Sunday, 6 August 2017 : Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time and the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 17 : 1-9

At that time, six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain, where they were alone. Jesus' appearance was changed before them : His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as snow. Then suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus.

Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here. If You wish, I will make three tents : one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Peter was still speaking, when a bright cloud covered them with its shadow; and a voice from the cloud said, "This is My Son, the Beloved, My Chosen One. Listen to Him."

On hearing the voice, the disciples fell to the ground, full of fear. But Jesus came, touched them, and said, "Stand up, do not be afraid!" When they raised their eyes, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus. And as they came down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man be raised from the dead.

Friday, 4 July 2014 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the story of the calling of Matthew or Levi by Jesus to be one of His Apostles, and we also heard how the Lord will punish those who are wicked and carry on with their wicked lives at the expense of others. These two stories remind us how important it is for us to seek God’s mercy and to be converted to the true faith in God, and to turn away decisively from our old lives of wickedness into new lives in truth and righteousness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord is loving and merciful to all of His children, but He does not want us to sin, and He hates sin in all of its forms, some of which examples had been highlighted in the first reading today, namely the actions of those who does not have the Lord in their hearts and the wicked things that they did in cheating others for their own self benefits. The lack of fairness, justice and many other acts that are indeed in violation of the Lord and His truths.

The essence of today’s readings can truly be summarised to the two words that Jesus spoke to Matthew as he was seated at his tax-house, that is ‘Follow Me!’, the desire that God has for all of us, which is to abandon our sinfulness and our obstinate behaviours in resisting His love, and to follow Him faithfully till the end of our lives, as Matthew and the other Apostles and saints had done.

We need to be like Matthew, who did not hesitate to leave all the wealth and worldly happiness that he had, and immediately harkened to the words of the Lord, following Him without condition and without qualms. He left behind all his position could offer him, and all the wealth that his job could have given him, and in doing so, he lost the treasure of this world but gain the treasure of the world that is to come, and this treasure he will never lose.

The first reading indeed warns us that we mankind are easily tempted and swayed by the pleasures and goodness of this world, so that we forget our real purpose in this world and fall into the trick and trap of Satan. What os our real purpose, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is to love and glorify our Lord and God, instead of what many of us are doing now, to love ourselves and seek material wealth and worldly glory, as well as human praise.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of St. Elizabeth of Portugal also known as St. Elizabeth of Aragon, the Queen consort of Portugal during the high Medieval era Europe. She was truly renowned for her zeal and great piety in life, both before and after becoming the Queen of Portugal. She came from quite a religious family and many of her relatives had already been made saints in their own right.

But what truly set St. Elizabeth of Portugal from her contemporaries was truly how she led a faithful and devoted life to God, shorn of the hunger and greed for pride, human praise and glory, and rather, she lived humbly and with full of love for one another, and for those less fortunate and weak in the society. She inspired many others by her lifestyle and actions, making peace when there were wars, donating food and help to those who were affected by famine and diseases, and many other acts that truly set her apart as a holy woman and an inspiration for the faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, she worked so hard and was eventually overcome by her exertion and sickness. But even as she passed from this life into the eternal life with God, she continued to work her wonders, through the miracles that happened at her tomb, and through her works and inspirations that brought so many people back to the Church and returned so many to their zealous ways before God.

We can all follow her life examples, and aspire to be like her as well. We must be more true and devoted to our faith in the Lord, more than ever before. How do we do so? By following what St. Elizabeth of Portugal had done. Be loving and forgiving to others around us, be charitable to the weak and the needy, and by not thinking and worrying only about ourselves and keeping our ego. Be open, brothers and sisters in Christ! Let everyone and all of us together enjoy the love of God through the doors of our hearts, open wide in acceptance of one another as brethren in Christ.

May Almighty God, through the intercession of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, continue to instill in us, within our hearts the love both for God Himself and for mankind, especially those who are in most need for our help. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear how God indeed is the source of all things, and the focal point of all creations. For it is God who should be the font of all knowledge and all things, to be the One whom we anchor ourselves to. The well-known story of the disciples who feared the great storm and then the Lord Jesus who calmed the storm with His authority, tells us clearly that in the Lord there is nothing to be feared, for God has control over everything.

Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith, chiding them with the words, ‘You of little faith!’ because they did not put their faith in the power of God, but instead in the power of men, which is fallible and weak compared to the power and majesty of the Lord. They feared the storm because they did not completely put their trust in Jesus, whom, if they had trusted Him and known Him completely, they would not have feared.

In the first reading today, taken from the book of the prophet Amos, God once again wants to remind us that He is in control of everything, for He is the Lord of all. Everything and every single phenomenon in creation, He knows all of them. And He would reveal His plans and what He desires from His people through the means of the prophets, and ultimately, through His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Those who listened and understood the words of God revealed through the prophets would know that God takes care of our lives, and therefore, there is no need to worry or fear. All we need is faith, and true faith in God. And through Jesus Christ, God revealed all that He had planned for the world and mankind, in all its completeness and fullness. And therefore those who listened and understood what Christ meant in His words, would have no need for fear, because they have everything they would ever need, in Jesus Christ the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we ourselves should not see this as a problem that existed only in the past, as in fact, the same problems can be applied to our own selves. We cannot be complacent, as the storms of this life are plentiful, and we can be easily overwhelmed by the torrents, the winds and the waves if we do not have a solid anchor and foundation. What is this foundation? None other than Jesus, our Lord and God.

For Christ is the solid Rock from which the whole creation and the entire community of believers and the faithful in the Church hung upon, as He is the One who became our pivot in the storms of this world, to be a light in the great darkness of this world, and to be the One who joins us back to the Father our Lord who loves us all.

There are many storms in this world, the storm of jealousy and desire, the storm of pride and arrogance, and the storm of money and materialism, which if we are not careful, may engulf us and sink us into the deep, if we do not have a stable and strong anchor in the Lord. Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is easy for us to fall into the deep currents of this world, which threaten to pull us away from the Lord and His salvation, and into damnation, if our faith is weak and stumbling.

What do we need to do then? We have to put our complete faith in the Lord and keep our lives in tune with Him, through prayer and through charity and love. In doing all these, we live our lives in accordance to the will of God, and we are ourselves transformed into loving children of our God. May God be with us, and continue to love and care for us, keeping us strong amidst all the storms of life. Amen.

A Brief State of the Church in China – a Church in Trial and Persecution, a Church of Martyrs, a Church of Hope

The Church in China (1949) consisted of :

20 Archdioceses

85 Dioceses

39 Apostolic Prefectures

3,080 Missionaries

2,557 Chinese priests (Total : 5,637 priests)

4 million Catholics

 

The Church in China (2014) consists of :

20 Archdioceses

94 Dioceses

34 Apostolic Prefectures

1 Apostolic Exarchates

3,500 priests (approximate)

12 million Catholics (both open and underground)

 

Looking at the above comparisons, we can see a wary future for the Church in China, which had been in official and unofficial persecution for the past six and a half decades since 1949, the year when the Communist Party of China took over power in China. Since then, the Church in China, which was once among the most vibrant and fastest growing in the world, had been in great tribulation and period of persecution. Especially during the Cultural Revolution years in the 1960s, there were great attacks against the faithful and the faith throughout the country.

On one side, it seems that there had been a growth in the number of Catholics and in terms of the growth in the number of the dioceses. However, if we look deeper into the reality of the Church and the faith, there had been a great trouble that threatened many of the faithful, especially being divided between the ‘official’ government-sanctioned ‘church’ and the underground ‘loyal’ Church.

Many of the Archdioceses and dioceses are vacant, or that their bishops are not recognised as valid and legitimate, having often been government-picked, and more of a loyal men to the government rather than true and good shepherds for the faithful. Many of the bishops were picked by the government-sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association or CPCA, whose leaders have often been noted to be not just laymen, but even non-baptised people.

There had been much grievances and controversies in the recent years in the illegitimate and illegal election and ordination of bishops by the CPCA and the Chinese government which were not approved by the Holy See. On some occasions, the bishops did receive blessing from both parties, but in many other cases, it was the contrary. This further deepened the division among the faithful in China.

Many of China’s priests and bishops are underground, that is they remain faithful and loyal to the completeness of the faith in the Church, and unaffected by the pressure from the government to obey them. There had been great persecution against them and the faithful under their care, such that imprisonments and forced labour are not uncommon.

Ma_Daqin_2_(600_x_450)

And recently, just almost two years ago, the then newly appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Shanghai, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin bravely and courageously announced his resignation from the CPCA, the official ‘church’ of China at his own episcopal ordination, which was done with the blessing of the Holy See and the Pope. This resignation triggered a massive response from the government which resulted in his incarceration for the past two years, and he had greatly suffered for this. His episcopal motto is clear and indeed clearly highlighted his wish for the unity of the Church in China with the Universal Church, free from any external intervention. His motto is “Ut Sint Unum ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam” or “That they may be One, for the greater glory of God.”

The Church in China still grows, and more and more people hunger for the truth that Christ can offer them. There are many opportunities at evangelisation, and many brave and courageous ministers of the Lord’s Gospel went forth even against the challenges that await them. The recent attacks by the government on the Christian faith, as shown by the demolition of a church building in Wenzhou show how much the authoritarian government fears the power and influence that the Church and the faith may have in bringing about their downfall. The downfall of Communism and the authoritarian governments in Eastern Europe must still be fresh in the minds of the autocrats in Beijing, and they fear their own demise if they allow the faith to grow unchecked.

There is still great hope in the Church in China, and there is genuine faith in the people, who desire to be reunited completely with their brethren in faith, all of us, in the Universal Church, and be freed from any form of pressure or external domination, which are unjust and uncalled for. But they need our prayers, our support and our encouragement.

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Let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Mother of our Lord, Mary, the Help of Christians, who in the above picture is depicted as our Lady of Zose or Sheshan, from a famous pilgrimage site in Sheshan near Shanghai. Let us ask for her intercession for the Church in China and for the faithful there, our brethren in faith. Just as once the Lord had done His great works through Pope St. John Paul II, another great saint, to cast down the tyranny of atheism and unbelief in the states of Eastern Europe and Russia, may our Lady of Sheshan also intercede for the sake of our brethren in faith in China, a great nation and a great civilisation and yet is filled with worldly hatred of the devil who hates the Church and all its faithful.

We also pray that there will be a new spirit of dialogue and renewal, and that those entrusted with power at the top of the Chinese government hierarchy will finally realise the futility and the inhumane nature of their attempts to control the Church and the faithful. We hope that there will be an amicable and peaceful solution, that the Church in China may be completely reunited once again with the Universal Church, free from all the current issues and dilemmas, and free from any political arguments and intrusions by any external forces.

May the Lord be with His people always, protect them, bless them, and guide them to the light of Christ. May He give them rest and grace, after all the difficulties and challenges that they have faced, in the courageous and zealous defense of their faith in Him. Amen.

Saturday, 24 May 2014 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshan in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great event and a great day of prayer and asking for supplication, that is for the suffering that our brethren in faith suffers even this very moment, as they had for the past decades, of the great persecution and hostility against the faith and the faithful in China. Today is the day of universal prayer, when we, as one Church of God, pray as one for the deliverance of our brethren who are daily persecuted just because they remain faithful and true to the fullness of the truth that God has revealed and kept within His Church.

Today we also commemorate, perhaps very appropriately, the feast of our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary in her aspect as the Help of Christians, as the hope for all mankind who are in the darkness of this world and under the dominion of Satan, for Mary, as the mother of Jesus our Lord and Saviour, is the vessel through whom the Lord worked His great graces and power, that led to our salvation in Jesus.

Today also we celebrate the feast of our Lady of Sheshan, who is the representation of Mary the Help of Christians, the patroness of the Basilica at Sheshan near Shanghai in China, which was famous both in China and around the world, and one of the lasting symbol of the perseverance of the faithful throughout the many decades of persecutions against the faith and the faithful ones of God.

Today’s celebration and prayerful devotion is a vivid and strong reminder to all of us, that in our world today, despite it being generally easier for us to live in the world, with all the amenities and goodness and improvements in the living quality and standards, especially for those who live in the developed countries, not everything is always good for us. Persecution against the faithful is real, even in this day, and we should never think that persecution is only a thing in the past or during the Roman times.

These days, being a faithful person is getting ever more difficult, especially because there are more and more oppositions against the faith and as mankind grew in their power and achievements, they also grew in pride, and loathed having to be ‘ordered’ around by someone whom they deem to be inexistent in their faulty and lacking sense of understanding. Mankind grew in their opposition and resistance to the love of God and His ways, preferring to follow their own ways.

That is precisely the condition of the Church besieged around the world, from the West and the developed world in general where the faith is under serious attacks from the so-called secularism and relativism, especially in terms of moral and scientific relativism, which undermined the teachings of the Church on the faith in the hearts and minds of many among the faithful, leading them to fall into corruption and trap of the evil one. Mankind misused the wisdom and intellect given to them to serve their own purposes, and this even lead to them doubting about God and thinking that He is not present, using their scientific discoveries to try and proof that in vain.

Then, there are also many oppositions and persecutions by those affected by the heresies of the faith, and by those whose eyes had been clouded by the devil and therefore unable to comprehend the truth of the Lord, which He had revealed through Jesus, and from Him, through the Church and its teachings. These persecutions occur throughout the world, and many of our brethren suffer from it. Daily, there are new persecutions everywhere in the world, that even new martyrs arise every single day.

And we come to the main point of importance for this day, that is the persecution of our brethren in faith in China, and to a lesser extent, the persecution of the faithful and mankind in general, in other Communist and authoritarian states, most notorious being the state of North Korea, which continuously and without regards to human rights and nature, punish and torture countless peoples for opposing their authorities and out of fear of losing their absolute control and power over the people.

Let me give a brief history and explanation of how the Church in China came into this sad and unfortunate state of affairs. The faith was brought to China by many missionaries of the faith centuries ago, who persevered through oppositions and persecutions. The faith grew very rapidly and soon millions of the faithful came forth in that country with the oldest civilisation in the world. They managed to reconcile their faith with their culture and all the differences between them.

As the Chinese monarchy and Empire crumbled and replaced by republican governments just over a century ago, and the people and the faith went through a difficult time, and wars and conflicts were commonplace in those turbulent years, culminating in a deadly and devastating war, between China and Japan that took the lives of millions. And yet, during those difficult times, the faith continued to grow rapidly.

But the devil certainly did not rest and he worked hard to undermine the successes that we had achieved. The Communists that first spread from Russia and then into China, brought great ruin and suffering for the faithful. They followed the godless, atheistic and anarchic teachings and ideologies of Karl Marx, or Marxism, who argued that religion is the opium of the masses that is the people, because to him religion gave people false hope. This shows how mistaken Karl Marx was and how ignorant he was in the faith, the one true and only faith.

Yet, people took the idea seriously, and as Marxist ideas propagate by rising along the line of class divide and class warfare, gaining the support of the poor supermajority, Communism became very popular and brought about great trouble for the faithful, in many parts of the world. And although persecution of this nature had ended with the inevitable fall of many Communist regimes around the world just around two decades ago, but in countries like China and North Korea, persecution continues right until today.

In China, the advent of the Communist power in there spelt trouble for the faithful and for the Church, when in 1949, the Communists won the power struggle for the ultimate power and control in China, and persecution had continued ever since in various ways and methods. For more than six decades, the faithful had been subjected to varying degrees of persecution, be it openly or subtly, and many martyr were born out of this great persecution.

The Communist and atheist government tried to control the Church by creating their own ‘official church’ which they controlled with absolute power and tyranny to partially give a facade that the government tolerated freedom of religion and faith, but in fact, until today, is greatly fearful and opposed to the Church and to the faith, rightly so because they built their authorities on the power of the devil, and with the faith, the devil shall fall, and so will those who depend on his power.

They forced the faithful to go through forced labour and intense concentration camps, through various tortures and punishments, and yet they failed miserably, as the faith will only grow ever stronger with persecutions, and they will not succeed. They acted in desperation for they fear of losing their power, but the Holy Spirit will certain not remain silent. As He had done before, He will come and then transform this world anew, and yes, transform China anew!

Brothers and sisters, let us all pray, and pray hard for the deliverance of our brethren in faith, who are persecuted and discriminated daily for their perseverance to remain faithful to the truth in the Lord. We are in this sense, very fortunate that we have such freedom to practice our faith, but again, we have to be ever vigilant, that we do not fall into the trap and temptations of Satan. Let us pray for the many missionaries who work in spreading the Good News, be it openly or clandestinely in the country of China and North Korea, and many other parts of the world that are still in darkness.

May our Lord, together with His blessed mother Mary, the help of all Christians, protect and help all those who suffer for His sake, and those who keep alive faithfully their faith and devotion to Him. May they all be safe and be blessed day after day, and may we also be inspired by their perseverance and dedication to Your Most Holy Name. Lord, bless China and her people, and may Your Name be known throughout that country, that the whole people may know You and turn to You as their Lord and Saviour. Amen!

Saturday, 12 April 2014 : 5th Week of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

God desires the love of mankind, and He loves them very much. That is why He gave us all of His attention and focus, and He offered Himself to them to open for them the pathway to salvation. In a sense, He had granted them great favour, only for them to refuse Him and reject Him, and even reject the salvation which He had freely offered them.

In today’s first reading God promised His beloved people that He will love them and care for them, freeing them from the grip of death and sin, and will provide for them once again as He had once had. We can see indeed how great is God’s love for us, that He gave us chance after chance, and opportunity after opportunity. He gave us hope even when we are in the greatest darkness.

Yet mankind were selfish, and are still indeed selfish even today. We thought only for ourselves and for our own benefits and we complain when things do not go our way. That is our nature, and we often succumb to it. The Pharisees rejected Jesus because of His teachings and ways that oppose their own authority and positions of privilege and honour within the society.

How about the people then? They also rejected Christ because they were reluctant to abandon their former way of life and follow what Christ taught them, and they were also easily swayed by the offer of money and goods of the world, that we can easily see in tomorrow’s Palm Sunday Gospel and Passion readings, how the same people who cheered for Jesus as King when He proceeded into Jerusalem, within less than one week would be condemned to death by the same people. Yes, the same people who acclaimed Jesus as King also cried out for His death.

And it is a fault that we have as we tend to blame the Jews on what happened to Jesus, in how they condemned Him to death and rejected Him and His offer of salvation, because it is always convenient and easy to blame someone else. We think of the Jews to be the ones to blame for the death of Christ, but we conveniently forgot that Jesus Himself was and is a Jew, born son of David, the heir of David and the descendant of Abraham.

And Jesus when He suffered and died on the cross, He did so for all of us, and also including the Jews, both those who had no part in His death and those who had hated Him and condemned Him. He Himself remembered them even in His suffering, asking the Father to forgive them and overlook their sins for their ignorance and lack of knowledge of who He truly was.

God Himself had forgiven them, and He had forgiven us. So for those among us who thought to blame the Jews, the very people the Lord had chosen to be born into, and to those of us who like to put the blame on others, let us from now on reflect on our own actions first. Before we even judge or condemn others, have we been sufficiently pure and worthy in our own actions that we will not be judged? We often forget that when we judge others, we therefore also open the door for us to be judged ourselves.

God did not wish to punish anyone, as indeed, He wanted all of us to be reunited with Him in love. He wishes for us to be perfected in love, that we may leave behind our past sinfulness and wicked behaviour, and become more like Him and be more loving as He is. That was why He sent Jesus to be with us, to be both our Saviour, to break the chains of sin and death, and at the same time also show us how to love, like God has loved us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we approach the pinnacle of our preparation, as we proceed towards the holiest week of all our celebrations, the Holy Week of Jesus’ Passion, let us resolve to be more like God, in becoming more loving and forgiving, in being more inclusive and compassionate, helping one another to approach the Lord rather than condemning or judging each other. Let us reserve no place for Satan in our hearts! For it is in a darkened heart that Satan is happy to dwell in. Let the light of God instead be within us, that He may also guide our ways, that our ways will always be pleasing to God.

May the Lord forgive us our sins and show us how to love Him just as He had loved us first. Let us never be separated again from You, o Lord our God. Be with us always, till the end of time. Amen.

Sunday, 16 March 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Lent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Today we heard about the well-known account on the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ our Lord on the mountain, when He was transformed and assumed His glory, as a premonition of what was to come for Him and for the world. Jesus was revealed to the three disciples, His closest ones, Peter, James and John, to be truly the One whom the Lord has favour with, the One who would save the world and renew it.

In the Transfiguration of Christ, the world is preempted with the rare look into the glory of Christ, before He is truly glorified at His resurrection from the dead. For Christ is the Logos, the Son of God, the Word of God who created everything, who is God and who is with God since the beginning of time and before. And as such, He is God Himself, who came down into this world in the form of human flesh in Jesus. And in Transfiguration, the glorious self that is His was revealed in its fullness for the first time to the world.

And the event of the Transfiguration itself would set the tone for the rest of the mission of Jesus in this world, leading up to His suffering and death on the cross, as the culmination of His divinely appointed mission. First of all, the Transfiguration established firmly without question that Jesus is the Messiah and the Holy One of God, whom the prophets and elders of the people had prophesied for, in many years leading up to His coming.

Moses and Elijah, who appeared to Jesus confirmed this fact, and again showed yet another fact about Christ, that He is to be a Leader and a Prophet, much as Moses and Elijah had done. As what Moses had done, in delivering the people of God from the slavery in Egypt, Jesus would, as the new Leader of all, bring all mankind, all peoples and take them away from their slavery to sin and evil.

And with Elijah, it was shown that Jesus was the culmination of the prophecies of the prophets, and He was the complete fulfillment of the law of God as revealed through the leaders and the prophets. And Jesus came to fulfill and make perfect the law of God, bringing them to the clear understanding by the people of God. Jesus is to lead us to a new life and one that is blessed and filled with the wisdom of God.

The Transfiguration reminds us of the many challenges and responsibilities that Jesus had taken up upon Himself. He brought Himself to be the atonement for the sins of the innumerable, and He made Himself punished so that we will not be punished as we deserve. Jesus on that mountain affirmed His love and dedication to the Lord, and He from then on was prepared to walk down the path towards His Passion, to die on the cross for our sake.

But in all His glory and power, Jesus did not become proud or boastful of what He has. He did not revel in His glory but remained perfectly obedient to the will of God His Father. And that was why, He did not remain there in His Transfiguration for eternity or for a long time, for He left the peak and went down the mountain with His disciples.

How does this relate to us then? If we remember that the disciples of Christ, led by Peter, asked the Lord whether they should pitch up a tent for each Jesus, Moses and Elijah, that they may stay there longer. When someone pitches a tent somewhere, he certainly will want to stay longer in the locality and remain there until the tent was removed.

We are often like Peter, that we are often reluctant to leave our comfort zone and lingered long in areas that gave us the greatest happiness and pleasure. That means, we do not want to go down the mountain, but remain there forever. This is why the Lord kindly reminded them, and all of us, through His words, that we ought to obey Him, and obeying Him means that we have to go down the mountain, and in doing so, face the reality of our lives.

Yes, we have our ups and downs. We certainly cannot always remain as either up or down, because we need to face the reality of this life, that there are often good things that we can enjoy, but there will also be hardships and inequalities, which we have to face eventually. We cannot remain on top of the mountain forever, for doing so means that we indulge in our power and glory.

Jesus willingly went down the mountain, knowing full well that He was heading to His own death, and yet He continued on and obeyed perfectly the will of God. Can we also do the same? Can we also seek to leave our zones of comfort and embrace the will of God as our own? Can we die to our pride and live humbly before God?

The answer to all of these is yes. And indeed, yes, we can, because what matters now is to give of ourselves to the Lord our God. Let us begin from now on, if we have not done so, to dedicate ourselves to the Lord, wholly obedient to the will of God. May He continue to bless us and keep us in His grace. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Today we heard of the famous call which God made to the prophet Samuel, when he was still a child. Samuel, who was still an innocent child and not knowing the purpose which God has given to him, was called and Samuel responded. Samuel was called to be the one to deliver God’s message to His people and to let them know His will.

The people had steered away from the path of the Lord and engaged in activities wicked in the eyes of God, following what their neighbours were doing, and worshipping pagan gods and idols instead of their Lord and God. The priest and judge appointed over the Lord’s people at the time, Eli, was already very old and his sons did wicked things before God even though they were priests and leaders of the people.

Hence Samuel was called to be the servant of God, to bend once again God’s people to His will and to make them a righteous people once again. Even before his birth, he had been pledged by his mother Hannah, to the service of the Lord, in thanksgiving for hearing her prayer for children. Samuel, entrusted to the Lord and through Eli’s care, grew great and wise, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the calling of Samuel in today’s first reading, we did not hear the content of the message which God told to Samuel. Nevertheless, the key message from what God had told Samuel was that He was angry with the wickedness of the people of God, especially with those of the two sons of Eli, whose wicked deeds were loathsome to God, and that He would make Samuel to be a great prophet and leader of His people.

God loves us and He cares for all of us like a father loves his children and his family. After all, He created us as the last and the greatest of all His creations, destined for great things and eternal happiness, to fill the earth with all of us and rule the world as the stewards of God’s beautiful creations. This beautiful order of nature and our inheritance was disturbed when the evil one brought sin onto our ancestors, by tempting them to rebel against God’s commandments, disguised as sweet words of lie.

That was why God who loved us beyond anything else in creation, for we have been created in His very own image, wants us to be made worthy again and purified from the taints that evil had brought upon us. God sent His messengers and heralds to help bring us back into line, prodding us along the way to change our ways and return to the loving embrace of our God.

All of these essentially have the same message for all of us, including what Jesus had done in His ministry when He was still in this world. This message is that God calls us to be once again His complete and unblemished possessions, that we will once again walk in His ways and not follow the ways of the devil. He sent His own Son into this world precisely in order to do that. He gave us hope in Jesus, through His life, death, and finally resurrection, as the beacon of light and triumph leading us out of the darkness and back into the light.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as Samuel was called by God in his sleep, let us also reflect on what had happened, and how Samuel was taught to respond to the Lord’s call by Eli. When the Lord calls, we should answer, I am here Lord, Your servant is listening, much in the same way as Samuel had done. And we have the advantage over Samuel in fact, because much had been revealed to us by none other than our Lord Jesus, who revealed to us the truth about Himself and the hope He brought to us.

In our world today and in our lives, many of us have often forgotten about the Lord, and His call had not been heard by us, in the great noise of our hectic lifestyle, and the things of the world that surround us. The voice of the Lord speaking in our hearts is often drowned out by the world and its noise, which apparently offered us options and alternatives more delectable to us as compared to what the Lord offers us.

Let us break free from the bonds of evil and be liberated from the falsehood that had been planted by the devil within us. Do not be afraid to answer when the Lord calls upon us. Answer Him with courage and confidence and put our listening ear closely upon His words. It is often important for us to take off some time from our busy life and spend time regularly with our Lord and God.

That is why, it is important for us to pray. Prayer is not just a long litany of self-praise or requests to be made to the Lord, hoping or even demanding that God will fulfill what we want. This is not prayer, but empty words. We have to pray often, and in praying means, to let God speak to us just as we talk to Him quietly within our hearts. We have to seek to know Him just as He knows about everything that we are.

Pray, and pray often and pray right, brethren! Open our hearts to the Lord and listen to Him speaking and calling upon us! Let Him come and transform us, that all of us will become truly worthy, and truly glorified in Christ, and when He comes again in His glory, may we all be ready to answer Him when He calls on us, with a firm and solid, “Here I am Lord! Your servant is listening!” God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, most beloved of God. Let us listen to the Lord calling to each one of us today, that we be transformed from our old, sinful self, into the new being of love and compassion. We have to break free of the prison of worldly pleasures and temptations of evil that had chained us for so long unto sin. It is time that all of us, with the power of Christ, break free from that chain into freedom, true freedom in God.

Today, in the Gospel, we heard one of the most memorable and yet also striking from the words and teachings of Jesus, that is the sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes, meaning Blesseds or blessings from the Latin word, Beatus, which we also use on our blessed holy men and women in heaven. Jesus emphasized on the virtues of doing what is good as He mentioned them, and the blessings that will be poured to them who do these things.

A word of warning here is that, because just as Jesus blessed the good and the upright, and also at the same time, curse the wicked and their wickedness, we must not misinterpret what the Lord truly wants from all of us. It may seem as if Jesus condemns all those who now enjoy a happy life, a fulfilling life, and a life of wealth, and supports those who are poor in material, those who hunger for food. Yet, the Lord did not mean that we should be like the Communists, who advocate class war between the rich, the privileged class, and the poor.

What the Lord intend for all of us to do, is to be truly transformed into beings of love, mercy, and compassion, no matter what backgrounds we had or what material possessions we had with us prior to our transformation. We must be transformed from beings of apathy and idleness, and beings of wickedness and greed, into truly children of our loving God. That is what Jesus wants from us through the teachings we listened to today.

This is because, if we talk about the division between the rich and the poor, we will end up be caught in a vicious cycle of hatred and eternal division between the two worlds. Yes, I mean it when I said two worlds, because the two worlds are so distinct, that a huge gap literally is present between them. What the Lord truly wants is that bridges be built over this gap, to let the rich embrace the poor, and vice versa.

Even among the poor, there can be discrimination and selfishness, people trampling over the other because of their superior power and authority, people who think only for themselves, and if necessary, at the expense of others also in need. The same too applies to the rich, and indeed, all of God’s children without exception in many different parts of this world. Being rich does not mean that someone is evil, but it is that with that greater blessing that God had bestowed on them, they are able to do more for the sake of their brethren in need.

What the Lord condemns is the people who cared not for the wellbeing of their fellow brethren, even if these people are poor themselves. The Lord condemns those who are wicked and practice wickedness in their lives, and casts them out of His presence, if they do not repent and change. To those who had plenty and had opened the doors of their wealth and their love, that the graces given to them may reach others, the Lord will give blessing, if not even greater blessings, because they had used whatever they have, and give it to those who need them.

Remember the words of the Lord, that to those who had been given much, even more will be given. That is why, to those among us who had been more privileged, it is an impetus for us to take up the challenge God had presented all of us today, to share a part of our joy and happiness with others, especially those who lack them and those who long for them.

What the Lord lamented was because most of the rich, the powerful, and the influential ones at His time on earth, did not care even at all for the least of the society. They made merry, celebrate parties and revelled in abundance. They ate, drank, danced, and slept in joy and happiness, and never has the rest of the beloved people of God, appeared in their mind. It is exactly this lack of love and action that infuriated God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as today we are called to throw far, far away our old selves, our former sins, and our iniquities, and instead wear the armour of love and compassion, likened to the urging of St. Paul to the Colossians in the first reading. Let us be brave and have resolve to be loving and embracing to our brethren in need, to our brethren who needs our love, care, and attention, that we may be blessed by the Lord and be received into His kingdom of love and glory, instead of being cursed and condemned for our failure to do action.

Let us not point mistakes at others, and demand that others who disregarded the needs of the needy to change their lives and their decisions to work for the less fortunate. Instead, begin from ourselves, and take a proactive approach to follow what God told us through Christ today. Be a man of peace, of hope, of compassion, and of undying and eternal love. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 2 September 2013 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear about how Christ was rejected and mocked by His own people, the people of Nazareth His hometown. They rejected Him when He came to proclaim the truth about Himself, as the perfect fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophets of God, including Isaiah, who made a lot of predictions about His coming, which was indeed fulfilled at that moment when Christ proclaimed the very completion of that prophecy to His own townspeople.

Why so? Why did they reject Christ? Why did they reject the very Messiah sent to save them? Precisely because of familiarity and their failure to look beyond what is apparent to them, and the failure to overcome their own prejudices and judgements, which they imposed on Christ without mercy. They knew Him to be the lowly son of a carpenter, though an upright job, but a job of the poor, and therefore, in their minds, prophets, even less so the Messiah could ever come from such backgrounds.

Yet, indeed, the Lord who is King of kings and the Messiah of all mankind, was born of a humble carpenter’s family, of Joseph His foster father, and of Mary, the humble and loving mother He had. Yet, He is truly the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, whom His own people had rejected. Yes, the people of Israel had often rejected their own prophets sent to them by God over the centuries before the coming of Christ, and they turned deaf ears to their warnings and reminders of the need to follow the Law of God and turn from their evil and wicked ways.

The same too therefore happened to Christ, that He was rejected in Nazareth, His own hometown, and even long before that, before His birth, He was rejected everywhere in Bethlehem, because all the inns were full, and He had to be born in a humble and dirty stable. He was rejected even by the people, by the Pharisees and the chief priests who saw Him as a threat to their authority and their power over the people, as a rival.

And just as the people had tortured and slaughtered the prophets of old without mercy, they too slaughtered the Lamb of God, the Messiah who was sent to ensure their own salvation and redemption from death. They had rejected Him for a lowly criminal, Barabbas. They preferred a criminal to a king, a criminal to the One who had to suffer for all of their sins, He who forgave them even fully knowing of their actions in bringing about His suffering.

Yes, brethren, our Lord Jesus bared His love and mercy to all of us, and as He lay hanging on that cross, looking with great love and mercy upon all of His people, even those who called for His death, thos who crucified and tortured Him. Why so? That is because He loves all of us so much, that He does not want us to be separated from Him by our sins, our wickedness, and our unworthiness. He died for us and shed His blood that through that sacrifice, our sins may be erased from us and that we have a new hope for a new life, a new life, eternal life of joy in Christ our Lord.

Just as St. Paul had elaborated in the First Reading that the faithful, both those who are still alive and those who have already passed away when the Lord comes again, will rise with Him into heavenly glory He had promised us who believes in Him and accepted Him as Lord and Saviour. However, the question here is, are we ready? Are we ready to welcome and greet our Saviour, when He comes again, or during our lives? Or are we going to be like the people of Nazareth, the Pharisees and the chief priests in rejecting Him?

It is clear, brethren, that we have need to open our doors for Christ, and to welcome Him into out hearts, that He may remain in us, just as we remain in His love and grace. Do not harden our hearts with prejudice, stubbornness, and fear, as the Lord comes and approaches us, and reveals to us the truth about His glorious and yet humble self. Do not be like the people of Nazareth who dismissed Him merely because he’s familiar to them as a carpenter’s son.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today in our world, there are still many people who do not welcome Christ into their lives, and even many among those are they who call themselves as Christians, which I am sure including some of us here. Let us introspect ourselves and look into ourselves, whether we have kept the doors of our heart locked tight against the love of Jesus.

If the doors are closed, then let us have the courage to open it, let Christ in, bare everything to Him, just as He had bared all of His heart and love as He lay dying on the cross out of His great love for all of us. Let the Lord come into our hearts, healing it of our afflictions, of our wickedness, of our unworthiness, erasing from them the spirit of pride, of wrath, of gluttony, of lust, of greed, of hatred, of desire, and of all evils.

In their place may the Holy Spirit of love, peace, hope, and compassion come and reside within each one of us, that we may be truly and completely transformed into a people of love, a people of hope, and a people of faith, belonging to the Lord our God who will be pleased at our faith and who will raise us up on the last day. God bless us all. Amen.