Wednesday, 21 January 2015 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the tone and the meaning of the readings of today are not that different from the readings of yesterday, as they all talked about the understanding of the Law, and what is the true meaning of the Law, that is truly about the love of God. For the Law was meant not to oppress us mankind or to purposely make our lives difficult, but it was meant to lead the people of God and to help them to find their ways to Him.

And in the first reading we read about the Man named Melchizedek, who was written in the Book of Genesis as the King of Salem, or also known as the King of Peace, as the King of justice, which are indeed curiously, the titles which our Lord Jesus also holds, namely the King of Peace, and the Lord God of all, the Great Judge of all creation, who would judge all of creation.

This is to show once again, as often reiterated throughout the entire Epistle to the Hebrews, of the nature of Jesus Christ our Lord as the High Priest of all creation, of us all mankind, just as Melchizedek was the High Priest of God of old, at the time of Abraham. We do not have much info on who exactly Melchizedek was, based on what we know from the Book of Genesis, but in the Epistle to the Hebrews, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it was made clearer, that Melchizedek was probably another manifestation of God in the world, just like Jesus.

But Jesus was beyond even Melchizedek in deeds, for He did not just offer an offering of the tenth of the wealth of the world, as Abraham had given to Melchizedek, but He offered none other than Himself, the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, the one and only perfect sacrifice who through that sacrifice justified the entire human race.

And indeed, as I have mentioned at the beginning of today’s discourse, that the Lord had done this out of a single and clear purpose, that is out of His great and everlasting love for us all, that He does not want even a single one of us to be lost to Him. The Lamb of God offered Himself as the perfect and sweet sacrifice for our liberation, the liberation from the clutches of sin. Because of what He has done, all of us have been offered the freedom from the hands of Satan.

He is the High Priest who gathers all of us to Himself, and by His offering cleanses all of us from all of our sins with the singular act of His death on the cross. And this is our faith, what we believe in fully in our hearts. He died for us so that we may have life in us, and this is what the entire revelations God had made through the prophets, and all His laws are truly about, that is about the love of God made real by His sacrifice on the cross for us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Agnes, the holy martyr of the Faith and one of the holy virgins, who maintained the purity of their bodies in defense of their faith and courageously defending the Faith against the corruption of the world. St. Agnes, also known as St. Agnes of Rome, lived during the most difficult years for the Church and the faithful, that is during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocleatian, infamous for his great persecution of the Church and the faithful, where St. Agnes also met her end in a holy martyrdom in the defense of her faith.

St. Agnes was a young Christian maiden born to a noble family, who died at a very young age in her early teenager years during the aforementioned persecution by Emperor Diocletian, as she openly declared that she was a Christian to the authorities. St. Agnes went through many sufferings and different forms of torture meant to force her and persuade her to abandon her faith, none of which succeeded to do so.

Miracles happened even while she was tortured, and her persecutors grew ever more desperate and grew even more vicious in their persecution of her as the miracles continued to happen. Eventually she was martyred for her faith as such a young age, a defiant symbol to the Emperor who had persecuted the faithful so much, that whatever he had done to harm their bodies, they did not fear at all, for they put their trust in the Lord in whom they received great rewards for their faith.

One of the symbol often used on St. Agnes is the lamb, for her name very closely resembled the word lamb in Latin, that is ‘Agnus’, and this should be a reminder to all of us, of the suffering that St. Agnes had undergone in defending her faith, and even more importantly, the sacrifice which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, had done to save us from the hands of death and bring us into life, as I have mentioned earlier in today’s discourse.

Let us all therefore renew our commitments to the Lord, so that all of us will grow ever closer to our Lord. Reject and resist all forms of temptations by Satan and let us strive to keep ourselves holy and pure, that when the Lord comes again, or when we see Him in heaven, He will praise us for our way of following Him, just as St. Agnes had done. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 18 December 2014 : Third Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listen to the narrative of how Jesus our Lord and Saviour, the Promised Salvation of all mankind was conceived in the womb of Mary, His mother without human intervention or action, for the Saviour who came was not just a mere Man, but truly the Divine Word of God incarnate into flesh, God assuming the form of a humble and simple Man, to carry out and accomplish in perfection the plan of the Lord’s salvation for us.

The fulfillment of God’s long awaited salvation of His people had been seen by the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke of God’s eventual fulfillment of His promise, the coming of the great Messiah who would set the people of God free, just as He had once freed His people from the tyranny of the Pharaoh and led them out from slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.

In the psalm we heard about the King who is to come and reign justly over the world and over all of God’s people, and through Him, deliverance would come and succour would be given to the poor, the weak and those who long for the lord and who live righteously in His ways. This is Christ our King, who has come into the world, and who in His own words, seek to bring healing and deliverance to all those lost in the darkness of the world.

In the Gospel, God would reiterate again this promise to all of us, the coming of the Emmanuel, God who dwells and lives among His people through Jesus, the Son of Mary, who by the power of the Holy Spirit was incarnate into the flesh of Man, and become one with our human substance and existence. This He reminded Joseph through His angel, when he discovered that Mary was pregnant and thought that she had committed adultery and thus wanted to divorce her quietly.

Through the angel God explained to Joseph how the Baby to be born of Mary is the Messiah, the long awaited Promise of God, who had finally come into the world. And we are witnesses to how great the love of God for us is, so great that He, who is Almighty and Omnipotent God, Lord of all the universe and all of creations, would want to stoop down to our level, to strip Himself of His divine might for a while and born as a fragile Baby, the One whose birth we are celebrating and commemorating this Christmas.

This Advent is coming to a close soon, brothers and sisters in Christ, with exactly just one more week from Christmas. I trust that each one of us had done our own preparations in our own way to prepare for Christmas, perhaps in physical and material terms, or perhaps in spiritual and mental terms, or perhaps both. Now, while there is still time, not just for Christmas, but indeed while we are still breathing and walking in this world, let us all use the opportunity to reflect.

Have we found Christ in our lives? Is He the centre and focus of our attentions? Yes, is He, who is the Saviour of us all, the One who will give us life everlasting, and He who had suffered and died for us, becoming Man like us just so that we may be brought from the precipice of death because of our sins, and bring us into eternal life? What is the point of our celebration of Christmas, and indeed what is the purpose of our lives?

If our answers to all of these are no, Christ is not the centre of our lives, and if we do not recognise what He has done for us either, or if we think that our lives are to be lived for ourselves, for our own self-enrichment and self-aggrandisment, to get more and more possessions, goods and pleasures for ourselves, and if we think that Christmas is about the parties, the drunkenness, the food and the bling, then I would say that we have lost our true purpose, and we have lost our way in this life.

How do we then make our Christmas celebrations meaningful? We have to return Christ to the centre of our celebrations, for He, and not us are the focus. Therefore, while we rejoice in this festive season, let us all understand the purpose of this very festivities, that is to celebrate, what the readings from the Holy Scriptures today had proclaimed, the joy at the coming of the long awaited Salvation.

It is exactly like what God had proclaimed through Jeremiah, that the day of His coming would be a grandiose and joyous day, where peace would come upon all those for whom He had come. Indeed, the joy and celebration this Christmas should be about spreading and sharing the hope, the peace, the joy and the love which Christ had brought into our world, with one another and especially with those who have less or none of these.

Yes, these four are what we have been focusing on for each of the four Sundays of Advent. Thus, while it is not too late yet to begin, let us catch on the ride, and make sure that we prepare ourselves, body, heart and mind, seeking to understand the true meaning of Christmas and rejoice with one another, as one community of the faithful, for the greatest Gift God had given us mankind, that is Jesus, His only Son, our Lord and Saviour. God bless us all. Amen.


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Wednesday, 3 December 2014 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of a truly great and renowned saint, of whom many of our brethren around the world, particularly in Asia and in the Pacific region owed their faith to in the beginning, when the Church and the Faith first reached those regions of the world and was able to anchor themselves until today as flourishing communities of the faithful as we witness today.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Francis Xavier, or Franciscus Xaverius, a Spanish Jesuit priest and great missionary, whose missionary works caused a great flowering of the cause of the Faith in the East Indies, in countries now encompassing India, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Macau, Hong Kong, China, and also Japan. It is also likely that his works had also had even wider contributions to the whole Universal Church both in the mission areas and at home, in the heart of Christendom.

For St. Francis Xavier lived during a very difficult time for the Faith and the Church of God. This is because at that time, the very heart of Christendom were besieged both inside and outside by its enemies, both heretics, heathens, pagans and other enemies of God and His Church alike. The Islamic Ottoman Turks were on the rise and they had conquered many nations, and after vanquishing and subjugating Christian nations one after another, it seemed that they were poised to strike at the remaining nations faithful to the Lord.

Meanwhile, the so-called false Protestant ‘reformation’ was on the rage in most of Europe at the time, with many people, rulers and even clergy alike were swayed by the lies of the devil and by the greed of men, in following their own hearts’ desire and following false doctrines, forsaking the truth and the wholeness of the teachings of Christ as espoused and kept by the Church of God. Princes and peoples alike rebelled and broke free from the Church of God, destroying the unity of the Church.

Wars were fought in many places for the sake of the souls of the faithful. Many were lost to the Lord, but many also were called back to the Faith and repented their sins and rebellions. But at a time when external threats to the Faith were mounting as mentioned earlier, the Church and the faithful were not in good position to deal with all of them at once.

This is not to mention that within the Church itself there were many corruption and wickedness, with simony and even sexual impropriety all over the places. Buying of positions and honours were abound, nepotism and collusion were commonplace. And these further caused troubles to the already beleaguered Faith, Church and the faithful of God. This was why, there were a new movement then within the Church aiming for a great reform and purification of the Faith, which led to the great Council of Trent and Counter-Reformation, to reclaim the souls of many from heresy.

The Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, together with many others of his comrades, St. Peter Canisius and including St. Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of Missions whose feast we are celebrating today, they were pivotal in the efforts of Counter-Reformation, to reclaim for the Lord His people who have been lost to the darkness of the world and all those who had been lost to heresy of men.

Many of these brave missionaries and servants of God preached throughout Christendom calling them to repent from their sins and return to the Faith in the Holy Mother Church. While many resisted and persecuted the missionaries, there were also many who were moved by the preachings and they returned to the one and true Faith. But at the same time, there were challenges and opportunities beyond what had been mentioned here.

For at that time, advances in technology allowed the people of God for the very first time, to explore the entirety of the world. New worlds and places were discovered and this represented a great opportunity for the evangelisation of the Faith as it could not have been done before. St. Francis Xavier was sent as part of the evangelisation effort, to spearhead the Faith’s effort to bring the Good News to many of those who have yet to hear it before, bringing the Light to a people still living in darkness.

All these are linked to the readings of this day we heard from the Holy Scriptures, all of which talked about one thing, that is evangelisation and the spreading of the Good News to all of the world. That was the last and ongoing mission given by the Lord Jesus to all of His Apostles and disciples after His resurrection and just before He ascended to heaven, as we heard in the Gospel today.

Jesus told His disciples to bring forth the Good News and preach it to the entire world, to the whole mankind, so that all peoples may hear and witness the truth of God’s love and salvation, and thus be stirred from their slumber, to be awakened to walk and seek the Lord’s saving grace. This is a mission which He charged the Church with, and thus the mission which the Lord entrusted to all of us His faithful ones.

And the actions of the Jesuits in the traditional home of Christendom in Europe, wrecked by the Protestant ‘reformation’ and heresy, represented also a kind of evangelisation and spreading the Good News. They worked hard to dispel the lies of the devil and the falsehoods spread by the wicked agents of the evil one, and instead preaching and teaching the truth of Christ which the Church had kept faithfully since the very beginning.

What St. Francis Xavier and his fellow missionaries had done, then also expand the works of evangelisation even further, carrying out the mission of our Lord Jesus as He had entrusted to His disciples. Yes, which is to spread the Good News to all the nations and to baptise many nations and peoples in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, which was exactly what St. Francis Xavier had laboured hard for.

St. Francis Xavier travelled from countries to countries and from places to places, spreading the Faith wherever he went. He baptised many of the local communities and populace whom he encountered along his missionary journeys, and gained for the Lord many more souls he had helped brought to salvation. He preached the Lord’s Good News wherever he went, and he also helped to build up the Church in various places in Asia, at Goa in India, Malacca in the Malay Archipelago, Macau in China, and Nagasaki in Japan.

He faced and encountered many difficulties and challenges along the way, and yet he persevered. He performed many miracles and wonders throughout his missionary journeys, and he also even calmed a terrible storm which threatened to sink his boat while he was sailing to a place he was to preach the Good News at. He healed many of the sick and cast out demons.

Yes, brethren, was this not what our Lord Jesus had told His disciples too in the Gospel today? Those whom He had sent to preach His Good News and those who had devoted themselves and their lives in the service of God and His Gospel, He will not leave alone, but He will grant them His blessings and power to carry out their mission successfully.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this holy occasion of the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of Missions, let us all learn from what I have shared with you, of the courage of the missionaries and the servants of God in preaching the Good News of the Gospel to the nations, not only to those who had erred in their ways and walked away from the truth, but also to those who have not yet heard a single word of the Good News of Christ.

But it does not mean that their works ended just there, brothers and sisters in Christ. The mission which Jesus entrusted His disciples continues even today, and we are all, brothers and sisters in Christ, all the faithful ones of God are also tasked and entrusted with the same mission, to preach and spread the Good News of God’s salvation to all the nations and to all the peoples.

Therefore, let us all pray to the Lord, that in our hearts, the courage and desire we should have to preach His words and truth may be awakened and strengthened in us, so that we may also live faithfully and truly live out our faith with real action and real devotion, by loving one another as our Lord had loved us, and show love to all those around us who need them. Let us all follow and walk in the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier, the Patron Saint of missions! God bless us all. Amen.


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Monday, 24 November 2014 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury of the Temple. He also saw a poor widow, who dropped in two small coins.

And He said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For all of them gave an offering from their plenty; but she, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on.”


Homily and Reflection :

Sunday, 26 October 2014 : 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we come together as one family of the Church of God, and we listened to the words of the Scripture and the Gospel. And today we heard how it was shown to us the truth and the heart and core of what is the Law of God, which God had revealed to His people through Moses, His servant. The basics of this Law is the set of ten commandments we know as the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments is the basic tenets of the faith which God revealed to mankind so that they might follow in the ways which the Lord was to show them, that is the way of love. Before the revelation of the Ten Commandments, mankind did not have a standard set of rule that governed them, and as a result each one acted as it pleased them and as they liked, more often than not, not in accordance with the will of God and thus wickedness reigned over mankind.

And this Law was given through Moses to the people of God, to be a guide to them and in how they lived their lives. The Ten Commandments was written on two slabs of stone, written by God Himself, as a covenant which God renewed with the descendants of Abraham. And this covenant is a covenant of love, made upon love which God has for mankind, and as our part of the covenant, we also have to love Him back in the same way as He had loved us.

What is a covenant exactly? It is the promise and contract that is established between two parties, and it is legally and completely binding in nature. Both sides who have committed to a covenant must remain faithful to it, and as we all know, our Lord is forever ever faithful, and He never walked away from His promise. After all, He fulfilled completely His promises to His servants Abraham, David and all Israel, and the perfect fulfillment of His promises was through Jesus.

It is we mankind who often renege on our part of the covenant. God had first made His covenant with Adam, the first man and his wife Eve, the first woman. To them He gave authority and stewardship over all of the earth and over all of creations. And yet, they disobeyed despite God’s love and care for them, and they chose to put their lot with Satan and listened to their personal human desire rather than listening to God and obeying their part of the covenant between God and mankind.

And Abraham was faithful, this son of Adam who was righteous among the nations, that God renewed His covenant with men through Him, and he was blessed beyond all other men for his faithfulness and righteousness, walking faithfully in the way of the Lord. And yet, it was his descendants who yet again reneged against the Lord, committing evil after evil, with the treatment they showed to Joseph in jealousy and how they sold him into slavery out of that jealousy and hatred they had.

But God was patient, and He continued to love His people despite of their unfaithfulness and disobedience. Indeed, He wanted to show them His love, which He had shown them for generations after generations, but spurned by the people who did not listen to the Lord nor realise the extent of His love for them. He thus sent His servant Moses to liberate them, and to lead them to the promised inheritance for them, and bring them to know His Law, the Ten Commandments revealed through Moses.

But was the people faithful? No! As soon as they were freed from the land of Egypt they continued in their disobedience, complaining and disobeying God, creating idols after idols and embracing fornications after fornications of their bodies and souls. And they were indeed punished for their disobedience, for embracing the ways of the world and for worshipping false idols. But God again did not give up on the people He loved so much, and as He had done through the prophets, He revealed the final act of love He had for us.

Yes, that act is through Jesus, whom the Father sent to the world in order to save it and to bring all of us, the partakers of the covenant of God, into a new hope through the new covenant which Christ had established in His love. Yes, and that is why He explained to the Pharisees, the true meaning of the Law which is love. The love of God for men, and the desire of God to see us saved and freed from our state of sin due to our breaking of the promise of the covenant.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were puritans and extremists in the way of their faith, as they observed the Law very strictly, imposing a very strict set of rules, regulations, habits and behaviours which they forced onto the people of God. This was because the basic tenets of the faith, the Ten Commandments and the sets of laws and regulations which God had revealed through Moses had been twisted in their meaning and purpose by them, those shepherds and leaders who had been entrusted with teaching authority but misused them for their own gains.

The observations of their Law had become unmerciful in nature and they persecuted others just because they thought that those who did not adapt their puritan and extremist beliefs were unworthy and ought to be condemned. They condemned the one whom Jesus healed, the blind man from birth, just because he defended the Lord and told the truth about Him, a truth which the Pharisees and the scribes failed to see.

Remember again what the Lord told Moses and the people of Israel in the Book of Exodus in the first reading today? God made it clear to them that in the observation of the Law, one must act with the core of love in all purposes, and not anger, injustice, prejudice, and less so jealousy and other negativities which cause us to exercise the Law imprudently, just as the Pharisees had done.

Why the Ten Commandments of the Lord again? Why should it be that we should not kill, we should not steal, we should not covet others’ possessions? Why is it that we ought to honour our father and mother, loving our God and having no other gods beside Him? That is all because we all need to know love, and realise what is love all about, that is to give ourselves completely and totally to the love of God, avoiding all these actions which does not lead us to love and life, but indeed to hatred and death.

When we kill, we do not have love in us, and when we steal from someone, we do not have the love we ought to have for that brother or sister of ours, and when we covet someone else’s possession, it is impossible for us to love that person when we at the same time have any negativity towards the person. And how can we love if we cannot even love our parents, and foremost of all, if we cannot even love our God and devote ourselves entirely to Him?

We should take heed of what St. Paul had written to the Church and the faithful in Thessalonica, where he praised them for their ways and how they had changed their ways of old, of pagan worship and idol worship, of fornication and sin, into the way of the children of God, and walk righteously in the path of the Law. They obeyed the Law, not just because they have to obey it, but they understood the importance and the true meaning of the Law, that is love. We should indeed follow their examples and do the same.

Indeed, God did not give us the Law to torture us or to make our lives more difficult. The Law was intended to guide us, and guide us back from our waywardness and our rebellious tendencies, back to His loving embrace. And God also gave us a new chance through Christ, whose death and resurrection renewed for us a new covenant which He established with us. And remember that Jesus came not to destroy the Law but to perfect it, by revealing the true intention of the Law, which is indeed Love!

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, we all have a choice today. We can choose to continue our lives as usual, and we can do things as we like and as we wished it. We can also choose to live our lives following the rules and regulations as established by the Church and our Faith, following them just for the sake of following those laws and rules. But what will all these bring us? Nothing! Nothing indeed, other than harm and destruction.

So what is the other choice that we have? We can choose to understand the Law, as what we have heard and discussed here, that is to know the love in the Law of God. Indeed, the Law is very simple, as at the heart of it is love, and first, the first three commandments are all about loving God, and loving Him from the very bottom and depth of our hearts, with the whole might of our minds and with the full attention of our souls. That means we should not be partial in our faith, and we either accept the fullness of faith in God or we reject it, as we cannot believe in just parts of what we need to believe, and remember that we cannot serve God and another master.

But we must also love one another, in the same way that we have loved God and in the same way as we have loved ourselves. It is easier for us to love ourselves than to love others, and indeed we have often serve ourselves and our own purposes often at the expense of others around us. Thus, shall we learn from what God had taught us, that we need to put away our ego and begin to learn to love one another sincerely and earnestly, loving them just as we love ourselves?

Let us all pray to our Almighty God and Father, that He will continue to guide us in our lives, so that we may not lose sight on the true goal of our life, that is to reach Him and be reconciled with Him in love, through the love we show to Him and also through the love and the mercy we have shown to our brothers and sisters, following the examples of the saints of the past, and to exercise love and mercy in all of our judgments and actions. God bless us all. Amen.


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Tuesday, 21 October 2014 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented with this clear message from the Scriptures, on whether we are ready to stand up for our faith and show a genuine, living faith to God, where it is founded on love and true devotion to God and not just mere lip service. And it was also highlighted the importance for us to be ever ready and be prepared, so that we may not lapse in the observation of our faith.

We know and we believe that our Lord Jesus Christ will come again at the end of time, at the time of His choosing, to judge all the living and the dead, in short to judge over all creations, whether they deserve eternal life and salvation, or whether they should be cast away into hell and eternal suffering. He has warned us of His coming, which will be completely unexpected for us, like a thief breaking into a house, and like a master of the house returning to the house without the knowledge of the stewards.

We have been given this world under trust from God, so that all of us are indeed stewards of creations and stewards of this world. We have been entrusted with the care of the living things and also things of the world around us, so that we may guard with care and love all the precious creations of God, and as we often forget, that we too have been appointed stewards and guardians of each one of us, our own brothers and sisters.

Yes, this means that we have to show love to one another, care for one another, and avoid all forms of vices or any acts that cause harm or disadvantage on others. We who have accepted Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and have been accepted into His Church by baptism, has indeed been made stewards, to take charge over this world and all its inhabitants, not by power but through love and through zealous conversion of those who still live in darkness.

The truth has been revealed to us through Christ, and therefore, just like the Apostles and disciples of Christ, we ought to become living witnesses of Christ to the world, and not just by showing an empty and superficial kind of faith, but faith that is lived through our loving actions, when we practice the faith taught to us from Jesus, and how we should carry ourselves in life, so that all who see us will immediately and instantly know that we belong to God.

And so that all who see our actions may also follow in our footsteps and examples, thus walking down together with us on the same path towards salvation. Do take note that our actions have great impact on others who are watching our behaviours and actions, as who will follow the Lord if the world is to see the wayward actions of those who professed to believe in Him?

That was also why Jesus was so critical on the actions and deeds of the Pharisees, scribes and the teachers of the Law, the supposedly educated and pious ones, the so-called leaders and teachers of the faithful in the matters of the faith, but they did not practice what they preached. They had empty faith and superficial faith, the kind which I have warned against just now, which is empty and meaningless, and does not bring about salvation, not just for ourselves but also for others around us.

The Pharisees imposed heavy and burdensome sets of laws upon the people of God, but the observations of such laws became merely ritualistic and empty, devoid of the original meaning of the laws, and in their actions, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law contradicted their own teachings and faith. They preferred human praise and fame, as well as maintaining their own earthly authority and power over the maintenance of the love of God. Indeed, the purpose of the Law is love.

Now, what we need to do is to ask ourselves sincerely, and look deep into our hearts and minds. Have our actions and deeds represent the actions of a faithful and devoted servant and steward of the Lord’s creations? Are we acting in a way that we are serving God and His people with fullness of faith and love? Or do we instead serve ourselves and succumb to our own human desires and greed, such as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done?

Remember always, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we must always be ready for the Lord when He comes again. As I have mentioned, the time of His coming is known to Him alone, and no one will expect it when He suddenly comes again in His glory. Do we want to be counted among the unfaithful and the condemned just because we are not prepared, or that because we always like to postpone and delay things till the end, thinking that we still have time?

Of course we do not want such fate to happen to us, and therefore, brethren, if we have done what is just and righteous in the sight of God, then we should continue it faithfully and try to do even more, becoming even inspiration where possible, to inspire and lead others to also believe in the Lord and act as what we have done, that all may eventually be justified by their living faith.

If we have not begun to do what the Lord had asked from us to do, then there is no better time to start than now. Now is the time to begin, and do not wait! For the time is not infinite, and our time may be counted by days even now, by the Lord who is Lord over life and death. Never hesitate to begin now and change our lives for the better, for I can assure you that regret will indeed come too late to save us from our fate of destruction and damnation, if we do not change.

Let us ask our Father and loving God, the Almighty God to bless us and empower us, and to awaken within our hearts the love we ought to offer Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and indeed with our entire beings. Let us prepare ourselves entirely, heart, mind and soul, to offer ourselves completely to the Lord, that He who sees our devotion may justify us in Himself and bring us into eternal salvation and life. Amen.

Sunday, 14 September 2014 : 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is truly a great feast day of the Church, of such a great importance for us, as in it lie one of the greatest aspect of our faith itself. And this is none other than the exaltation and the glorification of the Holy Cross, on which our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ had hung upon as He went on His mission of salvation to save us all from death because of our sins.

The Holy Cross is not just any cross, but it has been made holy and sacred because it was on that wooden cross, made from a tree, that Jesus had emptied Himself completely from His divinity, and suffered a grievous and horrendous pain as He laid dying, hanging from that cross. The Holy Cross is a reminder for all of us, of He who once hung there out of His love for us, so that we may have new hope in this life, and that we may look beyond death that is once our fate.

The cross was the favourite punishment method by the Romans, the conqueror of the known world at the time, where they used it to punish rebels against the Roman authority, as one of the most severe methods of punishment, reserved only for those who brought about great harm and threat to the Roman state. The victims of crucifixions were left to hang on the cross, made from a tree and carved to form a cruciform plank, so that the victims were left to hung between the heaven and the earth.

This punishment was both designed to bring the greatest amount of suffering to the victim, by denying the victim a quick death, giving them a slow and increasingly painful suffering, and also to give the greatest humiliation possible, as the victims were stripped to mere loincloth or even naked, stretched wide on that cross, often on the roadsides and high places like hills, so that many would be able to see the humiliation and suffering of those who dared to test the might of Rome.

Thus, the cross was a symbol of ultimate humiliation and suffering for all who see them at the time of Jesus, during the peak of the Roman Empire. But yet, many centuries prior to the time of the Romans, the prophets have foretold of the suffering Messiah, namely through the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied how the Messiah would come and bear the suffering for all of mankind. It was also mentioned how He would suffer, even long before the time when the punishment was common.

For in crucifixions, the victim would either be tied to the cross or in especially serious and severe occasions, the victims would be nailed upon the cross. The latter method would be more grievous and painful, and even more humiliating, and was indeed reserved only for the worst enemies and the greatest of punishments for the enemies of Rome.

And the prophet Isaiah mentioned that the Messiah would be pierced, and that piercing indeed represented how Jesus, the Lord and Messiah would be nailed on the cross. He would also be lifted up high, like when Moses lifted high up the bronze serpent in the desert. This too is a premonition of what was to come when the Lord came to save His people from destruction and death.

When the people of God, the Israelites were saved from their slavery in Egypt, they went through a long Exodus and journey through the desert in their progress to reach the land promised to them through their ancestors. In that journey, which was not an easy one, God was with them along the way, and He blessed His people, giving them great providence and food along the way.

Yes, if we read through the Book of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, we should all realise how blessed this people had been. God destroyed their enemies and all those who went on to fight against them were crushed and have their forces utterly beaten, and God gave them into the hands of His people. And we all should be aware that God Himself freed them from the chains of the Egyptians with great might, with ten plagues, each of which were of terrible ferocity.

God even sent His people the bread from heaven to eat, in the form of manna, and large birds for them to catch and eat as well. He gave them clear and sweet water to drink, and we have to imagine that, having crystal clear and good water to drink in the middle of the desert is no mere small feat. Nothing is of course impossible for the Lord, and He loves us beyond anything else.

And it is that love that prevented Him from totally and completely annihilating that people which had risen up against Him, despite all He had given them and blessed them with. Having been given and endowed with so much graces, the people of God made complaints after complaints of their supposedly ‘miserable’ existence and life in the desert, and even longed for the ‘good’ life in Egypt where they once lived in slavery.

They spurned His love and kindness, complaining even against what they have been given to eat, bread from heaven itself. This was why, eventually, God took action against them, to remind them that He is Lord over all, and that those who constantly defy Him and oppose Him will meet their end in eternal suffering and destruction. He sent them therefore, fiery and poisonous serpents that attacked them, struck them and killed many of them.

But we have to always remember and take note that it is not God who desired our destruction, as it had happened with the Israelites. In fact, it was the people’s own stubbornness and refusal to return to the light of God which had caused their own destruction. The serpents represented the suffering and the punishment that the people must endure for their sins, and the ultimate effect is indeed none other than death.

Ever since mankind had first disobeyed against the Lord, they have sinned against the Lord in their hearts and in their bodies, such that they were no longer worthy of the Lord. The consequence of sin is death, as sin separates one from the Lord. The Lord who is all good and perfect cannot tolerate the imperfections caused by evil to be in His presence, and therefore, naturally, sin led mankind to death, and if nothing had been done, then all mankind would have faced death eternal, and eternal separation from the love of God.

And that is hell. Hell is the total separation of a creation of God from the very love of the Creator and Lord of all. And this total separation is final and unchangeable. Thus, this is what hell is truly about, not the fires and the images of hell that we are commonly exposed to, but the suffering in hell is far greater than we can ever imagine, since it means that the total separation from God’s love, that should be unimaginable to us all, because it was God’s love that is everything to us, how we live and why we live in the first place, and we are able to walk and enjoy this life on earth because of God’s love that is with us and in us.

Hell is what is due to mankind as the punishment for our sins, and in hell, it is the despair and the state of total hopelessness which is the greatest suffering, as all the souls in hell know that there is absolutely no hope of escaping that state, eternally damned and separated from God’s love, and it is this eternal and constantly repeating despair, hopelessness and guilt of having betrayed the Lord which brought about the greatest suffering for the souls in hell.

But is this what God intends for us? Is this what He intended for the people He loved and which He had created in His own image, as the pinnacle and the greatest of all His creations? No! This is exactly why He wants to save us, and so great was His desire, that the very truth was laid bare for all to see and hear, as we often heard in the famous phrase from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 3 verse 16, namely that God loved the world and His people so much, that He sent His only Son into the world, so that all those who believe in Him would not be lost and perish, but gain eternal life.

This is the very essence of what we are celebrating on this day, that is the glory and the mystery of the Holy Cross of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Lord Himself had sent, a part of Himself, His own Word made incarnate into flesh as one of us, and to walk among men, so that He might exercise His power and bring salvation to all those who believe in Him. And the way how He did that, was through the cross of suffering, which He transformed into the cross of glory and triumph.

As I had mentioned much earlier on in this homily and reflection, that the use of crucifixion and the punishment of the cross was indeed to punish and to bring the greatest suffering on the sufferer, and also to humiliate the sufferer, and in this case, this suffering One is Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour of all. Even though He was guiltless, blameless and without sin, He offered Himself freely as part of God’s long planned salvation for His people, so that through His death, He might open a new path for them, into salvation and eternal grace.

To those who observed His death and especially among those who followed Him during His ministry would indeed question, why would such a holy Man and the Messiah no less, suffer such a humiliation and suffering so great if He was indeed chosen by the Lord. And we know that even throughout history and until today, there are still many those who refused to believe in the crucifixion of Christ because they deemed it impossible and unreasonable for such a great One to suffer such a humiliating death.

Yet we know that Jesus Christ, Son of God, Messiah and Lord of all, chose this way because indeed, He loves us all very dearly, and He would not want us to be sundered forever from His love, that is hell. He does not desire for us to inhabit hell, simply because, that was not His intention for us. His intention is for us to live happily with Him in love and harmony. And that was why He chose to come into this world, that is to bring all peoples to Himself.

But sin lays between God and us, as a great and seemingly insurmountable barrier that prevent us from returning to God our Lord. Therefore, if we read the Book of Leviticus, we know that there is such a thing as sin and burnt offering, where animals such as lamb were slaughtered and then burnt on the altar, and the blood together with the animal constituted a worthy offering to God, who then accepted it as the partial reparation and remission for the sins committed by God’s people.

But the people of God remained in sin, and also they inherited the original sin of their forefathers, ever since they rebelled against the will of God and followed Satan into his rebellion instead. This original sin and other sins that mankind committed kept them separated from the love of God, and due to the immensity of the sins of mankind combined together, no amount of sacrifice would be able to redeem mankind from their sins, save for one.

Yes, the one sacrifice and the only one, when the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself offered His own Body and Blood as the only worthy sacrifice for the immensity of the combination of our sins together. Only He who is perfect, perfectly unblemished and pure, without any taints of sin, and He who is Lord of all, had the worthy offering to make in order to save us from our sins.

And thus He suffered, all the sufferings and humiliations He endured, all the spittle and the mockery from the people He endured, and the cross of suffering He carried on His back, enduring lashes after lashes and mockery after mockery as He made His journey towards Calvary. Yet He did not give up. We cannot even comprehend the kind of suffering which Jesus endured for our sake.

Why so? This is because the suffering He endured was much more than just the apparent physical suffering, even as great as that suffering was. He endured the weight and the consequences of our sins, and all of this bore down on Him as a great weight beyond any other weight. He was blameless, and yet He was crushed for our sins. This was also yet another fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophets.

But Jesus endured all of them with perfect obedience and perfect love for us. He is truly the new Adam, as St. Paul had said, as the One who went to correct all the wrongs that began with Adam, the old Adam, our forefather who sinned against God. Just as Mary His mother is the new Eve, whose obedience and faith, rebuking Satan and his lies, Jesus is the new Adam through which God renewed mankind.

Jesus therefore changed that symbol of ultimate shame, the cross, designed as such by the Romans, into a symbol of hope and glory. He turned the cross from a symbol of death and destruction into a symbol of salvation and liberation from sin, from the slavery of the forces of evil, and the guarantee of life eternal as promised by the Lord. Thus, the essence of the cross and the crucifix we have today signify this important turning point, which Christ had made the cross into our hope, through His death on the cross for our salvation.

Sadly indeed, despite all that the Lord had done for us, many of us mankind still acted like the people of Israel of old, disregarding the love of God and even ignoring Him altogether. How many of us actually realised the love that God had for us? Every single step He took on His passion journey towards His death, He did it out of His love for us. He did not want us to perish, but it is many of us who chose perishing in the world rather than embracing God’s love.

Remember, that in Jesus we have been saved, out of God’s love. He wants to forgive us our sins, but this is only possible if we too play our part, and believe in Him. We can start this through our own actions and our own daily lives. Have we acted in accordance what our Lord had taught us? Have we practiced our faith and what we believe in our lives? Have we loved our brothers and sisters as much as we love ourselves?

We have much work to do in front of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. Our lives will indeed be difficult, if we choose to follow the Lord and walk in His path. But our Lord had made His cross a sign of victory and triumph, the Holy Cross, that even Satan and his forces will tremble and flee from. Satan knows that the cross was his ultimate undoing. His defeat lay at the cross that had liberated mankind from the burden of their sins. He knows that his doom is coming, and he cannot avoid that final defeat.

However, Satan will grow desperate and he will do all he can to stall as many souls as possible on his way to doom. Remember that he has all the power in this world to tempt and persuade us to divert our path from the path of salvation into the path of doom. Temptations of the evil one is plenty in this world saturated with materialism, consumerism and love of the self. Selfishness and violence is on the rise, brethren, and if we do not guard ourselves against Satan’s advances, we will fall.

Therefore, let us all work together, brothers and sisters in Christ! We who have been saved by the suffering and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ must be strong in our faith and in our dedication to God, so that Satan will not stand against us. Remember the Holy Cross and Jesus our Lord whenever temptations of Satan come to prevent us from seeking the Lord. Proclaim the Holy Name of Jesus and staunchly rebuke Satan for his attempts to tempt us.

Jesus has indeed been given the Name which is above every other names, for first He is God made flesh, and thus, it is the Name of God Himself, Master of all the universe and over all creations. Then, through His perfect love and obedience, He had become an example for all mankind and for all creation, and no one in creation can do anything other than to obey this Lord and Master who had given His all to save His beloved ones. And even Satan had to obey the Lord, with fear and great trembling on his knees. Such is the power of the Name of Jesus Christ. Do not use His Name in vain!

And even in the Roman Empire, which was pagan and idol worshipping, the Lord also gained a final victory. Many Emperors of Rome persecuted the Christians, the faithful ones in the Lord, but their prayers and the blood of the martyrs eventually triumphed, the triumph of the Holy Cross, when the Lord made them strong and grow in might, so that more and more people would come to listen to the words of salvation in the Gospels and the Scriptures.

Ultimately, the famed Emperor Constantine saw a bright sign of the Lord, Christ Himself in His insignia, as the victorious and conquering King, and went on to win a great victory that eventually led to the repentance and conversion of the Roman Empire into a great, Christian Empire belonging to God. Thus, the Cross had triumphed against the enemies of the Lord, led by Satan and his fallen angels.

Therefore, let us all take an opportunity, every day in our lives to look at the cross, at the crucifix on which lie the Body of Jesus our Lord, as a reminder that He died out of His infinite and enduring love for us, so that we who have seen Him and believed, will not die but live a new life everlasting, just as Moses lifted the bronze serpent and all who had been bitten and saw the bronze serpent did not die but live.

We have been bitten by the serpent, Satan, and his poison is threatening to destroy us, that is sin. But if we trust in the Lord Jesus, and look at the victorious cross, the Holy Cross of Christ, we will not die but live too! Let us carry together our crosses in life with Christ, so that just as He told His disciples, that we may have a share in His resurrection, and therefore be granted new life eternal, freed from all vestiges of sin and evil, and rejoice for eternity with our loving God. May Almighty God bless us this day and every day of our lives, that we will always be faithful and dedicated to the Cross of Christ! Amen.