Saturday, 1 December 2018 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we come to the last day of our current liturgical year, we are yet again reminded of the importance to be always ready and be prepared to expect the coming of the Lord and the time of reckoning, which the Lord alone knows when in the exact time and age. We have to live our lives with faith, and devote ourselves, every single days of our life, to serve the Lord and to follow His will.

In the Gospel reading today, we heard from the Lord Jesus Himself warning His disciples and the people to always be on the watch of their attitudes, behaviours and actions, that they do not act foolishly or give in to the temptations of their earthly desires and the pride and ego in their hearts and minds. He reminded them of the threats and the snares of the devil that are always present in our midst, trying to pull us away from God.

The devil is always trying to tempt us with many forms of pressures, temptations and allures, more often than not, showing us the false sense of security found in his path. The path of worldliness often lead us into that form of happiness, satisfaction and pleasure, but it does not show us where the path truly leads to in the end, and that is, eternal suffering, pain and despair, when totally sundered from God’s grace and love in hell, we regret for eternity our choice.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why we need to remember that the Lord’s path, while it may seem to be not as appealing, not as easy, and not as smooth as the path which Satan is showing us as an alternative, but in the end, it leads to nothing less than eternity of happiness and true joy with God, in His presence and grace, forever and ever. This is what we have heard in our first reading passage today, from the Book of Revelations when the Angel of God showed St. John what was to be in the life that is to come with God.

Today, all of us are reminded of this reality in our life, and of the choice which we indeed need to make in our respective lives, on whether we want to obey the Lord and walk in His ways, or whether we prefer instead to follow the seemingly easier, less challenging and more pleasurable path as shown to us by the devil. We are called to make a stand and to choose the path we are to take, and we should indeed not tarry in making a decision.

Why is that so? That is because our time on earth, as we are all should be aware of, is limited, and God alone knows when each and every one of us are to give an account of our life before Him. Each one of us have different span of life, different experiences and paths in life, and it is prudent that we should be ever ready to face the reckoning of our lives. We should not wait, while the opportunity is available, lest it may be too late for us to change our ways, and we regret.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, day after day, God is always reminding us through the Church, through His servants, our priests and bishops, through even our family members, relatives, friends and all those whom we encounter in our daily living, to be faithful to Him and to follow His ways and examples. We should not ignore these sometimes quiet promptings from our God, Who loves each and every one of us.

Now, are we willing to make the commitment to the Lord and devote our effort, time and attention from now on, to turn wholeheartedly towards Him? Let us all therefore be faithful children of God, loving God our Father daily, through our every deeds, our every words and actions from now on, till the time we are reunited in perfect love in His heavenly glory. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 1 December 2018 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 21 : 34-36

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be on your guard : do not immerse yourselves in a life of pleasure, drunkenness and worldly cares, lest that day catch you unaware, like a trap! For, like a snare, will that day come upon all the inhabitants of the earth.”

“But watch at all times and pray, that you may be able to escape all that is going to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Saturday, 1 December 2018 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 94 : 1-2, 3-5, 6-7

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks with music and songs of praise.

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth and the mountain heights. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hand shaped the dry land.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we are His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Saturday, 1 December 2018 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Revelations 22 : 1-7

Then the Angel showed me the river of life, clear as crystal, gushing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of the city, on both sides of the river are the trees of life producing fruit twelve times, once each month, the leaves of which are for healing the nations.

No longer will there be a curse; the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the City and God’s servants will live in His presence. They will see His face and His Name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light or lamp or sun for God Himself will be their light and they will reign forever.

Then the Angel said to me, “These words are sure and true; the Lord God Who inspires the prophets has sent His Angel to show His servants what must happen soon.” “I am coming soon! Happy are those who keep the prophetic words of this book.”

Friday, 30 November 2018 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of Our Lord, who was called together with his brother, St. Peter, at the shores of the lake of Galilee from his profession as a fisherman. The four Apostles called that day was St. Peter and St. Andrew, brothers, and the sons of Zebedee, also brothers, St. James the Greater and St. John the Apostle and Evangelist.

St. Andrew was the first to be called among the Apostles, and that was why he is also usually known as St. Andrew the First-Called, and was also probably one of the disciples of St. John the Baptist. In the Gospel, St. John the Baptist baptised Jesus at the Jordan at the beginning of His worldly ministry, and he pointed out to his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world!”, pointing out the True Messiah of God to them.

And thus St. Andrew came to the Lord and listened to His call, as He called him, his brother and his fellow fishermen, the sons of Zebedee, to follow the path that God has called them into, to be the disciples of Christ, to be His Apostles and the ones through whom, God would come to exercise many of His wondrous works and blessings in this world. They were no longer mere fishermen, but according to the Lord Himself, they became fishers of men.

The Apostles, twelve among them were the closest collaborators and disciples of the Lord, and St. Andrew was one of them. They followed the Lord wherever He went, and listened to His words and teachings. He followed the Lord to His Passion, suffering and death in Jerusalem, and witnessed His glorious resurrection from the dead and ascension into heavenly glory.

And St. Andrew received the commandment from God together with his fellow Apostles and disciples, to go forth to all the nations, and to baptise them in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, he and the other disciples of the Lord began the evangelising and missionary efforts of the Church. He went to many places in faraway lands, in what is now today Ukraine, Russia and Greece.

He preached the Word of God and the truth of the salvation in Our Lord Jesus Christ to the people living in those places, calling them to believe in God and to turn away from their past ways of sin. He founded several dioceses and communities of the faithful in the places he went to, and eventually he was martyred in Achaea in Greece, crucified on the X-shaped cross, which would later be known as St. Andrew’s cross.

Now, we have just heard how this simple fisherman of Galilee became a great worker and missionary of God, truly fulfilling what the Lord had Himself said, that he and the other disciples would become fishers of men, and they really did. We have witnessed and heard, and probably read and knew the many good works that St. Andrew and the other Apostles had done, in their courageous and tireless deeds and works to serve God and His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, surely we realise that God has called everyone to follow Him and to be His disciples. He called those whom He wanted to make worthy and not those who think that they are worthy. That is why He called simple fishermen, prostitutes and tax collectors, sinners and thieves just as He also called on the intellectuals and the righteous. What matters is for us to change our way of life so completely, that we orientate ourselves towards God.

Let us all realise that we are the successors of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, in that we have to continue the same mission which God has entrusted to the Apostles and the disciples, in bringing the truth and the salvation of God to more people, of all the nations. We are called to live our lives more faithfully and be living witnesses of the Gospel through our daily living, following in the footsteps of the Apostles themselves.

If the Apostles such as St. Andrew has given his all to dedicate all his efforts to the Lord, then why are we not doing the same? The common answer to this is because of our own pride, our own emotions, temptations in life and all the allures and pressures to abandon the righteous way of the Lord, which have prevented us from giving our all to God. We have also then become more and more distant from God and easier to fall into the traps Satan prepared for us.

Let us all be inspired therefore by the courage and the faith of St. Andrew the Apostle and the many other holy men and women of God, that from now on, for each and every one of us, our lives will be ever more attuned to the Lord and that we will be ever closer to Him. May the Lord continue to watch over us and love us, every days of our life, from now on. May He empower each and every one of us to live faithfully in accordance to His will. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 30 November 2018 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 4 : 18-22

At that time, as Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me; and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them.

At once, they left the boat, and their father, and followed Him.

Friday, 30 November 2018 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Friday, 30 November 2018 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 10 : 9-18

You are saved, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and, in your heart, you believe that God raised Him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips, you are saved.

For Scripture says : No one who believes in Him will be ashamed. Here, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, Who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call upon the Name of the Lord without having believed in Him? And how can they believe in Him, without having first heard about Him? And how will they hear about Him, if no one preaches about Him? And how will they preach about Him, if no one sends them?

As Scripture says : How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of Good News. Although, not everyone obeyed the Good News, as Isaiah said : Lord, who has believed in our preaching? So, faith comes from preaching, and preaching is rooted in the word of Christ.

I ask : Have the Jews not heard? But, of course, they have. Because the voice of those preaching resounded all over the earth, and their voice was heard, to the ends of the world.

Thursday, 29 November 2018 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this say we heard the story of the downfall of two cities, that is of Babylon and Jerusalem, each from the Book of the Revelations and from the Gospel of St. Luke. In those stories, we heard of the fall of the great city of Babylon and how the Lord and His Angels and saints stood triumphant against the forces of the wicked. And then, similarly, in the Gospel, we heard of the downfall of Jerusalem as prophesied by the Lord Jesus.

In order to understand the meaning and purpose of these two passages, we must first understand the context and history in which these two references to two great cities took place in the minds of the people of God at that time. The city of Babylon and Jerusalem were both great cities of historical past, and were capitals of great kingdoms, the former one of the Babylonians, while the latter was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Israel, under kings David and Solomon.

The Babylonians were the archetype of the wicked after what they have done to the people of God and the kingdom of Israel and Judah, having not just ended the line of kings that were continued unbroken from David to the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, but also the destruction city of Jerusalem itself, considered the Holy City of God, because of the Temple built by Solomon containing the Ark of the Covenant as the tangible and real presence of God in the midst of His people.

Therefore, in the memory of the people of God, the city of Babylon, where the Babylonians ruled much of the then known world from, that city would naturally become a very hated and despicable place. And this reference of the place of evil and wickedness was likely the reason for the attribution of the city of Babylon in the story we heard today from the Book of the Revelations of St. John the Apostle.

That story was basically the promise of God’s salvation and liberation for His people, from the tyranny and oppression of the wicked, that the power of the wicked, no matter how powerful they may seem to be, will eventually be broken and the evil ones will be overthrown. This is symbolically represented by the downfall and destruction of Babylon, which will never rise again, showing to the people of God, the ultimate triumph over evil.

Similarly, and interestingly, is the choice of Jerusalem in the Lord’s prophecy over the city as we heard in the Gospel today. That is because the Lord lamented the attitude of the people of Israel, many of whom, especially the majority of their religious and secular leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the scribes and the teachers of the Law who refused to believe in the truth that the Lord was bringing them, and instead, just as their ancestors persecuted the prophets, those people persecuted the Lord and His disciples.

Thus, the downfall of Jerusalem kind of parallels the downfall of Babylon mentioned in the first reading, again with the understanding of the oppression of the faithful by the wicked and by those who refused to follow God. And with that, came persecutions and difficulties, challenges and many temptations to leave behind our faith and to embrace the seemingly easier and more acceptable path of the world.

But this is what the devil always planned in order to prevent us from ever being able to reach out to God’s salvation and grace. He is doing all that is within his power and ability to lure us mankind further and further away from God. We must resist his temptations and his efforts, and persevere through the challenges and difficulties, no matter how difficult it is. There will be moments when we will be tempted to give up, but we must always remember, that in God alone lies our only hope and true path to freedom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us now therefore turn towards the Lord and faithfully dedicate ourselves anew to serve Him and to be good witnesses of our faith. Let us grow ever stronger in our faith, and commit ourselves with ever greater courage and strength. May God bless us all and be with us, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 29 November 2018 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”