Sunday, 12 June 2016 : 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of the Scripture readings which we have received and listened to all spoke of a very important thing in our faith which all of us tend to forget and overlook, or even worse, that we misunderstand its true intention and purpose. And therefore, it is imperative that we come together and understand what the meaning of the Scripture passages is for us all, and reflect on them so that we may be awakened to the Lord’s will and grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the punishment which God metes out for the sinners and for all those who have disobeyed Him and betrayed His love and trust. It is what we call justice, or to be more precise, divine justice, as we have sinned against the Lord and committed what is evil in His sight, and therefore, it is just that we face the consequences of our sins and wickedness, and the just reward for sin, is death and damnation in hellfire.

And yet we all should know how loving and merciful our God is, to those who are willing to be forgiven, and who has shown the desire and right attitude to be forgiven. In the first reading today we heard about the exchanges between the prophet Samuel and king David of Israel, the one whom many people, especially among the Israelites, regarded as the ideal king, the just ruler and as the role model and example of how one should be faithful to God.

And yet, we know of two very prominent moments when king David was unfaithful to God and disobeyed Him. The first one was the one which was mentioned in the Book of the prophet Samuel as we heard it today, about how David plotted against the captain of his guard, Uriah, and planned for his death, because he was enamoured and indeed had committed adultery with Uriah’s wife.

The second of which, king David in his great pride and the time of his great glory, conducted a survey of his entire realm even against the advice of his advisors. And by this act, he showed disobedience against God, when he placed himself above all else and succumb to the temptations of human pride and glory. It showed his lack of satisfaction with what God has already blessed him with, by counting them and thus presumably wanting for even more.

Then, we should ask ourselves, what is the significance is for us? It is because if we look at what king David had done, certainly we should realise that no one is perfect and beyond reproach. Even the faithful king David himself also faltered and fell into sin. This is a reminder for us all not to be ignorant of sin, and not to be overconfident of ourselves just because we think that we are not capable of sinning or committing what is not right in the sight of God.

But at the same time, we should also take note how king David responded to those situations. What did he do? He immediately humbled himself before God and repented from his sins. He regretted having committed all the sins which he had done, the sin of adultery and the sin of the desires of the flesh, as well as the sin of pride and human greed.

This is where many of us are often misguided and misled by wrong thoughts and ideas, where we think that God loves and forgives us all, no matter what wrongs and sins that we have done. Some of us may think that God is a loving and kind God who tolerates everything that we did, but we often do not understand and realise that God is as much as He is loving as He is also just and good.

This means that sinners who have sinned and then continued to live in their sinfulness without the desire and the attempt to recant and reject their sinful ways, will not be forgiven by God. A sinner remains a sinner as long as he or she wishes it to be so, and if they continued to commit things and do things that are against God’s will and His ways, then they only have themselves to blame for their damnation and rejection by God.

This is where we come to the point where we have to reconcile between God’s justice and anger, with His everlasting mercy and love for us. God loves us all, the people whom He had created, as the most beloved of all His creations, but He did not love our sins and wickedness. Indeed, He Who is perfect and good despises all of the sins and the darkness which we have brought upon ourselves.

Thus, when we suffer and when we groan because of the hardships and challenges we face in life, and when some of us fall into damnation and eternal suffering in hell, all these were not intended by God for us. God Who created us out of love did not desire our suffering or for us to perish in that suffering. Death and hell were not intended for us either, and in fact, God intended for us all to live forever in joy with Him, ever since the day He created us.

But it was us who have betrayed Him in the first place, preferring to give in to our human desires, falling into the temptations and the lures of pleasure, both of the flesh and the mind, as well as into the words of the devil, who tempted us with sweet words and falsehoods to trick us and to lure us away from attaining salvation in our God.

But God is willing to give us all a chance, the opportunity which He presented to all of us to change our ways and to choose out of our own free will to be forgiven for all of our trespasses. This is what God had told those He had forgiven, including the woman who was in the Gospel today, tearfully and humbly anointing the feet of Jesus, a sinner and yet a very courageous sinner who was aware of how grave her sins were and desiring forgiveness for her sins.

Sin no more and do good from now on, and this is the key message which Jesus told those sinners, and which is expected from all of us as well. We may all be sinners, but what is required from us is repentance and renewed devotion to our Lord. Without repentance, a sinner remains as a sinner, and the sins which we have remains with us, and on the day of judgment, these will come back to judge us.

We must be careful, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we do not fall into the trap of giving false mercy. That means, showing true mercy to each other means showing with love, the love of God, that all mankind have hope for salvation, but it requires commitment and hard work to be done by those who seeks God’s mercy. We cannot and we do not tolerate the sins that we make, or else, we are dooming our brethren to certain destruction.

But neither should we act in the way that caused sinners to stay away from God and His salvation because they worry about the anger and the punishment from God, if we made it too harsh and too difficult for them to return to the Lord and to re-embrace His ways. Thus, a middle ground has to be reached, and it is our duty and responsibility as Christians to keep one another from sin.

May God help us and guide us in our lives, so that we may be ever faithful to Him, and be filled with grace and love, and with the courage and strength to care for one another, to stop sinning and do good from now on. Let us be pure and be worthy of our Lord, reminding each other to be ever faithful to the Lord our God. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Double II Classis) – Sunday, 28 December 2014 : Homily and Scripture Reflections

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents, commemorating those children in Bethlehem who were slaughtered mercilessly by King Herod the Great, in his insecurity and fear that the promised King of Kings, Heir of David would dethrone him and made him to lose everything. He slaughtered all the infants and babies of age two and below, innocent as they were, in order to fulfill his own ambitions and desires. Thus, he had sinned greatly against God.

This feast of the Holy Innocents reminds us of our human nature. We are by nature often selfish and thinking only about ourselves and how to aggrandise ourselves. And in the process of that, we often bring harm and suffering to others, as we stride forth in our quest to bring more to ourselves, be it fame, human praise, wealth, influence, and many other things we often covet and desire.

In order to fully understand the story of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents we have to understand more about who King Herod the Great and why he did the deeds he had done. King Herod was an Idumean or a Nabatean, the group of people who lived to the south of the land of Israel. He was not even one of the Jewish people, but he was rewarded the kingship by the help of the Romans, who contracted the help of King Herod and his father to overthrow the previous ruler of Judea.

In exchange, king Herod had to pay his respects to the Romans who became his overlords, and Herod had to acknowledge their power and superiority over him, and thus he was no more than just a puppet king installed by the Romans. Yet his example then shows us how the greed and ambition of men can have no bounds. In the case of king Herod, he did all he could to preserve his own power and kingship, showing jealousy and hatred to all those who seek to challenge his authority.

But while Herod dwelled on earthly things and sought in vain to aggravate his own personal and worldly agenda, Jesus the true and one King of all showed that His kingship and authority is not one based on the ways of the world, but based on the goodness that is in Him. In this we can make a stark comparison between Herod and Jesus, and this comparison can also be extended into our own, personal lives.

While Herod was vain and power-hungry, Jesus was humble and contented. And while Herod used violence to project his authority, the Lord Jesus had no need for such a thing, as He made His authority clear simply by the clarity of His teachings and messages, and the truth which He preached and bore witness to. By His obedience, He brought mankind into the Light of God and many are saved through Him, while Herod committed a great sin trying to eliminate the One whom to him is none other than a potential rival.

Brothers and sisters, it is therefore a clear reminder to all of us, that as we live this life, we cannot strive to seek what is vain and what is worldly, in expense of the fate we are to have in the world to come. Christ Himself told His disciples explicitly, not to build for themselves wealth and power in this world, but build instead the guarantee and wealth in the world to come.

And how do we do this? We have to stop and reject the temptation to bring about our own benefit and selfishness at the expense of others. Otherwise, we will end up like king Herod, who committed a great sin of murdering the holy innocents of Bethlehem just so that he might satisfy his worldly desires and greed. And in the end, those who have committed wicked deeds will be punished, just as Herod died not long after that, and his kingdom divided among his sons, and eventually these were destroyed shortly after by the Romans.

Most importantly, he has to answer before God for what he had committed. The holy innocents gained the glory of heaven even though they were still very young, as they have suffered great persecution and martyrdom for the sake of the Lord. But Herod is likely to fall into hell for what he had committed. He is likely to suffer there for eternity without any hope for salvation.

Do we want this fate for us? Certainly not. I am sure that we want to avoid this as far as possible. But in order to do that, that is why we have to take the lesson from king Herod and his actions in slaughtering the holy innocents to our heart. We have to get rid of our selfishness and desires that often come in the way of our ability to follow the Lord with the whole of our heart.

As we still continue to proceed through this Christmas season, let us share the joy we have and the graces and blessings which we have received. Let the Lord’s love and grace permeate through all the peoples and all creations so that all of us together may be drawn closer to His ways and away from the selfish ways of the world. May Almighty God bless us and guard us, so that we may not succumb to our emotions and desires, the same one that had brought down Herod to damnation in his murder of the Holy Innocents. Holy Innocents of Bethlehem, pray for us! Amen.


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Monday, 15 December 2014 : Third Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue with our observation of the season of Advent, as we go into the third week. Today we heard about the blessing of Balaam on the people of Israel, even though he, a seer of God, was told by an enemy king to curse them. He instead blessed them and brought God’s grace to them. And then in the Gospel we heard about the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who doubted Jesus and His works and tried in vain to question His authority.

The blessing of Balaam told the prophecy which would be repeated by many other prophets through the ages, that the Saviour would come among the people of Israel, the Star of Jacob, the Son of David, the Salvation that would come from God. Balaam, the seer of God had seen the Figure of the Saviour in his vision, and through his vision, he foresee the coming of the Messiah in Jesus our Lord.

It is truly intriguing that while Balaam, who was not of the people of Israel, believed in the Lord and Saviour who would come as he had seen in the vision, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law refused to believe in Him even though they were supposed to be the ones who knew the most about the Sacred Scriptures and the revelations of God’s words.

The teachers of the Law refused to believe in Jesus because in their hearts they were not ready for the coming of the Lord. The same also happened to their ancestors, the people of Israel, who constantly rebelled against God since their Exodus from Egypt, because they do not have God in their hearts, but their hearts were filled with human desires and greed of the world. They thought not of God and His ways, but of their own selfishness and concerns about themselves.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? We too are often distracted by the many things and goods of the world that we forget about our Lord in our lives. In our celebration of Christmas in particular, we often overlook the central figure of Christmas who we should celebrate, that is Christ our Lord. We often forget about Him in our busy schedules and celebrations, and we overlook the birthday Boy, who we should truly celebrate about.

Jesus Christ is the centre of the celebrations of Christmas, for it is His birthday that we are rejoicing for, but instead, many of us end up using Christmas as the opportunity and occasion to showcase our possessions, giving one another ever more expensive and extravagant gifts, and decorating our homes with all the decorations. Do we truly understand what we are doing all these for?

We focus so much on the externals and the superficial celebrations, but we often ignore the true meaning of Christmas. Christ who came into the world heralded the aspects which we celebrate this Advent season, namely hope, peace, joy and love. Have we realised these aspects which we ought to celebrate this coming Christmas? Have we brought hope to others, or peace into this world filled with hatred and evil? Have we brought joy, not the joy of the world, but the true joy in Christ to others and to all around us?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us continue to realise that Advent is a season and time for preparation, that is to prepare for the coming of our Lord, as He had promised us. And how do we prepare for it? By doing His will and doing what He had taught us. As we have to remember that when the Lord comes again, it will be a time of reckoning, when the Lord will judge us according to what we have done and what we have not done.

Thus, how do we make our Christmas truly meaningful? By not following the path of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were so captivated by their personal ambitions and pride so as to fail to see Christ when He comes, and failing to see the truth in what He has done. Therefore, it is imperative that starting from now, and especially this Christmas, we should share the hope, the peace, the joy and the love of Christmas with one another, and most especially those who are in need of them.

Let us never leave anyone without these, and let us not abandon those who are without hope, those who are without peace, those who are sorrowful and without love. May this Christmas celebration be truly meaningful to us and our brethren, and therefore let this Advent time be a great opportunity for us to get ourselves closer to our God and be more faithful through our real actions, showing the real and living faith that we have in He who loves us.

May Almighty God guide us this Advent, and make us all ready to welcome Him when He comes again in glory, and may He find us all good and worthy. Amen.


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Thursday, 11 December 2014 : Second Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today it was told to us about the great help and grace that we can gain in the Lord our God, who is our Help and our Saviour. He is willing to make us great and give us much blessings, provided that we allow Him to come into ourselves and transform our lives for the better. If we allow Him to make a difference in our lives, then all that we do will be great and successful, for no one that does the will of God shall go unrewarded.

In the Gospel today, our Lord Jesus told His disciples about John the Baptist, who is the messenger sent by God, the prophet and servant who would prepare the way for His own entry into the world. John was indeed Elijah the prophet, who was taken up into heaven by God at the end of his first ministry, on flaming chariots as witnessed by Elisha, his disciple and successor. The same Elijah then, as prophesied, came again into the world in John the Baptist.

Elijah was a great prophet, and in him the grace and power of God was truly evident. He healed many people from their afflictions, performed many miracles, feeding and providing for the widow of Zarephath, and even brought dead people back to life. He made flames to fall down from the Lord onto his sacrifice when the pagans and the Baal worshippers contested him at the mount Carmel.

All these miracles and wonders were the sign of divine favour and blessing, which He bestowed on all those whom He had sent into the world to be His servants and messengers, and also to all those who live uprightly and justly in the presence of our God. The same spirit and power bestowed upon Elijah, was therefore also bestowed on John the Baptist, who then called the people of God to repentance, much as Elijah had once laboured to bring the people of God back from their past sinfulness.

That was why Jesus mentioned John in such a way, that he is indeed greater than any who came before him, and yet, at the same time, he as the servant, is not greater than his own Master, who would come after him, in Jesus Christ. But the readings today, particularly the Gospel, are indeed not about comparing one to the other, not about comparing John the Baptist and Jesus our Lord, for it is truly a lesson of who we should be and how we should act, as the disciples of Christ.

It is a lesson and reminder of humility, the humility of both John the Baptist and ultimately, of Jesus Himself. John the Baptist was bestowed with great power and authority, and yet, he humbled himself before God greatly, proclaiming publicly that he is not the Messiah, and how he would not even be worthy to untie the straps of the sandals of His Lord. When more and more people flocked to Jesus and followed Him instead of John, he was happy, and truly pleased, that with the words we should indeed reflect on, ‘He shall increase, while I shall decrease.’

And Jesus, we knew that He is God, and being the Son, He is equal with God the Father and Almighty in all things. However, as St. Paul mentioned in his letter to the Philippians, that He does not dwell on that equality as something to be grasped. But rather, He lowered Himself and assumed the nature of a servant, and in that humility, He was exalted and His Name is glorified above every other names (Philippians 2 : 6-11).

As we can see, that our Lord is good and great, and He has done so much in order to help us attain our freedom from the slavery of sin and to gain the eternal life promised to us. However, many of us are unable to obtain this, because our pride often stands in our way. Pride prevents us from acknowledging our sinfulness and our corruption, and that is why we are often reluctant to seek the Lord, because we either think that we do not need Him, or that we are thinking to highly of ourselves to stoop down to acknowledge our shortcomings.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope of Rome and Leader of the entire Universal Church. Pope St. Damasus I was born at a time just after the ending of the persecution of the Faith, and grow during a time when the Faith increasingly become accepted as the norm in the late Roman Empire, until it eventually became the official and only Faith of the Empire.

Pope St. Damasus I was elected Pope at a time of great turbulance. Although the Faith has become increasingly firm and rooted in the world, and more and more accepted the Faith, but conflict and divisions arose more and more frequently, endangering the unity and the works of the Church. Clashes and riots accompanied the papal election that elected Pope St. Damasus I, because of rival candidates and infighting in the Church, which caused great pain to the faithful.

Pope St. Damasus I was not elected as the Successor of St. Peter without opposition or difficulty, but nevertheless, he carried out faithfully the duties and responsibilities which had been given to him. He was very firm against heresies and all the aberrations of the Faith, and he stood to condemn all those who had misled the people of God for their own benefits.

He worked hard in conjunction with many other great saints and fathers of the Church, including St. Jerome and St. Basil of Cappadocia. Pope St. Damasus I continued to dedicate himself faithfully in the service of God and His Church, and despite his position, he remained always humble and devoted to the cause which he had been called in service to. Through his dedication, he brought forth much good for the people of God, and helped the works of so many other saints at the time, building up further the foundation of the Church of God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we not walk in the footsteps of Pope St. Damasus I? Shall we humbly go our way and seek the Lord in all things, and especially seek Him for His forgiveness for our transgressions? Let us no longer be stubborn and put our pride aside, so that our Lord may come into us, and transform us into peoples of goodness. May Almighty God, our Lord, be with us all, and make us to be like His faithful servant, Pope St. Damasus I and bring goodness to one another, the people of God, His Church. Amen.


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Tuesday, 11 November 2014 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us through the readings of the Holy Scriptures we are all shown the virtues of obedience and proper behaviours according to the teachings and the ways of the Lord. In the first reading, in continuation of the letter which he sent to Titus while he was in captivity in Rome, St. Paul exhorted the faithful ones of God to follow the rules and expectations for each members of the Church, be it man or woman, old or young.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel reading, Jesus told a parable to His disciples, about a servant and his master, and the relationship between them, which ought to be proper, as how a master should be, and the servant should also act and do things as is expected of him. In this, we also see a clear link with the exhortations of St. Paul, on how the Church consists of many members, made up of many different kinds of peoples, all of whom should behave as they are expected to behave.

Mankind had the nature to rebel and disobeying others. It is often difficult for us to listen to others and follow what they want us to do. Ever since the beginning, we have rebelled against our Divine Master, the Lord God, who was so generous with His love and care for us, His servants, and yet we still chose to walk on our own path, disregarding the commandments of God, and rather, we listened to our own hearts’ desires.

Just look at the people of Israel, the chosen people of God, who for generations continued to rebel against the Lord’s will, and even after the Lord had given them His Law, from time to time, they continued to follow their own paths, worshipping pagan gods and idols, sacrificing to these idols, and also committing other forms of debauchery and wickedness in their lives.

And they wanted a king to rule over them, and God gave His permission for them to do that, and they had kings, some of whom were good, but many were wicked and disobedient to God, acting not as they should. The kings of Israel were the vicars and regents for the Lord’s true reign over His people, Israel, and yet they misappropriated and abused their powers and authority, serving their own purposes, leading the people even deeper into sin and rebellion against the Master of all.

And even in the world today, we still see such rebellious attitudes running rampant among us. It is difficult for many of us to know who we are and what we are expected to do, as a member of God’s Church. That is why, if we look at the various issues at hand, we can see that there are many dissenting voices trying to disturb and in fact destroy the order of things, as God had ordained.

Each of us has our role to play in the Church of God, as the presbyterate, the members of the ordained priesthood, or as the laity, the people of God who live on their daily lives as normal. And the men and women, each of whom had their own unique and complementary roles in the Church, as the members of God’s people. Yet, many people who did not understand how the order of things is like, are trying to disrupt the harmonious way of things is working.

Therefore, we ought to stand up against those who cry out for gender equality in the Church in any of its forms, and the subversion of the roles of the priest and the laity, by the blurring of the differences in their roles. Those who called for such horrendous changes are not educated and ignorant in the truths of our Faith, and as St. Paul had said in his letter, we should help them to learn the truth, find their roles in the Church and act accordingly according to those roles.

The truth is that, each members and parts of the Church have unique roles and expectations, and their roles are distinct and complementary to each other. One cannot usurp the function and role of another without disrupting the proper and good order in the Church.

The priests are the ones who celebrate the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, and also are the ones authorised to give the Holy Sacraments to the people of God. Meanwhile, the laity are not allowed these roles, but instead, what are their roles? Their roles are to help the priests in their ministry and works, and in living their daily lives, they ought to be exemplary and faithful, and in building up their families, they should lead a true Christian way of life, creating good and faithful Christian families.

None of them can function without the other, as they support each other and becoming pillars, strong pillars of the Church and the Faith. And then, with regards to the roles of men and women in the Church, each of them have their own complementary roles, that support each other and perfect each other in the running of the Church.

Only men can become priests, as chosen by the Lord, and it is an unchangeable and unalterable Law of the Lord, given that the Apostles were men. But this does not mean that women are sidelined or discriminated against in the Church. Instead, women also occupy very special role in the Church, as the guardians of the Faith in the family, by her faith and dedication to God, she became role model for her family.

And we also know that there are many female religious, as nuns and others, who dedicated themselves fully to the Lord in prayer and loving service. These religious support the good works of the priests, by assisting in their missionary and loving works, and through dedicated service to mankind, showing a great example of faith to be followed by others. There had been many saints who were holy women, both religious and the laity who had dedicated themselves to the way of the Lord.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a renowned saint and Bishop of Tours during the late Roman Empire. St. Martin of Tours was once a Roman soldier, who was pious and devoted to the Lord. He was born of a pagan family, but he attended Christian services since youth and became a believer against the wishes of his father.

The qualities of St. Martin of Tours had been evident even since his youth. When he was still a centurion in the Roman Army, he met a poor beggar in a town, who was freezing to death on the cold road. St. Martin of Tours was moved with love and pity, cutting his own centurion’s army cloak in half, and giving that half of a cloak to cover the body of the poor beggar.

At night, St. Martin of Tours had a vision of the poor beggar, who brought the half cloak to him, and revealing himself to be none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. He rewarded St. Martin for his actions, and this vision and event simply pushed St. Martin further in his zeal, and it also brought him into the faith completely, for he was still a catechumen at that time.

As a member of the Roman Army, he was often intrigued by the need for him to shed the blood of others, of his enemies, which he felt was against his conscience as a Christian and follower of the Lord. Therefore, eventually he renounced his part in the Army and became a full time follower and servant of the Lord, by becoming disciple of another famous saint, St. Hilary of Poitiers.

As the bishop of Tours, this holy man carried out numerous good works for his flock, building up churches and places of worship, setting numerous standards to be followed by the followers of Christ, and establishing strong foundations of the faith in his diocese. Through his various works as bishop and shepherd to the people of God in Tours, he brought many blessings and goodness to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, on this holy day of St. Martin of Tours, let us all take home two messages, and two important things which we need to heed in this life. First, is that all of us should play our roles actively in the Church, not by trying to be what we are not supposed to be, but to be faithful to the Lord and His will, just as He had said in the Gospel today, that we fulfill the will and wishes of our Lord and Master, without succumbing to our desires and pride.

And then second, we have to emulate the example of St. Martin of Tours in how he had lived his life. We have to show mercy and charity to others, helping those who are in need of help, so that our faith in the Lord will not be just merely empty faith, but will instead be alive and vibrant, filled with the love of God. And after we have done all these, remember that we have done it not for ourselves, but as the actions of the loving servants of our God.

Let us all say to the Lord, that we have all done our duties faithfully and as a servant of God should have done. Let us grow richer and stronger in our humility, so that we may learn how to live according to the role which God had given us, and not to seek to gain more for our own purposes. And we hope that He who sees all and knows all that we do, will reward us with His everlasting grace and love. God bless us all. Amen.


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Sunday, 9 November 2014 : 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast of the whole Universal Church, and especially the Church of Rome, the heart of Christendom, as established by the Vicar of Christ, the Supreme leader of the entire Body of Christ, the Church, St. Peter the Apostle, who established his seat in the once Imperial capital of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome, and where he was martyred for his faith in God.

He is the very first Bishop of Rome, and the very first one to lead the growing faithful community there in the Imperial capital. St. Peter the Apostle is indeed also accredited with the establishment of several other important and key dioceses throughout the Empire, and indeed, the See of Antioch also had St. Peter as its first bishop and leader. However, it was in Rome, where St. Peter truly established his seat and served the people of God until he was martyred in the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero.

And when we talk about the Church, we know of the various hierarchy of structures and personnels that made up the whole universal Church, and the administrative divisions in it, which in fact mirrored closely the division of the civil administration of the Roman Empire. The name diocese, was taken from the name used to describe a provincial division of the late Roman Empire, and this is taken into the structure of the Church as a group of the faithful led by a bishop, with many priests and the laity both under his care and supervision.

Bishops are overseers and leaders of God’s people, and they also supervise and coordinate the actions and works of the priests, the holy servants of God. And the premier and the foremost of all bishops is the Bishop of Rome, who as the bishop of the very diocese where St. Peter the Apostle had established himself and martyred, is the successor of that holy saint and shepherd which our Lord Jesus Himself had entrusted with all of His faithful on earth.

St. Peter affirmed his faith in the Lord with his threefold declaration of faith, a reminder that he had once denied his Lord and God three times during the Passion. And Jesus forgave him, and entrusted him with the entire the Church, as His Vicar, by the words, “Feed My sheep.” The Bishops of Rome, the Popes, therefore inherit the same commandment which Jesus had given to Peter, to lead His entire Universal Church.

And as bishop, indeed, he has a cathedral too, the Bishop of Rome having the Cathedral of Rome as his seat. We have to take note that the Cathedral mentioned here does not refer to the largest or the most beautiful churches present in the diocese, but rather the place, the very church where the seat of the bishop is. And this seat is the bishop’s throne, or the Cathedra, where a Cathedral gets its name from.

For many of us, we may think that the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican is the Cathedral of the Pope and the principal church of Christendom. However, this was wrong. Indeed, the Basilica of St. Peter has a special importance, both as a Papal Basilica, of which there are only four in the whole world, and then because it itself is located on top of the Vatican necropolis, which was the very spot where St. Peter was martyred during the reign of the Emperor Nero.

The Basilica therefore housed the remains of St. Peter, and is also the regular residence of the Popes, and where he celebrates the majority of his liturgical functions in Rome. However, the Pope’s Cathedra as the Bishop of Rome is not located at the Basilica of St. Peter, but rather at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, located in Rome, and not in the Vatican City.

Basilica of St. John Lateran was the site of the original Lateran Basilica donated by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who was the first Christian Roman Emperor, and it became the official residence of the Popes, the adjacent Lateran Palace, and the Basilica became the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. The reason why the Popes no longer stay at the site, was because of the upheavals of two centuries ago, where worldly conflicts forced the Pope to abandon the Lateran for the safety of the Vatican, where he resided from then on.

As the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, the first and principal diocese of the Church, therefore it is also the Mother Church of the entire and whole Christendom, the very first and most important of all churches in the world, superseding even the Basilica of St. Peter, and noticed in its official name, the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran. It is the only Archbasilica in the world and was dedicated first to the Lord, who is the Saviour of the whole world, and then to both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.

Today, we celebrate the day of the dedication of that sacred and hallowed Cathedral, the heart of the entire Christendom as the seat of the Popes. Dedication of a church is a very important event, for it is the moment when the particular location is consecrated and blessed, as a sacred and worthy space, for all the faithful to celebrate together the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and death on the cross.

This is what the first reading today is all about, the vision of Ezekiel who saw the great and holy Temple of heaven, filled with divine glory and majesty, and he saw a torrent of water coming out from the Temple. This is what the hymn which we sung at Easter, Vidi Aquam, was taken from. ‘I saw water pouring out from the Temple…’ and what is this water? It is the holy water of our baptism, a reminder for us all to be holy and pure as we are at the moment of our baptism.

This is why we have the custom of signing ourselves with the sign of the Cross and the holy water when we enter the church. This is to remind us that we are coming into the holy place of God, which had been dedicated, consecrated and blessed for holy use of the Mass. Remember that Moses was asked to remove his sandals when he came to see the burning bush in the mountain of God? That is because the sandals represent all the vile and unworthy things of the world, which ought not to be present in the holy presence of God.

And therefore, similarly, when we come to the church, we should come with only a single intent, that is to be with our Lord, and to be fully present there, with all of our heart, soul and body completely present, ready to give thanks and praise to the Lord for His love, which we commemorate in the Holy Eucharist in the Mass. We should never even have the mind to do other things inappropriate for us to do when we are in the holy place and presence of God.

Therefore, it is absolutely saddening and disheartening if we see our own behaviours when we come for the Holy Mass, especially when those behaviour represent our disrespect to the Lord and His holiness, in His very temple no less! How many of us are guilty of talking and gossiping, as well as chatting things that are most of the time irrelevant to the celebration of the Holy Mass?

How many of us look to our gadgets and to our smartphones, to our mobile phones and others, instead of looking at the One whom we all should look towards, the Holy One who had given up Himself in death, so that we may not suffer the consequences of death, but gain life in His resurrection from the dead. How many of us therefore profaned His holiness and presence with our insolence and lack of respect for the Lord?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, our actions as I have just mentioned cannot be separated from our own internal disposition. Why is this so? If we look carefully, at the second reading today, taken from letter of St. Paul to the Church in Corinth, he also mentioned that our body is also a holy temple, that is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This echoes the same words of Jesus, who also taught that our bodies are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, and therefore they should be pure and devoid of all forms of sins and iniquities.

What did Jesus do in the Gospel reading, brothers and sisters? Precisely, He drove out all of the merchants and the money changers who set up their stalls in front, at the courtyard of the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God. The courtyard itself, even though it is not part of the main temple building, as a whole, still considered as an integral part of the Temple complex, and therefore, what the merchants and the money changers had done there, were abominable in God’s eyes.

What did the merchants do? They sold the animals to be sacrificed in the Temple to the people who wanted to offer those sacrifices, and they did so, by selling those animals at a high price, so that they gained much profits and benefits over the suffering of the people. The money changers did similarly, with charging the people for their money exchange services at exorbitant rates, gaining much more from those transactions.

What those people had done, had profaned the Temple of God, its holiness was marred by the wickedness of men. And our Lord who is a just God certainly did not take a kind look upon these wickedness, and that was why, Jesus our Lord literally went berserk in His wrath, because of the great evil committed by these in His holy Temple. He drove them out with whips and shouts, casting them out of His house and cursed them.

How is this relevant to us? Our bodies are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the place where our Lord Himself came to dwell in us, and we know this because we who are faithful to Him, He will sanctify us and make us pure and justified. But if we do things as what the merchants and the money changers had done, then we are all going to receive great punishment and condemnation for our fornication and corruption of the holiness of the Temple of our body with sin.

How is this so? If we act in ways such as to serve our own desires, acting selfishly, thinking only of ourselves, just as the merchants and the money changers overcharging the people to gain profits for themselves, or if we act in disrespect of others, disregarding the teachings and reminders of the Lord, just as we had often disrespected the holiness of the sacred space in the church, the holy place of God, then our due is to be condemned and to suffer for those sins we have committed.

Therefore, today, as we celebrate with the entire universal Church, the feast of the dedication of the great Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of all Christendom, the seat of authority and the site of the Cathedra of the Successors of St. Peter, let us be reminded of two very important things, that we must not leave today without.

First, we have to make sure that we respect the holy places and act appropriately in the places of divine worship. We have to truly be focused in the celebration of the Holy Mass, that we should dispose of any distractions or any attitudes incompatible with maintaining holiness in such solemn space, consecrated and dedicated to God. Let us remember that first and foremost, we have to come to celebrate the Holy Mass regularly, and when we do so, we have to be truly committed.

Then secondly, and even more important for us, is that we have to realise that all of us are also Temples of the Lord, Temple of the Holy Spirit. We have to keep this in mind, every single seconds of our lives. This is so that before we do every single act, or emit every single word from our mouth, we may think it through twice, or even more than twice, so that we can consider well before we act or say anything, that we may avoid ourselves from committing a sin before God.

May Almighty God, our Lord and Father, bless us all with faith and perseverance, that amidst this sinful and darkened world, we may become sources of light for the world to see, that all of us, the Temples of the Lord, may be consecrated in holiness, just as the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of our Faith has been consecrated in holiness and love by the Lord, to be the anchor upon which the Church keeps its faith strongly, that all of us may also remain forever faithful, and keep the sanctity and holiness of the Temple of God that is our bodies, our hearts and our souls. God be with us all. Amen.


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(Usus Antiquior) Dedication of the Archbasilica of our Saviour, Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Feast of St. Theodore, Martyr (II Classis) – Sunday, 9 November 2014 : Homily and Scripture Reflections

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate with the entire Universal Church, the feast of the dedication of the greatest church in Christendom, the very heart of our Faith, the very seat of the Successor of St. Peter in this world, that is the Basilica of St. John Lateran, also known by its official name of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in the Lateran.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is where the Bishops of Rome, the Popes have their Cathedra at. Cathedra is the seat of the bishop, the seat of authority and his throne, representing the teaching authority which had been handed down to him by his predecessors, in an unbroken chain of Apostolic succession. And for the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, this succession originated from none other than St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of Apostles, leader of the Universal Church and the Vicar of Christ.

Therefore today we celebrate both the authority of the Popes as the successors of St. Peter the Apostle, and more particularly, their seat of authority as the Bishop of Rome, the Cathedral of the Popes, the Cathedral of Rome itself, that is the Archbasilica of our Saviour, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is rightly often called, the Mother Church of the entire Christendom, because it is exactly the pivot and the centre, around which the entire Universal Church spins.

Today is the commemoration of the very date this Basilica was dedicated and consecrated to the Lord, a very important event which marked the moment when the building of the church was made holy and sacrosanct, blessed and dedicated to the Lord, to be a place of holy worship, worthy of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And in the Epistle today, we heard on how the Lord is willing to come down from heaven to dwell with us, and this He had done, through His Son Jesus Christ, the One who saved us all through His suffering and death on the cross. He is the tabernacle of God who came down from heaven, to dwell among us forever. What is a tabernacle? Surely we are all aware that the tabernacle is the holiest place in the Church, where the very Holy and Real Presence of God in the Eucharist is housed.

Therefore, Jesus Christ who came into the world, both the Son of Man and Son of God, both fully human and fully divine, is the Word of God made flesh, who took up the humanity and the flesh of mankind to manifest the perfect love of God in this world. Through Him, God has dwelled among men forever, and this He kept true, even until now and beyond, because He has given us His own Body and Blood through the Eucharist, and for us who receive them worthily, the Lord dwells in us, and we dwell in Him.

We have to realise therefore, today, as we celebrate this feast of the dedication of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, we should realise also that just as the holiness and sanctity of that sacred place was created by its dedication and there is a need to maintain that holiness, then we too must realise that as I have mentioned, that because the Lord has dwelled among us, we are also the tabernacles of God, that is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

We are all therefore also meant to be the Temples of God. As such, we have to maintain the purity and holiness of our lives, of our bodies and hearts, or else, the corruption of sin would come to pollute the purity of the Temple of our body and heart. If we allow this fornication and corruption to affect this holy Temple, then our lot will be condemnation and destruction by the Lord, who will destroy us for our sinfulness.

How do then we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? That means all of us should avoid any kinds of actions and attitudes that cause sin to develop and corrupt our hearts. We should keep ourselves clean and pure, by doing what is good in the sight of God, and abandoning all forms of fornications and evils from everything we do, and from everything we say.

Our Lord loves us, brothers and sisters in Christ, and He actively seeks all those who have sinned and have fallen into the darkness, like that of a shepherd looking for his lost sheep. The Gospel today clearly showed this to us, as Jesus showed His love and mercy for Zachaeus, the rich merchant and tax collector, who was seen by the Pharisees as a great sinner for his actions.

Yet it was his sincere desire and effort to seek the Lord, even to climb up a tall tree just so that he could see Him, that brought him into salvation. Jesus also praised him for his faith, and for his commitment to doing what is good and righteous, even to the point of declaring his love for the Lord publicly, and vowed to give to the poor, his love and care.

Therefore, the example of Zachaeus in the Gospel today can be an inspiration for us all, that it is never too late for us to begin a new life in Christ. Although we may have sinned greatly in the past, but with the help of the Lord and sincere effort from our side, we can attain a new holy, pure and committed life to God, and therefore create for ourselves, the holy Temple of God, that is our body, heart and soul.

Today we also celebrate the memory and feast of St. Theodore, a holy martyr of the faith, who was once a soldier in the Roman Army, at the time of the late Roman Empire. He was one of the faithful, and in the still pagan Roman Empire, and especially in the Roman Army, that was a difficult thing to do. He remained true to his faith, and when the Emperor at the time, who was very staunchly pagan and anti-Christian, ordered all those in the army to give idol offering to the pagan gods, St. Theodore refused to do so.

St. Theodore therefore was martyred for his faith, in the zealous and unbending devotion to God, like a true soldier of the Lord indeed. He was therefore the patron saints of warriors and crusaders, the holy warriors fighting in the Name of the Lord. Many who seek help against the forces of evil and darkness pray for the intercession of St. Theodore, the holy and brave martyr of God.

Therefore, on this holy and joyous occasion, let us all ask for the intercession of St. Theodore the martyr, and also all the saints of God, and most especially the Blessed Mother of our God, our Blessed Virgin Mary, to pray for us and intercede for our sake, that we may be strengthened against the forces of evil trying to corrupt us, our bodies, our minds, our hearts and souls, which are the Temples of the Lord’s Holy Presence.

Let us all always be mindful of our words, actions and deeds, that we think twice, thrice and even more, before we even think of committing any sin or any acts deplorable to God. Let us all follow the example of Zachaeus, to declare our love for the Lord and devote ourselves completely and entirely to Him without fear, and give the best of our effort to follow the Lord and walk in His ways.

May Almighty God guide us in this battle of life, so that just as He had sanctified the Basilica of St. John Lateran as the Mother Church of all of His Church and the whole of Christendom, He may also sanctify us as the Temples of His Presence within us, through the Most Holy Eucharist which we receive into ourselves. May God bless us for our faith, and keep us in His love always, forever and ever. Amen.


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