Tuesday, 16 September 2014 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about how Jesus healed the son of a widow from Naim, bringing him back from death into life, in which He showed to the people, the loving and merciful aspects of God, who truly loved and cared for all of us. He had pity on the mother who was sorrowful for having been left alone by her son, and brought them back into true joy and happiness in God.

And in the first reading, in the letter written by St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, about the nature of the Church of God, and how in the Church, which is in fact comprised of all of us who believe in Christ the Lord, there exist a certain hierarchy of its members, which allow the Church to function as a body, just as in our body we have various organs and parts that have distinct functions working together in order to achieve certain goals and actions.

St. Paul mentioned how each members and each people in the Church have their own distinct gifts from the Lord, also known as the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which the Apostles and disciples themselves had received during the occasion of the Pentecost day. Everyone had been called by the Lord for a specific purpose and task, and one ought not to think proudly of himself or herself so as to assume that they can gain for themselves the entirety of the goodness and the gifts of the Lord.

Thus, the Church of God, which is centred on our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, and we as the members of His Body, has a specific task in order to carry out and continue the good works which Jesus had initiated in this world, that is the works of love and mercy, as He showed through the rising of the son of the widow of Naim from the dead.

The Church of God comprised of many different people, and indeed, different groups of people, from the laity to the ordained ministers, that is the sacred priesthood and those who dedicated their lives in the service of God, and everyone else, including those of us who belong to the group of those who serve the Lord and yet also still live in this world.

And even among the priesthood, we have various roles, such as the bishops and then the priests themselves. Bishops are those who have been given a greater role in the Church, as overseers of a group of priests and the laity, and they are entrusted with the sheep of the Lord’s flock, as the shepherds, who are then led by the chief shepherds on earth, that is the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and the Vicar of Christ in this world, the representation of the Chief Shepherd of all, Jesus Christ.

The bishops therefore lead the Church in the works of love and mercy, and are also entrusted with the supervision duty of the body of the faithful in the Church, and they are also entrusted with the management of the Church. That said, there are also many others who are also involved in the management of the Church, both among the laity, as well as those in the priesthood and the ordained ministry.

The priests serve the people of God in various means, that is by providing them a spiritual guidance and protection against the harms of the devil, and in some cases also by providing alms and charity works for them. Then, the deacons, as we heard in the New Testament, were appointed as those who would serve the people of God directly, aid in the works of charity of the Church, to aid the priests and the bishops, so that they can channel to the people of God, particularly the poorest and the weakest, the love of God through His Church.

Yet, it is sad indeed, that many today in the Church aspire to have everything in their greed and lack of faith. Many began to question their roles in the Church and some even fought in the name of what they described as equality. Therefore we have those who proposed such outrageous ideas such as the abolition of the sacred priesthood and the ordained ministry, as well as the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Those who proposed and supported such proposals failed to understand that each of us in the Church have our own unique roles which help to supplement each other and therefore, it makes the Church stronger. To go against this natural law of order would in fact mean to destroy the unity and strength of the holy Church of God and undermine its authority in this world. Every one has been given a specific and particular gift which enables us to have our own roles in the Church to carry out what the Lord had planned for us.

Brothers and sisters, today we celebrate together as the Church the feast day of two great saints, whose life will inspire us to appreciate the beauty of the order and hierarchy in the Church, namely that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, both holy martyrs of the faith, at the time of the persecutions of the Roman Empire.

Pope St. Cornelius was the Pope and the Vicar of Christ in the middle of the third century after the birth of Christ, during the reign of the Emperor Decius, the great persecutor of the faithful. Then St. Cyprian was his contemporary, as the Bishop of Carthage and the supporter of Pope St. Cornelius’ view regarding the faithful.

The two saints lived in a difficult time, when Christians and all who believed in the Lord were persecuted heavily and when their very lives were threatened by the Roman authorities. And amidst those persecutions, there were those among the faithful who submitted to the will of the state and the Emperor, and gave offering to the pagan idols, essentially an act of apostasy, or leaving the Church of God, who should be thereafter be treated the same as the pagans.

However, some of them repented their sins and returned to the embrace of the Holy Mother Church, and were received back among the faithful as long as they were sincere in their repentance. But, there were those in the Church who were opposed to the return of these so called traitors and apostates and demanded much stricter regulations to even allow them to be readmitted into the Church.

St. Cyprian and Pope St. Cornelius were the champions of those in the Church who would allow the faithful who had gone astray to return to the Church as long as their repentance was sincere. They worked hard among the faithful and among those who had gone astray to bring them back towards the Lord and to heal them from the afflictions of their souls. The laity themselves also played their own parts and supported the works of their shepherds, while they also kept their faith alive and strong despite even great persecutions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, these saints, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, who were both eventually martyred for their faith, had showed us the model of their faith, which showed love and mercy for the least of the society, those who were rejected because of the stigma of their status as apostates and betrayer of their faith. They showed that while in the Church itself there were already many different groups of people, there would always be a space for those who realised their errors and repented for their sins.

Let us all therefore reflect on the Scripture readings of this day, and grow to find in our hearts, the role that we can play as part of the Church of God. Let us all work together to continue the good works of Christ, to bring God’s love to all the peoples, and to heal many from their afflictions, both physical, and even more importantly, to heal the spiritual aspects of many people.

May Almighty God, together with the intercession of the holy saints, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian, bless us this day and guide us, so that we may also follow in their footsteps, to serve the people of God and love one another in the Lord. God bless us all and bring us into His light. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented with the very fact of how much the Lord loves us and how He had given us so many opportunities in this life to change our ways and repent, so that we may not be lost but we may gain eternal life and redemption through His most merciful and loving heart. This is what the essence of the parable of the workers in the vineyard is about.

God cares for all of us with all of His heart. And it is truly painful for Him to see all of us scattered and trampled to the dust in the darkness of the world. This is why He was very angry in the first reading we heard today, how the very shepherds whom He had entrusted His peoples to, had abused their power and authority, and ended up causing untold suffering for the people of God, who were manipulated, treated badly and led to the wrong paths by their leaders’ inaptitude and unfaithful nature.

What was said in this Book of the prophet Ezekiel, which happened during the time of the Babylonian exile of Israel, about over five hundred years before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, was truly fulfilled during the lifetime of Jesus, as the supposed shepherds of Israel, the Pharisees and elders, the scribes and the Sadducees, all the leaders of Israel had misused their authority and power, in order to satisfy their own desires and ambitions.

These shepherds misled the people by not doing what they had preached to the people. In essence, they became hypocrites who did differently as the words that they had spoken to the people. They cared only for themselves and not for the sake of God’s people whom they ignored and led instead to the darkness. They were expected to be role models of the faithful people of God, and yet they miserably failed God’s expectations of them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Pharisees and the elders of Israel at Jesus’ time were obsessed with one thing, that is the security and prosperity of their own livelihoods. They did not care about any other things so long as their lives were secure and good. And they were very jealous of their power and influence, unwilling to let go their hold over the people, even if prophets would come to rebuke them. In fact, they resented even what Jesus the Saviour had done, and refused to see the truth in Christ.

The Pharisees and the elders of Israel enforced among the people of God, an extremely literal and rigid interpretation of the laws of the Lord revealed through Moses, the Mosaic laws. They were very zealous in pursuing the details of the rigid enforcement of the rules and regulations built up after centuries of interpretations of the Mosaic laws. And Jesus rightly criticised them for these, as these led the people away from the Lord.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bernard the Abbot, also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was a truly renowned saint who was a very devout religious who lived during the Medieval era France, and he was particularly known for his efforts to combat heresy among the faithful and bring unity to the Church of God.

St. Bernard exhibited a very exemplary life and devotion to the Lord through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. And he was truly very influential among the numerous people whom he had touched with his teachings and love. St. Bernard brought many souls back on the path towards salvation and into salvation itself, not by imposing rules and laws on the people, or by acting all high and mighty, but through love and dedicated service.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux led the people of God through example, by practicing what the Lord had taught us, and he also wrote extensively and taught indiscriminately, to bring the various segments of the lost ones in the Church and beyond back to the Lord through repentance, as well as to reunite the divisions that existed in the Church of God.

St. Bernard gave us all the examples on how to live our faith in our lives meaningfully, away from all the worldly temptations and worries, which were the things that made the Pharisees and the elders of Israel such bad and wicked shepherds, to whom the Lord would no longer entrust His sheep to. The contrast between the works and life of St. Bernard and the leaders of Israel of Jesus’ time serve as a reminder for us, that in living our faith, we cannot be divided between God and this world as the Pharisees had done.

Instead, let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and many other holy men and women of the Lord, who had dedicated themselves in service to God’s beloved children, all of us. Let us all help one another on our way towards the Lord that in the end, all of us may reach the Lord and be reunited to Him and His love. May God be with us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 June 2014 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr, and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of our Lady or Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary) or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the well-known story of the faith of the centurion, or the army captain, who in his great faith, declared it clearly to the people, how he trusted in the Lord and in His power and authority to heal his sick servant. And it was also from here that the response we have in the Mass came from.

When the priest says, ‘This is the Lamb of God’ or ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’, just before we are to receive Him in the Holy Communion, we respond with ‘Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.’ Do you all recognise these words? I am sure you do. We have been saying it all over and over again every time we celebrate the Mass. But do we truly understand what it means?

What we say is almost exactly the same as what the centurion said to Jesus when he asked for His help to heal his servant. He fully believed and in full faith that Christ who is Lord and God has all authority on heaven and earth, and therefore He would be able to command and do anything asked of Him, just as the centurion had asked. Yet at the same time, knowing all that, more than all he also realised the depth of his sinfulness and unworthiness before the Lord because of that sin, and hence he said those words.

Do you also remember what St. John the Baptist had said to his disciples and to the people when they asked whether he was the Messiah? He said that the Messiah is so much greater than he was, such that he would not even be worthy to untie the straps of His sandals. As holy and great St. John the Baptist was, he was still a man, and therefore a sinner. He knew the extent of mankind’s sins and unworthiness, and that is why he and the centurion showed this feeling of unworthiness before the Lord and before His people.

But remember, this feeling and its expression is not to the point where we fear God and we do not want to approach or seek Him because He is someone of great power, distant and far beyond our reach. On the contrary, God has made Himself available for us, and truly approachable to us, as great and mighty as He is, through none other than Jesus Christ His only Son, whom He sent into the world to be our guide and our Saviour.

Through Jesus God has made Himself available for us, and He did not hesitate to come and heal us from our afflictions. All that He needed was that the people accepted His offer of salvation and healing, and believed in God through Him. The same is also asked of us this day, that we have faith in the Lord and put our trust in Him, just as the centurion had done.

The reality is that in this world today, there are many distractions that keep us away from the Lord, and there are many factors that prevent us from truly be faithful to the Lord. One was what I have already mentioned, in the fear that we often have to God, not knowing or realising that God seeks us always, and He is fully willing to welcome us back into His embrace, if only we are willing to repent and change our ways.

The other one was that if we are so occupied with worldly things and matters that we become insensitive and blind towards the love of God. In this manner we walk ever further and further away from the Lord and the guarantee of salvation that is in Him alone. That is why, brothers and sisters, today we are called to reflect on our lives. Are we truly good and faithful disciples of the Lord? Or are we easily swayed by the temptations of worldly glory and pleasures?

Today we celebrate the feast of a saint, St. Irenaeus, whose life and works will be an inspiration to us all in leading a more upright life dedicated to God. St. Irenaeus is one of the early Church fathers who helped to build up the faith that we know of today. St. Irenaeus was well known with his extensive writings and works that touched on the many central tenets and aspects of our faith.

St. Irenaeus was especially well known for his opposition against heresies and unorthodox and heterodox teachings of the faith, which was made famous through his book, Adversus haereses, or literally ‘against heresies’. In that book, St. Irenaeus affirmed many of the central aspects of our faith and he addressed many issues pertaining to the numerous heresies present at that time.

One of the many heresies of that day, and the most well-known one was Gnosticism, the heresy of syncretism between the true faith and the many ideas and philosophical opinions of the Greco-Roman world at the time, together with the influences of pleasure-seeking behaviours and hedonistic attitudes towards life, which created the heresy we know as Gnosticism, which was really famous and widespread, luring many away from the true faith and salvation in God.

This is exactly what we should avoid at all costs, brothers and sisters, that we must not be like those who sought pleasure in life and false happiness of worldly kinds above all other things. We have to keep in mind always the teachings of our faith, and put our foundations in faith strongly in the Lord that we will not fall into temptation and therefore damnation.

St. Irenaeus stressed the importance of faith in God and staying true to that faith, and to love tenderly and generously as the Lord had taught us, not just to love ourselves, but even more importantly, to love one another and to love the Lord Himself with all of our strengths and with all of our hearts. It is an easy thing to love oneself and to enjoy oneself in pleasures, but what does all that mean if we lose everything in the end in damnation?

Let us all work together, brothers and sisters, that we may help each other on our way to the Lord, that as one people we may be justified and be saved in Christ. Let us ask for the help and intercession of St. Irenaeus and other holy saints. God bless us all, always. Amen.

Saturday, 21 June 2014 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are reminded yet again today that we should put our trust in God and leave all things to Him who cares for us. We do not need to worry or think about what we are to do today and what we ought to have in our lives. As I have often mentioned, in this life, we often confuse between our needs and our wants, between the things that we truly need in life and things that is in our desire and greed.

Yes, we also often confuse between things that are truly precious and dear to us, and things that are what form our desire and our greed. In our world today filled with materialism and consumerism, this is becoming more and more out of hand, and instead of doing what the Lord wants us to do, we are getting more and more separated from Him by committing things unworthy in His sight.

What are some of the examples? We always worry about the latest gadgets and newest inventions that are marketed to us as things that we need to have so that we look ‘cool’ and acceptable to the society, and we also often beg and seek these things to fulfill our own feeling of inferiority and need for acceptance, but we fail to look beyond that, to find what we truly want and need in life.

God is with us, brothers and sisters, and He knows perfectly all the things that we need at all the moments of our lives. I am sure many of us did not realise this, but if we do take some time to think and reflect, have you realised that actually in many moments of our lives, we have been blessed by God who intervened in His own way and in His own time to help us and to be with us? God never left us alone.

We have to learn to let go of the many desires and egoistic feelings that we have in us. We cannot succumb to our desires and wants, as this will inevitably lead to more and more desire and more and more wants. Mankind are inherently greedy and desire pleasure, hence, we are predisposed to seek pleasures and comfort in life, forgetting what we truly need to do in life.

Today we commemorate the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a holy man and a dedicated worker of the faith and servant of God, who was born in the late Renaissance Italy, into a noble and wealthy family, one of the most influential and powerful families of that era in Italy. He was destined for greatness, both in inheritance and great wealth. However, the heart of St. Aloysius Gonzaga turned somewhere else.

Instead of dwelling in his privileged status and in his material wealth, of which he had so much that he need no more, St. Aloysius Gonzaga wanted to become a priest and a missionary, working to spread the Good News to the lands which were still in the darkness without the knowledge of God. As such, he wanted to join the Jesuits, but his family was adamantly against his choice.

However, despite persuasions and negotiations, his family failed to convince St. Aloysius Gonzaga to do otherwise. Eventually, St. Aloysius Gonzaga fulfilled his desire and became a Jesuit, and he committed himself totally to God, and even during a plague, when many died from the sickness, he did not fear and continued to commit himself to the patients and the sick in love, eventually succumbing to the disease himself. But in dying, he had shown us all, the power of love and faith that is lived in that love.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live like St. Aloysius Gonzaga had done? Are we able to get our eyes and our minds away from our continuous desire for more and more goods and pleasures? We must really make the effort to do good for others as St. Aloysius Gonzaga had done for others. Let us really live our faith and be faithful to God, practicing our faith with love. May God be our guide and our strength. Amen.

Saturday, 14 June 2014 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

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

Brothers and sisters in Christ, again I have to emphasize today, of the importance placed on the understanding of the laws of God and His true intention, rather than blindly following rules without understanding, and take things literally without proper discernment and thinking. This is the essence of serving the Lord and His people, just as Elisha, son of Shaphat had been called long ago to serve God’s people.

Some Christians like to take things in the Scriptures literally, as it had been written, even going as far as proclaiming the Holy Scriptures as the sole truth and the sole authority of the faith in the process of salvation. This is what is called the sola scriptura approach, popular among Protestants who in their heretical and misguided thinking, they thought that their understanding of the Scriptures is sufficient to guide them in faith and in life.

However, as we know, this is very wrong, and by depending on their interpretations, human interpretation that is flawed and imperfect, they have erroneously practiced their faith, thinking that we faithful cannot make oaths or anything similar, out of fear of sinning and going against the Lord’s will. But this is not in fact what Jesus meant when He said what He said in the Gospel today. This is the danger of literally interpreting whatever Jesus said and hold onto them as if they are inviolable laws.

Jesus liked to preach to the people of God in parables, through the use of stories and links to real-life contexts, which has two purposes. First, this facilitates understanding by the people, in consideration that most of them at the time were illiterate, and therefore unlikely to have strong background knowledge of what they have in the Scripture, and whatever they believe in, is mostly the oral traditions passed down through the generations and through the teachings of the priests.

But these, as we know it, were imperfect knowledge, since mankind had limited and feeble intelligence that is incapable of comprehending the fullness of the truth in the word of God, except if it is revealed to them through the Holy Spirit, or through the teaching of the Prophets. Those who trust only in the Holy Scriptures and in their flawed understanding on them, is being foolish.

This links to the second purpose of Jesus’ preaching using parables and stories to the people. If the first purpose is to make the teachings more understandable to the faithful, who were mostly farmers, fishermen and shepherds, and that was why so many of Jesus’ parables involve the terms that these people were familiar with, the second purpose is in fact to hide the true meaning of the word of God before it is time for them to be fully understood by the people.

Jesus Himself highlighted this, and He showed how the meaning of the words He had spoken had to remain hidden for a while until the appointed time when the Lord was to reveal Himself in His entirety to the world. But Jesus Himself did explain the meaning of His parables to the disciples, especially when they asked Him what He meant as He taught the people with those parables.

Yet, even after that, the disciples still did not understand perfectly, and as we know, there were many moments when they failed to understand what was to happen with Christ, especially when He suffered trial and death, when He was crucified on Calvary, and finally when He was risen from the dead, and the tomb of Jesus became empty.

It was through the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and Helper, that the Lord chose to reveal His truth to the people of God in its fullness. The Apostles and disciples received the Holy Spirit, and it was from them that the teachings of Jesus, the word of God, and the true intentions of the Lord were made clear to the people. The Scriptures, that is the New Testament section including the Holy Gospels themselves were written by the disciples inspired and filled with the Holy Spirit, to provide the people with understanding of their faith.

So what did Jesus mean then, by what He had said today? He did not mean to completely ban vowing and oath-making from us, and not to condemn us if we do so. What Jesus had meant was in fact that, whenever we do something and commit ourselves to something, especially when we say it verbally, we must truly mean everything that we spoke of, and we also have to take them seriously in mind and heart.

If we do not desire to do something, then we should not lie and make a false oath or vow. That is evil. And if we desire to do something, then it is more important and meaningful for us to go and act on it rather than just making empty promises and be slothful about it. That is the true essence of the Lord’s message to us. Rather than blaspheming against God by lying in His Name or on anything that He had created, it is best for us as Christians, to go forth and do all things that is right, immediately and with full consciousness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to keep alive the teachings and the knowledge which had been passed down to us through the Church, that is the deposit of faith. The Church alone is the custodian of this deposit of faith, which keeps us all anchored firmly to the Lord and His truth, and we have to keep it and follow it through. Let us not fall to the attempts of the devil to discredit the faith or the Church through his lies.

May God continue to guard us, keep us in His grace and love, and empower us to remain always in His truth and receive much blessing. May God be with us all, always. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the continuation of the prayer of Jesus for His disciples, for all mankind and for the world. Jesus made clear to all of His disciples of the truth about all things on Himself and all the things that He had come into this world for. He made clear to all mankind that it is through Him all salvation will come from, and no one can reach the Lord other than through Himself.

God has given all to His Son, Jesus Christ, that in Him can be found hope and redemption. And it is this that we believe in and treasure as our faith. Jesus has given His all in order to save mankind, which was His mission upon coming into the world. Despite the difficulties and the challenges that He faced, He obeyed the will of the Father perfectly and thus bring glory to God and redemption to mankind.

Today’s readings are both about those who are about to face danger and peril, and in both cases, indeed they would face a violent death in the end. As we know and heard, Jesus in the Gospel today was praying for His disciples, and He did this during the time after the Last Supper just before He went through His Passion and suffer for our sake, and died on the cross.

In the first reading, St. Paul also showed his anguish, having been accused and resisted by many of those whom he had been sent to work with, and he was also about to be judged in Jerusalem, after having been arrested and sent back for judgment by the authorities. We know that eventually St. Paul would appeal to the Roman Emperor and asked to be judged in Rome, where he would eventually meet his end, by beheading on the order of the Emperor Nero, who instigated the first official persecution of the faithful and blame them for the fire of Rome.

But both of them did not fear the persecution and death they were to face. Instead, they welcomed death openly without fear, and they continued to work for the Lord’s sake all the way till the end. St. Paul continued to minister along his way to Rome, converting many to the Lord, including those in Malta and in Rome itself. And Jesus as we all know, healed the severed ear of the servant of the High Priest, Malchus, and He forgave those who condemned Him to death, on the cross itself.

This is an attitude and a way of life which we all should emulate in our own lives, that is to truly bring about a genuine and living faith in each one of us. We have to be like St. Paul and Jesus in their mission that they carried in complete faith to God the Father. And today, we celebrate the feast of St. Charles Lwanga and his companions, holy men who did not fear or hesitate to defend their faith unto death, and worked for the sake of the Gospel.

St. Charles Lwanga was born in what is today modern day Uganda in south-central part of Africa, and he was born into the then kingdom of Buganda, which still practiced animism and abhorrent practices, especially wicked sexual practices and perversions prevalent at that time, particularly those committed by the king of Buganda himself.

St. Charles Lwanga had quite a high and significant position in the court of the king, and while the whole court and country was made to reaffirm their paganistic beliefs and cast out Christianity, which when this happened just about one and a half decades ago, the faith of the One True God began to enter into Buganda and converted many to the true faith.

St. Charles Lwanga himself secretly converted to the faith and through his works in secrecy, he managed to convert many people, especially many convicts and others who then joined the true faith together with St. Charles Lwanga. But the end came for him, when he chose to stand by his faith, when the king’s sexual perversion and debauchery went bad and by persuading the victims of the king to adopt the faith and resist the king’s influences, St. Charles Lwanga and some others were punished and tortured, and were finally executed.

St. Charles Lwanga stayed faithful to the end, and publicly showed his faith to others, and even praying over his executors as they tortured him, hoping that they too will be baptised and receive the faith as he had done. His faith and devotion to the faith was truly commendable, and we too should be inspired by what he has done.

Our faith must be strong and vibrant, and we cannot be idle. We have to stand fast by the Lord’s side and not be afraid of rejection or persecution by the world or others disagreeable to our faith, that is those who are still in the darkness of Satan and the world. Let us all be courageous, and be inspired by St. Charles Lwanga and his companions, the Ugandan martyrs, in their faith, so that we may grow ever more worthy of the Lord and be righteous before Him.

May God be with us all, and may St. Charles Lwanga intercede for us together with his companions in heaven. May God help us all. Amen.

Friday, 16 May 2014 : 4th Week of Easter (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Do not worry, brothers and sisters, and that is the key message of today’s readings. And why? This is because our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God is firmly on our side, and He will not abandon us, especially not to the forces of evil. He will safeguard us, protect us, shield us, and empower us, that we all will be safe at the end of our lives, and death will not be able to claim us, and nor will Satan have any power over us.

Brethren, God had prepared the places for us, which He made known to us through Jesus, He revealed to us that so long as we believe in Him and remain on the path which He had shown us, we will be safe. And what is this way? Jesus, and none other. Remember when Christ said that He is the way the truth and the life? That is because only through Jesus we can reach out to the Father, as He is the bridge between us and the Lord.

Mankind had long been sundered from the Lord due to their rebelliousness and sin, which prevented them from ever being able to reach out to the Lord. If you recall the story of Lazarus the poor and the rich man, told by Jesus, then you will realise that when the rich man died, he begged Abraham and Lazarus to come over to hell to ease his sufferings there, but as mentioned, there exists an immense and uncrossable chasm that exists between the two, that prevented either side from going to the other side.

The same chasm therefore, also exists between us and God, and this chasm is the consequence of our sins. God did not intend for mankind to suffer all these and to bear all the punishments intended for us, for He created us in all perfection, on that day when the first of our ancestors were still pure and unblemished, when they still walked without guilt in the garden of Eden with God.

It was because of the sins of Adam the first man, and his partner and wife, Eve, the first woman, that mankind were sundered away from the Lord and His love. We were cast out of the life in bliss and eternal happiness that God had prepared for us, away from the eternal companionship with God that He had intended for us and for our ancestors.

But, as I have often mentioned, God did not give up on us. That was why He was willing even to send a part of Himself, the Word who is Son, to assume flesh and be one of us, and finally to bring all mankind back to God through His death and glorious resurrection. That is God’s love for us, and He dedicated Himself completely for our sake.

The suffering of Jesus is due to our sins, and He volunteered to take upon our sins and all of their weight, and bear them dutifully as He walked on that path to Calvary, obeying the Father in all that He did. He was lifted up between the heavens and the earth, and on the cross, He offered His life and perfect obedience in exchange for our salvation and the remission of our sins, for those who believe in Him.

In doing so, Christ became the bridge that closes the gap between the Lord and us, but the chasm continue to remain there. For as long as we sin and continue to commit things that are displeasing to God, we will not be able to cross that chasm and reach the Lord. Jesus is the only way through whom we may reach out to the Father.

Yet, it is not just as simple as that, because for us to go to the Lord through Jesus, we must follow Him in all of His ways. We cannot be half-hearted in following Jesus, or as we cross that chasm, we will falter and fall into chasm, and thus into sin and damnation. If we allow even a single laxity in our faith in Jesus our Saviour, we allow sin to make its way back into is and corrupt us once again, separating ourselves once more from the Lord.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray fervently and sincerely, that in all the things we do, we will always follow the Lord with all of our heart, without  turning left or right, and without being influenced by the various temptations and pleasures which Satan had placed on our path. Be courageous to say no to him and ignore all the offers that he made, no matter how attractive they are. Do not let him distract us and make us fall on our way to the Lord.

May the Lord strengthen our faith, that He may make our faith in Jesus stronger, that we will cling closely unto Him and put in Him all of our trust. Let us never again be separated from God, and let us continue to walk faithfully with Him towards the Lord our loving God. Amen.

Friday, 25 April 2014 : Friday within Easter Octave (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we see and hear the actions of the Apostles after the resurrection of Jesus, when they met the Lord in the lake while fishing in the Gospel today, and we also hear the continuation of the tale of the healing of the paralytic man in the Temple by Peter and John, which happened after Jesus had ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit had been sent to the Apostles.

The theme of today’s readings is mission, and the courage to pursue that mission, doing the mission with the full intention for the benefit of the people of God. Brethren, we are all also the disciples of Christ like the Apostles who were in that boat fishing all night for fish and not getting even a single fish, but with the guidance and blessing of the Lord in Jesus, they caught so many fish that the ship almost sank.

And therefore, the same can be said of the lives we have today as the fishermen of the Lord. The Apostles had been called to become the fishers of men, that is to bring them closer and closer to God, and hence ‘catching’ them for God. They no longer catch fish in the lake, but went on to catch new ‘fishes’ in the larger sea, that is the world, bringing mankind and countless souls to salvation in God.

The disciples of Christ become the agents of Christ in disseminating the words of the Lord’s Good News, and through them, the people of God received the truth about Christ and find their way to God, and hence the Apostles were the fishers of men. But their roles did not just end there, for we too, all of us who had received the light of Christ through baptism had also been called to be fishers of men as well.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? This means that we have to take up the cross that Christ had entrusted to us, which is the mission He had given to His apostles and from them, to us. We have to be the bearers of the Good News of the Lord, and this is likened to the fishing nets that we are to spread throughout the entire world through our actions, that we may net as many souls as possible, saved before the Lord, accepting the Lord as their God and Saviour, repenting from their past sins as we once had done.

This world is the vast sea, and indeed, the huge ocean of the faithless and the people who still live in darkness, that awaits us to bring the light of God to them. Just as the Apostles had waged a long and arduous mission and work to be the fishers of mankind for the Lord, we too have to continue their good works and bring much goodness to the lost people in darkness and enlighten them with the truth about God and His love for us all.

This world does not like us who believe in the Lord, just as it had once hated the Lord and Saviour Himself, for this world is under the power and dominion of Satan, the evil one. That is why, this world had first rejected the Lord, but as the First Reading and the Psalm had shown, that the rejected One had become the Cornerstone of all the people who keep their faith in God. And it is this truth about the Risen Lord that we are testifying for and standing up for as we go against the currents of this world, to bring salvation to many souls who hunger for the love of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in this Easter season, and as we celebrate the joy of Christ’s resurrection, let us always be reminded that we still have this important mission, to be the fishers of men like the Apostles had once been, and bring mankind and one another ever closer to God. Let us keep an eye for one another, that none of us may fall into the tricks and traps of the evil one, so that we may remain faithful and firm in our conviction for the Lord.

May Almighty God guide us in our journey and as we embark on this arduous and yet blessed mission of bringing the Good News to all men, of all the nations. God be with us all, always, till the end of time. Amen.

Sunday, 13 April 2014 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, Holy Week (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Brothers and sisters in Christ! Today we begin the celebration of the holiest week of all the weeks in our year. There is no greater occasion than this week in our calendar, and that is why we call it the Holy Week, or the Week of the Lord’s Passion. Why so? That is because during this week itself we celebrate the Lord’s greatest works in this world, that is manifested through His suffering, death and ultimately, His resurrection from the dead.

This week commemorates the time when the Lord finally came forth to bring His long planned salvation, the long-awaited rescue for mankind finally came, through Jesus and the events that He set in motion, to bring forth finally the salvation and eternal rewards God had promised His people since the day of Adam, when he became the first man to fall into sin.

This day is the day commemorating the beginning of that solemn week, when Jesus embark towards His goal, that is also known as the Passion of the Christ, which is why this day is also known as Passion Sunday, marking the beginning of the Passion of Jesus, which He went through out of His great and unfathomable love for us, so great that indeed, in His passion and love, He was willing to give up even His own life for us, and shed His Blood for our sake.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why today some of us may ask, why do we commemorate both the glorification and the death and suffering of Jesus at the same time? Why do we commemorate the glory of Jesus when He entered Jerusalem with a great procession with palm fronds and leaves, only to have the Passion reading heard afterwards? Why so?

Yes, all these are related brothers and sisters in Christ, for Jesus as He headed towards Jerusalem, He perfectly knew that He would be glorified and welcomed just as the prophet Zechariah had prophesied that the promised King would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey, and in that occasion, Jesus was glorified and acclaimed as the promised King and Saviour long foretold by the prophets. Yet, the very same people would in less than a week, betrayed Him for the powers of the world, and cried out for His death.

Jesus knew all of these, and yet He pressed on, and that is His love for us, the passion that He has for all of us, and this is why we call this momentous event, the Holy Passion of our Saviour. He marched on to His death without fear, knowing that by laying down His life, He became that perfect sacrifice, through which all mankind, that is all of us, are made righteous and worthy of new life in God.

Jesus is the promised Saviour, the Son of David, as the heir and descendant of that faithful king and servant of God, the fulfillment of God’s promise to mankind since the beginning of time. Jesus Christ is the One long awaited and One promised to Adam and Eve, the first mankind.

After Satan tricked both of them in the form of a snake, God promised them that even though Satan would follow through and haunt and dominate mankind for ages, a deliverer would come through the descendant of Eve, that is Jesus, and the woman through whom the Saviour was to be born of, would crush the snake under her heels, and this refers to Mary, the mother of Jesus our Lord and Saviour.

And God promised Abraham that He would make him great among mankind and among the nations, and He would make Abraham the father of many nations, and to David his descendant, God promised an everlasting rule of His descendant on the throne of His people Israel, and all these were fulfilled in Jesus, the Son of David, Son of Abraham, Son of Man, and the Son of God, Divine incarnate into flesh.

That is why the people hailed and welcomed Jesus as He entered the city of Jerusalem, the heart of the kingdom of Israel. He came as a King, the One and true King of God’s people, and the King over all the kings and the kingdoms of the world. But He did not come as a proud and boastful King, and instead, He came knowingly of His ultimate purpose, to be the ultimate servant King, to give up His own life for the life of His beloved people.

Today, as we begin this holy week when Jesus finally began His last week on earth as the Messiah born as a human, and as we cheer Him as the King of kings, as the Son of David, let us also remember what He came into this world for, that is to rescue us, and this He did out of His undying love for us. Remember how He loved each and every one of us that He was even willing to suffer the consequences of our sins in our place, and die for us.

Therefore, as we continue to proceed into this holy week, this holy time, let us use this perfect opportunity to think about our actions, on whether we have been good and faithful servants of our Lord, or whether we have been disobedient and rebellious in our ways, just as the people of God had been. Remember always, that Christ died for our sake, and He went through all that suffering and death just so that we will not have to suffer for eternity the suffering of hell.

God offered His love freely for us, and He laid down His passion freely for us, and it is our part, to accept or to reject this generous offer. Should we then reuse this? After what our Lord had gone through for us? Let us therefore think twice and more than twice from now on, every time we are seduced by the temptations of Satan to sin against the Lord. Let us think well of the consequences of our actions, for the Lord, and even more so, for ourselves.

Let us never be separated again from God, and as we embark on this journey through this sacred time, let us appreciate what Jesus our Lord and King had done for us. Never again take His love and kindness for granted. May this holy week be truly holy and beneficial for us, that we may draw ever closer to God who loves us. Amen.

Sunday, 6 April 2014 : 5th Sunday of Lent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 8 : 8-11

So, those walking according to the flesh cannot please God. Yet your experience is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him.

But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the spirit is life and holiness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, He will do it through His Spirit who dwells within you.