbe has indeed acted with such great love, that he has imitated the love which Christ has for us so well, sparing nothing for the sake of the loved ones, even with the price of one’s own life. Now, are we able to follow in the footsteps of these holy martyrs and followers of God? Let us all therefore be good guides of faith for one another, by imitating the love that Christ has for us, and which St. Maximilian Kolbe has shown, that we may be ever more committed to live our lives with faith and devotion to God.

Let us all show good examples for our fellow brethren in faith, and help each other to find our way to the Lord, having faith pure as children’s faith, and placing the Lord as the very centre and heart of our daily lives and activities. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 13 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages relating to us about firstly the vision of the prophet Ezekiel as he saw the vision of the glory of God on His heavenly throne. He saw the Lord enthroned gloriously upon the Thrones and Cherubim, with a great multitude of Angels, surrounded by Seraphim and all the great servants of God.

In that vision, the Lord called Ezekiel, one of the exiles of Israel and Judah in the land of Babylon after they were brought there by king Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel was called to be God’s mouthpiece and prophet, to declare to the people in exile of His will and what would happen to the people and the kingdom of Judah, to be destroyed and brought into exile for their sins and constant disobedience against God.

Through what God has shown Ezekiel, He wanted him to know who his master truly was, that is none other than God Himself. Ezekiel obeyed the Lord and followed His commands, even though he had to encounter many opposition and challenges, even threats to his own life. He did what he could in order to perform whatever tasks He had entrusted to him, in order to bring Israel and its people to repent from their sins and reconcile with Him.

God was calling on His people through Ezekiel in order to gather them once again, that they may call Him their God, and He may call them His people. And this is related to what we heard through today’s Gospel passage, where St. Peter asked the Lord if they should all pay taxes to Temple as they were told to. And the Lord’s answer was truly wise and is something that all of us should take heed of as we carry on living our lives in this world.

At that time, the Romans ruled over most of the land around the Mediterranean Sea, including the area of Judea, where the ancient land of Israel was. They stationed garrison troops and installed governors to maintain local order, and they also imposed taxes on all the subject nations and peoples. The taxes paid to the government was used to fund all state expenses, and was also an important sign and proof of submission to the Roman state.

And on top of that, the Temple tax mentioned earlier was an additional tax levied on the Jewish people in order to maintain the running of the Temple of Jerusalem, which was the heart and centre of the Jewish faith, where sacrifices were regularly conducted. There were also many priests and ceremonies in that city, which required maintenance. Hence, again, the Temple tax was a sign of support and also obedience to the Jewish authorities, just as the Roman tax was a sign of obedience to the Romans.

The Lord Jesus said to St. Peter, asking him of his opinion, on who was supposed to pay the taxes to the kings, whether those who belong to the royalty or aliens, that is strangers and the common people. The Apostle answered that the strangers and aliens were the ones who were supposed to pay the taxes and not those who belong to the family of the kings.

Through this, the Lord wanted to state that, as the first reading passage today has shown us, He is the One and only True King of the whole Creation and the entire Universe. There is no other authority or power greater than that of God, and He alone is the source of all power and authority. And then, each and every one of us are beloved by God, that we are made to be none other than God’s own adopted sons and daughters.

Through Christ, Who became Man and as One Who is like us in His humanity, each one of us have been given the chance to call God our Father, just as Jesus called God the Father as His Father. Christ is both the Son of God and Son of Man alike, and through this, we are made to be God’s own children. Therefore, linking this fact with what the Lord had said in today’s Gospel passage, all of us ought to only obey God and His commandments alone.

But, this does not mean that we should disobey earthly and worldly authorities, as being Christians mean that we must be God-centric and we must place Him at the very centre of our lives, but not at the expense of our certain worldly obligations and relationships. We have to realise, that governments and worldly states are actually delegated part of the authority which God alone has.

That means, if we disobey the world and the order of things in this world, just because we want to obey only the Lord and no others, but at the detriment of ourselves and many others around us, we are actually not being responsible and good Christians. There are indeed occasions when the state and the government may act in contrary to the teachings of the Lord as preserved in His Church, when we are called to stand up for our faith, but as long as the state functions within the just boundaries of Christian truth and morality, we should obey the laws of the state and be good citizens of this world, just as we are first and foremost, God’s people.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus, whose life and works were intertwined together at the time when the Church was in its early days, during the time of the harsh persecutions of Christians by the Roman authorities. There were rivalry and bitterness between the two saints, as they were rival candidates to succeed to the throne of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.

Nonetheless, even though they eventually became rival Pope and Antipope, with portions of the faithful and the clergy on each side, but they continued to serve the faithful in their respective capacities, and as Roman citizens, surely they also obeyed the Roman state in the matter of paying taxes and also other civil duties, with the exception of the obligation to worship the pagan gods and the Emperor.

To them, their one and only true Master, is the Lord, and not the Roman Emperor or that of any other authorities of the world. That was why, they stood their ground in faith, when the community of the faithful were persecuted by the Roman authorities. And it was told that they were exiled together and endured many persecutions and sufferings, until they were martyred.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow in the footsteps of those holy martyrs, who have given their all to the Lord and obeyed Him to the very end. Yet, at the same time, we are also called to continue to obey the authorities of this world, to which power and authority had been delegated from God, as long as the laws and rules do not contravene the centre tenets of our Christian faith.

May God be with us always, and may He continue to inspire us all to live with faith and with greater love, each and every day, for His laws and commandments. May He bless us all, in all of our works and endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 12 August 2018 : Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we continue the discourse we had from the previous Sunday, on the Lord’s words to the people of Him being the Bread of Life, giving His own Flesh and Body to all of them to share and eat. But we heard how the people refused to believe in Him and even uttered disgustingly at such a suggestion, saying, how can such a Man give them something to eat from His own Body?

That is because they did not have faith in them, and they did not believe that Jesus is more than just a mere Man like them, even when they have seen all the miracles that He had performed in their midst and despite all that He had taught them, just as the prophets had written that the Saviour would have done. They have hardened their hearts and minds and refused to believe in the Lord’s truth.

In today’s first reading, taken from the Book of Kings, we heard about the prophet Elijah who at that time was fleeing the harsh persecutions he had endured for quite a long time under the wicked kings of Israel and their idol-worshipping followers. The prophet Elijah was at the end of his wits and was in great despair, wanting the Lord to end his suffering there and then right away. It is quite understandable considering the kind of treatment that Elijah had received at the hands of his enemies.

But the Lord sent His Angel to provide food for Elijah to eat, and He commanded the prophet to eat through the Angel, for the upcoming journey He had to take would be a perilous one. Elijah was likely still hesitant, but in the end, he obeyed the Lord’s commands, and ate the bread and food given to Him. The food gave him sustenance and strength to go on a long journey of forty days and nights towards the mountain of God, Mount Horeb, where Moses once received God’s laws.

It was there that God met Elijah, and spoke to him, and strengthened his faith. And ever since then, Elijah continued his ministry, braving through persecutions and trials, carrying out what God wanted him to do, faithfully and with great zeal. This is also a reminder of God’s sustenance and care for His entire people, when He gave them manna, bread from heaven to eat for the entire period of forty years of their journey to the Promised Land of Canaan.

But as the Lord Jesus said in the Gospel passage highlighted the fact that those bread that God gave, while they gave sustenance to the physical body and made them all satisfied and filled, with strength to carry on the long journey, to the Promised Land for the Israelites and to Mount Horeb for the prophet Elijah, but eventually those bread are food that sustains only our physical flesh and body, and ultimately, they are nothing compared to the True Bread and Food from heaven that God would come to give His people, that is His own Flesh and Blood.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, speaking about going in a journey, are we all aware that each and every one of us are also currently in a journey? Our lives are journeys for each one of us, and we embark on this journey of life, with the ultimate destination of being reconciled with God and being in full union with Him, at the end of our lives, when we may be reunited with Him in full grace and love.

We have to make this journey in life because of our sins, the original sin of Adam and Eve, our forefathers, and all of our own mortal and venial sins that have caused us to be separated and sundered from God’s love and grace. Our life on earth, in this world, and all of the sufferings we encounter is this journey of life that we are taking, and we are all on our way towards God.

But on the way, many of us will be distracted and fall off the path, going to the wrong way and direction, and there are many other offerings out there that may seem to be more attractive to us than our original intended destination. That is the devil at work, together with all of his forces and allies, bound on making us to fall into temptation and therefore fall into the eternal damnation in hellfire.

That is why, just as all those who are going on a journey need food to sustain themselves, and not just any type of food, but good, nourishing and hygienic food, not rotten or useless for us in terms of nutrition. Let us imagine if one were to bring perishable food to places like a desert, where there is no way for us to preserve those food. In that case, the food will spoil and if we eat this food, we will be in trouble.

And what is the right food for this kind of journey? It is none other than the Holy Eucharist, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Himself, the Bread of Life, Who has promised all of us who share in His Body, of everlasting life and union with God. We may see that it is just a mere bread and mere wine, as others in the world would also have seen them, but what is different for us, is that we have faith.

The most important part of our faith is our belief that the priest in the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, by the power and authority given to him, has turned and transformed the bread and the wine into the very essence and material of the Lord Himself, His Real Presence in the Eucharist. It was not bread or wine that we receive during the Holy Communion, and neither have we received just a mere symbol of His Body and Blood.

Though by appearance it may seem to remain as bread and wine, but in reality, the Eucharist is the Lord Himself, fully present in our midst and within us, as the physical Body and Blood of Our Lord that has dwelled within us. The Eucharist is the sustenance which the Lord Himself has given us, to share in His Body and Blood, that we may share in His death and resurrection, dying to our past sins and rising to our new life in Him.

The Lord sustains us through the Eucharist, which is eternally linked to the same sacrifice which Our Lord had performed at Calvary, and this sustenance give us the strength and the power to go on in our faith and in how we lived our lives. But have we often taken our reception of the Eucharist for granted? Many of us have, in our attitude towards the Eucharist and in our understanding of its significance.

We still received the Eucharist when we are in a state of sin, and have not repented from our sins and confessed them, and we did not show proper deference and respect for the Lord, even though in our faith, we know that it is Him truly present in our midst. This is the attitude which we must avoid, and discard immediately should we have it with us at the moment.

Therefore, let us be sincere in our faith in the Lord’s ultimate gift in His own Body and Blood, in the Eucharist that He has bestowed upon us through the Church and the holy priests He has appointed to be our shepherds. Let us all love Him with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, and with all of our strength. Let us all turn back towards Him, with a heart that is filled with love for Him, and the desire to be reconciled and reunited with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore realise what it is that we need to do in order to reach out to the Lord from the way that He has shown us all. It is by receiving the sustenance of the Eucharist, Most Precious and Holy Body of Christ, worthily and with faith in Him. Let us grow ever stronger in our commitment to love God and to follow His path, despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.