Sunday, 16 February 2020 : Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 17-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not think that I have come to annul the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to annul them but to fulfil them. I tell you this : as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the Law will change until all is fulfilled.”

“So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them, and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the kingdom of heaven.”

“I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.”

“Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister, ‘Fool!’ deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.”

“Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.”

“You have heard that it was said : Do not commit adultery. But I tell you this : anyone who looks at a woman too lustfully has in fact already committed adultery with her in his heart. So, if your right eye causes you to sin, pull it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell.”

“It was also said : Anyone who divorces his wife, must give her a written notice of divorce. But what I tell you is this : if a man divorces his wife, except in the case of unlawful union, he causes her to commit adultery. And the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

“You have also heard that people were told in the past : Do not break your oath; an oath sworn to the Lord must be kept. But I tell you this : do not take oaths. Do not swear by the heavens, for they are God’s throne, nor by the earth, because it is His footstool, nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. Say yes when you mean yes, and say no when you mean no. Anything else you say comes from the devil.”

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Matthew 5 : 20-22a, 27-28, 33-34a, 37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.”

“You have heard that it was said : Do not commit adultery. But I tell you this : anyone who looks at a woman too lustfully has in fact already committed adultery with her in his heart. You have also heard that people were told in the past : Do not break your oath; an oath sworn to the Lord must be kept. But I tell you this : do not take oaths. Say yes when you mean yes, and say no when you mean no. Anything else you say comes from the devil.”

Saturday, 27 July 2019 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 13 : 24-30

At that time, Jesus told the people another parable, “The kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'”

“He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers : Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.'”

(Usus Antiquior) First Sunday of Lent (I Classis) – Sunday, 22 February 2015 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum – Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew

Matthew 4 : 1-11

In illo tempore : Ductus est Jesus in desertum a Spiritu, ut tentaretur in diabolo. Et cum jejunasset quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus, postea esuriit. Et accedens tentator, dixit ei : Si Filius Dei es, dic, ut lapides isti panes fiant. Qui respondens, dixit : Scriptum est : Non in solo pane vivit homo, sed in omni verbo, quod procedit de ore Dei.

Tunc assumpsit eum diabolus in sanctam civitatem, et statuit eum super pinnaculum templi, et dixit ei : Si Filius Dei es, mitte Te deorsum. Scriptum est enim : Quia Angelis suis mandavit de Te, et in manibus tollent Te, ne forte offendas ad lapidem pedem Tuum. Ait illi Jesus : Rursum scriptum est : Non tentabis Dominum, Deum tuum.

Iterum assumpsit eum diabolus in montem excelsum valde : et ostendit ei omnia regna mundi et gloriam eorum, et dixit ei : Haec omnia tibi dabo, si cadens adoraveris me. Tunc dicit ei Jesus : Vade, Satana; scriptum est enim : Dominum, Deum tuum, adorabis, et illi soli servies.

Tunc reliquit eum diabolus : et ecce, Angeli accesserunt et ministrabant Ei.

English translation

At that time, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards He was hungry. And the tempter coming said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones be made into bread.” He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Not in bread alone does man live, but in every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, and set Him upon the pinnacle of the Temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, cast Yourself down, for it is written, that He has given His angels charge over You, and in their hands they shall bear You up, lest perhaps You dash Your foot against a stone.” And Jesus said to Him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”

Again the devil took Him up into a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, and said to Him, “All these I will give You, if You fall down and adore me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan, for it is written, ‘You shall adore the Lord your God alone, and you shall only serve Him.'”

Then the devil left Him, and behold angels came, and ministered to Him.

Homily and Reflection :
https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/02/20/sunday-22-february-2015-first-sunday-of-lent-feast-of-the-chair-of-st-peter-the-apostle-homily-and-scripture-reflections/

Friday, 6 February 2015 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the stories of faithful marriage and what we must do to preserve sanctity and holiness in our matrimony, as well as the story of the death and martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the messenger and herald of the Lord, who was murdered, albeit unintentionally by Herod, the king of Judea at the time.

The readings of today are all related in that they spoke of the same theme, that is the sanctity of marriage, the holiness which should be maintained at all times in our marriage, and not only in our marriage but also in our lives. And they also highlighted to us the dangers and obstacles that will come our way if we stay faithful to our Lord, the opposition and difficulties that will be laid upon us.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Paul Miki and his companions, who are the brave and courageous servants of the Lord, who were martyred for their Faith during the violent persecutions of the faithful in Japan during the early years of the seventeenth century under the Tokugawa shogunate. St. Paul Miki was a Jesuit, a faithful missionary and servant of God, and a very successful preacher of his time, bringing many into the Church through his words and actions.

The faith had been growing strong in Japan at that time, and hundreds of thousands, peasants and lords alike have turned towards the Lord, accepting God as their Lord and Saviour. However, the secular government at the time changed their earlier toleration of the Faith and became very hostile to it. To them, the Faith is a threat to their existence, simply because it spoke the truth about this world, that is filled with much filth and wickedness.

And thus St. Paul Miki and his companions suffered, for they remained true to their Faith and refused to succumb to the temptations of the world, and they spoke for the truth which Christ had brought upon this world. They were persecuted and tortured, but they did not give up the Faith, and instead through their perseverance, they showed the truth of Christ to all who have tortured and persecuted them. Some even believed, converted and followed in being martyred with them.

And St. John the Baptist had also endured the same suffering for the Lord, for speaking up the truth of the Lord, out of concern for mankind and all the sins they have committed. He chastised Herod and his brother’s wife, Herodias, whom Herod had taken as if she was his own wife. This was a great adultery, the improper relations one had outside of marriage, and this is what St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews had reminded us all against.

By the fornication of the flesh which Herod and Herodias had committed, by being unfaithful to the sanctity of marriage and through their actions which spat upon the sacredness of the bonds of holy matrimony, they have sinned greatly before God. And what is truly sad is that, despite having sinned before the Lord, they continued to live in their sin, and being engulfed in that sin, they ended up sinning even more.

Indeed, such is the great danger of sin, that it continues to corrupt the soul and bring us to sin even more. Herod was corrupted with the sin of greed, of lust and of pride, and with Herodias, they together committed the sin of adultery, and later on Herodias also developed the sin of anger and hatred against the truth spoken by St. John the Baptist.

And Herod gave in to the temptation of the flesh, when he saw the beauty of Herodias’ daughter, giving in to temptation, and under that same temptation, proclaiming vows and oaths he could not retract later on. And Herod therefore took part in the slaying of the messenger of God, and his sin grew ever more. Herod sinned because he refused to repent and continued in his sinfulness and in not changing his life.

This is a warning and a revelation to all of us, that the anchor of our faith, the foundation of our lives must be strong, that is our families. If our families are built upon a solid foundation of faith, that is keeping holiness and purity in our marriage and married life, then we can be assured that sin will have a hard time to get unto us. It does not mean that we will be free from the threat of sin, which is ever-present, but rather that if our families and the institution of marriage are not well respected, then the danger of sin is ever the greater, just as the case of Herod had shown us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we ought to recall the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, of the courage of St. John the Baptist who dared to chastise a king to make him see the errors of his ways. Even though this was not to happen, but at least through what he had done, he became a shining symbol of the true faith in the Lord.

And the examples of St. Paul Miki and his companions should also inspire us, that sin and all of the darkness of evil has no power over us as long as we remain faithful to the Lord. St. Paul Miki was tortured, scourged and humiliated, and they were made to an extremely arduous journey and death march from the Imperial capital of Kyoto to Nagasaki, where they were martyred, a very great distance for them to march under terrible condition and torture by their executors.

Yet, they gladly march to meet their death, and they sang the great thanksgiving hymn to God, the ‘Te Deum’ along the way. This is because they knew that they had stood up for their faith and for the Lord, and in what they have done, they had brought countless others into salvation in God, and that God would not abandon them and they would not be disappointed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all profoundly change our way of life and reflect on the actions of the holy martyrs and saints which I have mentioned. Let us no longer live in sin, but dedicate ourselves to a life of holiness, a life filled with virtue and the love of God. May Almighty God be with us all, forgive us all our sins and in His mercy and love, may He find us worthy for our deeds made out of faith and love for Him and grant us eternal life. Amen.

Friday, 6 February 2015 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is Elijah,” and others, “He is a Prophet like the prophets of times past.”

When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!” For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl have it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Sunday, 25 January 2015 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast of the conversion of the great Apostle St. Paul, who was once known as Saul, the great enemy and persecutor of the Church and the faithful ones of God. God made him to be an Apostle and the great champion of the Faith, spreading the Good News of the Gospel to the farthest ends of the known world at the time. By his works, many followed in his footsteps and were converted as well.

This is in line with the readings we heard today in the Holy Scriptures, the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Jonah spoke of the repentance and penitence shown by the people of Nineveh, the great capital of the Assyrian Empire, which God had marked to be annihilated for their sins and wickedness. The people, from the king to the lowest servants and slaves immediately repented from their sins after they listened to the warnings of the prophet Jonah.

This is to highlight God’s nature, that is His love and mercy, which He freely gives to all those who put their trust in Him and those who want to be forgiven for their wickedness. Thus, He forgave those who have come to His throne and mercy, and most importantly, those who dedicated themselves to change their way of life and committed to a life free from sin and to walk in the way of the Lord from then on.

Thus was Paul forgiven and called by God, to change his ways of sin and wickedness, the sin of the rejection of Christ and of the persecution of the faithful ones of God, into one that is devoted to the salvation of souls and total faith and trust in God. Indeed, even today, we can only be truly amazed at how God called one of His greatest servants and defenders from among the sinners and among those who have once hated Him so much so as to swore to destroy His entire Church.

And in the Gospel today, the theme is repeated yet again, for God through Christ called the servants whom He would make to be His greatest servants and witnesses in the world, the Holy Apostles, who have been given the authority to teach and preach the Good News, the power to heal and to forgive sins, just as the Lord gave them all these.

This is to show us that God does not want to punish us sinners and rebels against His will, even though rightfully and justly we should have been punished very severely for the disobedience we have committed against the Lord. Yes, just as St. Paul who once as Saul became a scourge for the faithful, getting hundreds or maybe even thousands or more of the faithful of the early Church to become martyrs, and yet God was willing to forgive him and embrace him back into His love.

That is why we have to always remember that God truly loves us sinners, but He hates entirely our sins, our wickedness and all the filthy things we have committed in this life. Condemn not the sinners but the sin. That said, we must not have the false attitude of showing mercy to those who have committed sin but without seeking for their repentance and changing of their ways.

And why is this so important, brothers and sisters in Christ? If we look at what St. Paul himself wrote in the second reading, which was taken from his letter to the faithful in Corinth, he wrote about the imminence of the coming of the end, of the coming of the kingdom of God, and therefore, as we all should be aware of, that is the imminence of the coming of the last and final judgment of all creation, of all mankind.

Are we not too concerned of the fate of our fellow brethren? Are we all too selfish and concerned only about ourselves that we forget about others who still linger in the darkness and in sin? Are we proud of ourselves having been saved by the Lord and do we look down on those who are still filled with the filth of sin, without us offering a hand to help them out of their sinfulness into grace?

If our answers to all of this self-reflecting questions are yes, then we really have to look into ourselves, and ask us what is our faith truly about? Our faith in God is about believing in the Lord who have so much love for us sinners, that despite of all the filth of sin surrounding us, He still resolved to help and rescue us, and that was why He gave us Jesus His Son, to be our Redeemer.

Those of us who heard of the Good News of God and believed, and chose to accept Him as our Lord and Saviour, had been bathed and cleansed from the taints of our sins, of original sins and of our own sins, by the Blood of the Lamb of God, Christ who sacrificed Himself on the cross for us. By His death we were cast free from the suffering of death, and by His resurrection we are brought to a new life, life filled with the grace of God.

We have to realise that even great saints were themselves sinners once. No one was born a saint, except perhaps the Blessed Mother of our Lord, Mary, who was born clean and immaculate, free from sin, in order to prepare her in her role as the bearer of the Almighty God and Saviour, and of course our Lord Himself, born a Man and yet free from sin. All saints and holy people of God were once sinners too.

Yes, some saints were once murderers, adulterers, and we knew how St. Augustine lived in his youth, in debauchery and in the midst of worldliness, that his mother St. Monica prayed day and night with tears for the conversion of her son. And that is the attitude we should all have, to pray fervently for those around us who still sin, that they may receive the call and grace of God, and hope that they will turn their ways and embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Like St. Paul, who had done so much great evils and sins in his youth, had he not been called, or if he had been rejected by God, and had he been rejected by the community of the faithful, then surely many countless souls would have been lost, those whom he had directly and indirectly touched throughout his long mission and service to God, whom without him would likely not have heard the word of God, spoken through St. Paul, the faithful servant, and the repentant sinner.

Therefore, shall we all realise that our action and proactive act are necessary for us to help our brethren to also find their way to the Lord? That is true Christian faith and true love, as Christ had taught us, that we embrace those who have hated and persecuted us because of our faith, those who have sinned and refused to believe in God, and by our actions, in which we show and infuse God’s love and mercy, we may bring them to realise the gravity of their sins, and the threat of eternal death they are facing, and therefore, immediately to turn their ways to find the Lord our God and their God, before it is too late for them.

May all of us be strengthened with the new Spirit of God, in the evangelisation and conversion of the world, so that many more people and many more souls can be saved and will be saved from the clutches of Satan, through our actions, be it through direct acts, or through our words and our loving acts to them, or even if it is through a simple prayer, prayed for their sake.

Let us all no longer be indifferent or ignorant of the plight of others around us who still dwell in sin, but let us free them, just as the Lord freed Saul from his sins and called him to be His servant, and thus let us help one another, to become holy people of God, saintly and devoted, that in the end, as many as possible are saved and brought into the Holy Presence of God. God be with us all, and forgive us sinners from our sins. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014 : Sixth Day within the Octave of Christmas (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about how all things shall receive the fullness of God’s grace and His wonderful mercy through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is God, the Word of God, the Divine incarnate into the flesh of Man. He chose to become one of us so that by His incarnation and by His actions in the world, He might become the source of all hope and inspiration for countless peoples of all races and nations, to be the Liberation of mankind from the chains and tyranny of sin.

Anna the prophetess had waited for a long time for the coming of the Saviour in Jesus, the Holy Child, whom in the Gospel today was presented at the Temple on the eighth day to the Lord as the firstborn Son of His mother Mary. She was fortunate that she was given the grace and opportunity to behold the Saviour in the Flesh, and to see Him with her own eyes. Many in the past ages and the future, including all of us now, have no such opportunity.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have been saved in Jesus Christ, by the shedding and the outpouring of His Blood, and we have been paid for in full by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, who provided the only and the one only sure path through to reach salvation in God. He has brought us all over from our old lives of sin and dependence of things of the flesh, and instead He offered us all a new life founded on His firm foundation.

If we put our trust and faith firmly in Jesus, then I say that, we have overcome the evil one, that is Satan and all of his evil temptations, and we have triumphed, overcoming our slavery and enslavement to sin, which began when men first listened to Satan and to their own desires instead of listening to God. We have been brought out of the slavery of our heart, mind, body and soul, just as the Israelites were brought out of Egypt with the great power of God.

The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt with His great power, and He destroyed their shackles, as He also destroyed our shackles of sin, but just as the Israelites who complained and refused to listen to God, worshipping pagan gods and idols and preferring to walk their own ways, we also often rebelling against God, walking on our own paths, and listening more to our own desires and wants rather than listening to our Lord.

Therefore, it is necessary for us to persevere in this world filled with numerous temptations and things that distract us from our focus on the Lord. Satan is always actively trying to subvert us and turn us away from salvation in God, and into damnation together with him. He knows what things can best be used to persuade us and entice us to sin, and this is the great danger facing all of us, if we are not aware or able to resist the advances of Satan, we are in danger of losing our way.

Hence, as we continue in our celebration of Christmas, in this holy and blessed season, and as we approach the coming of the new year, let us all keep our focus on Christ, and try our best not to be distracted by the many things in the world. We have to keep Christ at the centre of our celebration of Christmas, and indeed, at the centre of our lives.

May all of us be able to seek our way to the Lord, and keep our gaze firmly focused and locked onto Him, so that amidst the various dangers and temptations that the world presents to us, we may persevere and remain strong in our Faith and will not lose our way, so that at the end of the days, rich rewards of salvation and eternal life will be ours. God bless us all. Amen.

First Reading :
https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/12/29/tuesday-30-december-2014-sixth-day-within-the-octave-of-christmas-first-reading/

Psalm :
https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/12/29/tuesday-30-december-2014-sixth-day-within-the-octave-of-christmas-psalm/

Gospel Reading :
https://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2014/12/29/tuesday-30-december-2014-sixth-day-within-the-octave-of-christmas-gospel-reading/

Saturday, 27 September 2014 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ecclesiastes 11 : 9 – Ecclesiastes 12 : 8

Rejoice, young man, in your youth and direct well your heart when you are young; follow your desires and achieve your ambitions but recall that God will take account of all you do.

Drive sorrow from your heart and pain from your flesh, for youth and dark hair will not last. Be mindful of your Creator when you are young, before the time of sorrow comes when you have to say, “This gives me no pleasure,” and before the sun, moon and stars withdraw their light, before the clouds gather again after the rain.

On the day when the guardians of the house tremble, when sturdy men are bowed and those at the mill stop working because they are too few, when it grows dim for those looking through the windows, and the doors are shut and the noise of the mill grows faint, the sparrow stops chirping and the bird-song is silenced, when one fears the slopes and to walk is frightening; yet the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is fat and the caperberry bears fruit that serves no purpose, because man goes forward to his eternal home and mourners gather in the street, even before the silver chain is snapped or the golden globe is shattered, before the pitcher is broken at the fountain or the wheel at the mill, before the dust returns to the earth from which it came and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Meaningless! Meaningless! The Teacher says; all is meaningless!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture and Gospel readings highlighted to us the nature of God’s love for us, and how He will provide us with everything we need, and even when we encounter difficulties in this life, we shall not be disappointed by our loving and dedicated God, who takes care of us in everything we need. Yet, mankind are difficult to satisfy, and even despite the numerous goodness that we had received, we always like to demand for more and want for more.

That is in our nature, because men are greedy by nature, and we have been exposed to this ever since our first ancestors were tempted by Satan and failed, who offered them the ‘ultimate’ prize, supposedly beyond what goodness they had received up to that time. The first men, Adam and Eve, lived in perfect bliss, harmony and joy in the Garden of Eden, filled with all of God’s blessings, intended to live happily for eternity.

However, Satan in the form of the snake tempted them with the possibility for them to know the mind of the Lord, that is to gain knowledge of things good and evil, by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was forbidden by the Lord. Indeed, they had their reservations, but their tempted hearts was too much for them and they eventually succumbed to their desire and greed, wishing to have more than what they need.

In the end, they gained what they wanted, but they lost essentially everything. They were cast out of Eden and have to endure the sufferings of the earth, and they have to toil and work to sustain themselves. They were subjected to suffering and death because of the sin of their disobedience. Yet, mankind were slow to learn from their mistakes, and for ages past, countless peoples were lost because of their uncontrolled desire and greed.

Even today, we are still gripped and enslaved by our desire, which often ends up as our undoing. Many wars and conflicts, violence and hatred, destruction and chaos came about in our world because of our inability to control our desire, and instead we become controlled and enslaved by those desires. Many tyrants and those who committed great evils in the world were due to their inability to limit their pride, their arrogance, vanity and greed. In the process, they caused great damage and sorrow for many people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the readings of today remind us that as the followers of Christ, we should throw far, far away all of these human desires and negative traits and emotions, so that we can truly walk in the way of the Lord and follow His will. That is because, as long as we are under the thrall of our desire and emotions, we tend to serve our own will and purposes rather than listening to God, or to follow His will.

Jesus had called many from among the people to be His disciples, and twelve of these were chosen to be the Apostles, the chiefs of His disciples. But, as the followers of Christ, they did not have an easy life. The world that is opposed to Christ would also oppose the works of His disciples, and it is into this hostile world that Jesus had sent His disciples, to spread the Good News of salvation to many who still have yet to see the light of God.

They were also told to bring just what is sufficient for themselves, and not to bring extra items for them. That is because, God will provide, and indeed, God would walk among them and assist them on their efforts to bring the people of God back into the light. As long as the disciples and the Apostles remained faithful to the Lord, they have nothing to fear from the world, for God would take care of them, and no matter what suffering the world could inflict on them, none of them could destroy or damage the soul, which is something that only God can do.

The same therefore also applies to all the servants of God today, our priests, bishops and all those who have been called and who responded by their dedication to the works which God had entrusted them with. But this does not mean that they should do all the work, and we can rest easy. In fact, we too should help and play our role in our own ability, to bring the Good News of the Lord to those who are around us.

Let us all thus strengthen our faith, through prayer, charity and good works, so that gradually we can liberate ourselves from the slavery to our desires, so that we can truly follow the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who said to the angel, that she is the handmaid of the Lord, and thus all of the will of God would happen to her, and our Lord Jesus Himself, who had said in His agony in the garden, that not His will be done but the will of His Father, and through whose obedience, our salvation was made possible, and we have hope of a new life in God.

May Almighty God sharpen the edge of our humility and obedience, as well as our faith, and dull the edges of our pride, desire, greed and selfishness, so that in our lives we may become more and more like Christ, following God in all of our ways, and proclaim Him through our words, deeds and actions. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 7 September 2014 : 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we come together to be with the Lord on this holy day of His, we are called together as the members of the Church of God to be responsible, loving and caring for one another, so that each one of us may help one another in our effort to seek our Lord and God, and so that all of us may be saved and be freed from the tyranny of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Scripture readings of this day called us to ponder and reflect on the attitude we adopt in this life, and in how we live our faith in this life. Mankind are by nature a social creature, and we often need others around us as we live and as we face the daily challenges and opportunities presented before us, and how we behave would certainly be greatly affected by who we interacted with and what we did together with others around us.

That is why today in the readings, the main theme that we heard is in fact on the nature of the Church, and on how the Church should work together to ensure the salvation of all of its members, that means all of us gathered here this day, and also many others who have fallen along the way. The Church here does not refer to just the buildings and the institution of the Church as we know it. The Church of God as a whole, is the assembly and the gathering of all the faithful ones in Christ, united to His Body, as a member of the same Body by which we are made one, and made righteous in the Blood of the Lamb of God.

That is why in the Church, the whole Church refers to the entire body of the faithful, all over the world, from the greatest to the least, from the Pope to the common layman, from the ordained ministers and the religious brothers and sisters to all common faithful ones like us, and from the youngest ones to the oldest, and both the newly baptised and those who had been long counted among the faithful.

Following the tradition and teachings established by Jesus as we read in the Gospel today, the Church indeed rightly should be concerned on the fate of the faithful and the salvation of their souls. Why is this so? This is because mankind are by nature disobedient, restless and easily manipulated, and we are also easily tempted by our own personal ego, pride and other emotions, which in many cases likely resulted in us drifting away further and further from God and into damnation.

That was why over the course of the past two millenia, since the establishment of the Church and the faith, countless peoples have tried to subvert the faith and to corrupt it to suit their own purposes. And worse still, they did so not just for themselves, but they also spread their false ideas and teachings to many others around them and thus condemning and risking not just themselves, but also many others who are around them and even those entrusted to their care.

Among these could be counted the ranks of princes, kings, lords, even priests, bishops and the top hierarchy of the Church at times, and also among the laity, the educated, the rich and the poor. What they have thought about, spoke about and taught about were incompatible to the faith and what Jesus had taught to His disciples. In time, the Church came up with varieties of words to describe their actions, that is anathema, heresy and many others.

Those who studied the history of the Church and the faith must have been surprised by the staggering number of times the punishment and measure known best as excommunication, had been used. And in fact, excommunication remains to be used this day to correct the behaviour and awaken the spirit of repentance of those whose ideas and teachings are in direct or indirect contradiction to the faith and to the teachings of the Church.

Many detractors of this measure had argued and even became violently opposed to the actions of the Church both in the past and in the present, so that they criticised the use of excommunications as a tool to remove opposition to the Church and to gain more influence for itself. And some even alleged that the Church used them to silence the voice of those who wanted for reform or change in the Church.

Yes, it is true indeed that sometimes, excommunication had been used inappropriately, but in most cases, they have been intended not to punish, but to awaken the spirit of repentance and genuine desire to seek forgiveness from the Lord, which is that desire to admit their errors and return to the full embrace of the loving God through His Church.

We have to first understand the history of how excommunication come about, using what we know from the Scriptures and from what we heard today in the readings, especially from what Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. In the past, during the time of the people of Israel, after the Exodus, God gave them His laws, commandments and precepts through Moses.

In that Law, some dealt with how certain people should be treated. Those who were found to have the disease of leprosy were obliged to leave their houses and the community of the faithful, and they have to wander outside the community, in the barrens and the desert until they are healed or cured. And when this was so, they had to show themselves to the priests who would certify them to return once more to the society.

Indeed, it was inevitable that those who contracted leprosy at that time to be ostracised and intimidated against by the rest of the society. They were considered to be uncleaned and as leprosy can spread from one person to another, this helped the exclusion and the bad treatment of the leprosy patients, even after they had been cured from their afflictions. But God did not intend for this to happen.

And in a similar spirit, the Lord Jesus told us through His disciples precisely how to deal with those among us in the Church who had contracted the same ‘leprosy’. This leprosy no longer refers to the physical disease that affects the body, but in fact refers to the leprosy of the soul, that is the degeneration of the state of our faith and soul to the point that we become defiant and unwilling to listen and to obey the teachings of the Church and the fundamentals of our faith.

We have many peoples such as these, and what I am going to mention to you are not the only ones there are out there. The Gnostics of the second century after the birth of Christ mixed the teachings of the faith with the contemporary pagan religions, idols and philosophical pursuits that ended up as a syncretic movement and faith totally incompatible with our true faith.

Then came the Arians, the Donatists, the Monophysites and others who taught doctrines incompatible against the faith, and who tried to subvert the faithful to their cause, telling them lies and inaccurate statements about the faith, on the nature of Jesus our Lord Himself, so that the people who were confused were easy to lure into their corrupting hold. As such, many were led away from salvation in God and into damnation, despite the best efforts by those in the Church to resist and fight back against their corrupting influences.

Then we have many others like the the Albigensians or the Cathars, the Hussians, the Bogomils, Paulicians, Iconoclasts who taught numerous lies and confused theology to the faithful, ending up in corrupting the people in the same way, pulling them away from salvation in the Church into damnation and eternal suffering in hellfire. Those people were misguided by many who thought that their human wisdom were better than the teachings of the Lord preserved in the traditions of the Church and the faith.

Then lastly came the great heresy of the Protestant ‘reformation’, where many of the faithful came to take it on themselves to rebel against the authority of the Church and by willingly splitting themselves from the Church, a rebellion which continues even to this day. Yes, we have so many Protestant denominations, to the point that it may not be wrong to say that there are as many denominations, or splinter groups as there are heads.

People like King Henry VIII, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli and many other prominent persona of the Protestant ‘reformations’ like many others before them, Arian, Jan Hus, and others were truly the one mentioned by Jesus as the brethren who refused to listen to reason and chose to break away from the Church. They walked their own path, in open rebellion against God and the Church, leading and guiding many people into their rebellion and thus condemned countless souls to damnation.

The effects of their actions can still be felt today. Many remained separate from the Church and thus from the grace of God, and the lies perpetuated by those leaders mentioned earlier and their successors continued to poison their thoughts and that is why many remained with great contempt to the Church and all it represented.

The Church excommunicated them as well as many of the earlier members of the Church, who even included high ranking nobles and clergymen, and even kings, as they have erred in their path. However, as I have mentioned earlier, the purpose of this move was not to punish those afflicted, but rather to make them realise of the gravity of their errors, so that they may come to understand how their actions had caused grief wounds on the fabric of the Church and the faithful.

And thus, many of those who had been excommunicated had returned to the Church in penitence and seeking God’s forgiveness. A famous example would be that of the excommunication of Emperor Theodosius I of the Roman Empire, who was cut off from the communion of the Church by the famous St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, for the Emperor’s implicit and direct role in a massacre of the city of Thessalonica, where thousands of the faithful were ruthlessly murdered and the city ransacked.

The meaning of excommunication itself was to exclude the person afflicted from the Communion of the Church, and if this word sounds familiar, that is indeed what we receive in the Holy Communion, which is none other than the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Real Presence of the Most Holy Eucharist. All of us in the Church belongs to the Church, that is the Body of Christ precisely because all of us received the same Eucharist and thus are united to each other through our unity with the Lord.

And when a person is excommunicated, like that of the Emperor Theodosius and many others, they were severed from this unity and communion, and thus they were not able to receive the Eucharist, as they were also in a state of sin, and they were not able to exercise anything pertinent to the faith. Thus, that was why Jesus mentioned that those ought to be treated like a pagan or a publican, that means outside the Church, just like the lepers of old.

However, once again, the focus here is on mercy, and on the desire to see these people attaining forgiveness and justification, becoming once again a member of the Church and thus capable of attaining salvation once again. And to wrap up the story on the Emperor Theodosius, the Emperor went on to make a public display of humility and penance, wearing sackcloth to the Church and was once again welcomed into the Church by Bishop St. Ambrose.

That is, brothers and sisters in Christ, the purpose and intention of excommunication. Not as a punishment, but as a means through which the wayward ones and the staunchly rebellious among us may find our way back to God through the Church, through sincere repentance and penitence. Sadly, of course, many of those names and groups mentioned earlier never repented their sins and continued in their rebellions, some of which continued even today.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these readings of today, let us recall the words of God to the prophet Ezekiel, how the faithful are tasked with the guardianship of the faith of one another, which means that we should be ready to intervene whenever we see around us there are those who begin to veer away from the path of the Lord.

It is only then if the person persisted in their rebelliousness, then we should refer it to the Church as a whole, and if he or she continued to persist to disobey the Lord, only then they should be cast out of the assembly of the faithful, in what we know as the excommunication, hoping that the person may in that time that remains for him or her, found his or her way back to the Lord and repent.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore work together to maintain the unity and the faith in the Church. May Almighty God guide us in our endeavours and help us to keep this faith alive and well. Let us all renew our commitment to the Lord and awaken in one another the love we truly should have for God, casting away all impurities and unworthiness. Let us all not reject and condemn those who have sinned and erred, and those who had been excommunicated, for indeed, many saints too were once sinners and excommunicants, who returned to the Lord and be reconciled with the Church. May God bless us all. Amen.