Thursday, 8 August 2013 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are reminded today, of our own weaknesses, of our own vulnerabilities, and the need for all of us to follow the will of our God, and follow the thinking of our God, trusting in Him fully with all our hearts, our minds, and all our beings, instead of trusting our own instincts and human emotions.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Dominic, also known as St. Dominic de Guzman, a well known preacher who lived in the high Middle Ages Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth century Europe. He was the founder of the Dominican religious order, also known as the Order of Preacher. St. Dominic was well known for his strong devotion in the Lord, and his unshaken faith, in which he emphasized on the importance of having a strong and vibrant faith in God, as our armour, and put our trust in the Lord, instead of trusting in the power of men.

St. Dominic worked hard to spread the words of the Gospel, preaching to many people of God who had gone astray from the faith, and those in whom the flames of faith had died down. He had made much impact in strengthening the faith and zeal among the faithful at a time when heresies were commonplace in the Medieval Europe, particularly the Albigensian heresy or the Catharian heresy widespread in the Christendom at the time. Not only that, St. Dominic de Guzman was also well-known for being the one who propagated the devotion to the mother of our Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, through the Rosary.

St. Dominic and his successors in the Dominican religious order continued the spreading of the holy Rosary, as a potent tool and weapon which we can use, in our fight and constant struggle against the devil, as something that can help us anchor our faith firmly in the Lord, through the inspiration of the faith that His Blessed Mother has, that is the faith of Mary. The Dominican friars, monks, and priests continued until today the works and passions of St. Dominic, bringing more and more lost souls back to the embrace of the Lord who loves them.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important for all of us to continue to have faith in our Lord and in His saving power. Not just any faith, but a strong and immovable faith like that of a rock, faith that will never be shaken by any power of the devil or the temptations of this world. If our faith in the Lord is not strong, the devil can easily sow the seeds of rebellion and distrust in our hearts, and that will make our faith even weaker and less anchored.

That was what happened to the people of Israel during their journey in the desert, when the Lord led them through Moses to walk through the desert of Sinai from Egypt towards the Promised Land of Canaan. Even though the Lord had shown them His power and might through the miracles He had shown them via Moses and Aaron, by the Ten Plagues He had sent to punish their former Egyptian slavemasters, and despite His opening of the Red Sea for them to cross, and finally, even giving them manna, the bread of heaven to eat, and sweet water to drink from rocks, they still rebelled against Him and constantly complained against Him throughout the journey.

They abandoned the Lord immediately after He made them walk through the Red Sea, when Moses went up the Mountain of God and did not come down for forty days, when they decided to take the matter on their own hands, and made a new ‘god’ of gold shaped into a calf, abandoning the Lord their God who had shown them their might, for the pagan idol of gold and the world. They did not have true faith in their heart, nor true love for God, but they merely have amazement, wonder, and even fear for the Lord, for all the things He had done for them, but that is not love or faith.

We must be strong and have our faith firmly rooted in the Lord, that we will not be tempted nor give in to our human weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Ever since our ancestors ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we have been exposed to such weaknesses, negative things such as lust, greed, wrath, anger, pride, and many others. These can derail us from the path towards salvation, that is the path for us to return to our Lord.

What happened to Moses and Peter in the first and the Gospel readings respectively are also examples of what can happen, even to those whose faith are firm and strong in the first place, if we do not keep our faith strong at all times and let it to waver or allow evil to dwell within us and plant his seeds of evil within us. Moses as the leader of the people of Israel and Peter as the leader of all the Apostles, the one to whom God entrusted all His people on earth to.

As the leader of the people, Moses certainly had a great responsibility, and his role as the one who speaks directly to the Lord God made his works even more demanding on him. When the people constantly complained and rebelled against his leadership and the Lord Himself, the strain went too much for him and indeed, at Massah and Meribah, as we heard from the reading today, Moses snapped. In his anger and wrath, he disobeyed the Lord in order to chastise the people. Yes, the Lord in His love still allowed the water to flow through the rocks for His people to drink, but Moses’ disobedience is something that he should not have done. As a result, he was not to enter the Promised Land together with the rebellious people, who had been punished for their lack of faith in the Lord.

Peter, the leader of the disciples of Jesus in his fear that the Lord would suffer and die under the Jewish authorities, rebuked Jesus in that he said that Jesus should not face His death and therefore complete what He was born into this world for. Peter gave in to his fear and uncertainty, and his faith was shaken. But the Lord rebuked Satan who was inside him, and rebuked the one who sowed the seeds of uncertainty in the heart of Peter, and reminded Peter as well, that one ought to put their full trust and attention to the Lord their God and not in the wisdom and power of men.

Yet, despite the apparent weakness of faith of Peter, and his later abandonment of the Lord in his three times denial that he knew Christ, Peter, who was Simon son of John has great faith in his heart, that the Lord who sees all knew about the true faith in Peter. That was why, He named Simon as Peter, which means ‘Rock’ or Cephas in the approximate Aramaic language used by the people of Jesus’ time.

That is because Peter truly is faithful to the Lord, and he truly loved Him, and he showed that in the end by giving up his own life for the sake of the Lord, as the martyr of the faith. He led the people of God in the Church faithfully and dutifully, ensuring that a stable foundation of God’s Church was built, and behold! The Church of God that He established on Peter as foundation remains today as our Church, with our current Pope Francis, as the successor of Peter as the head of the Universal Church.

We too, brothers and sisters in Christ, ought to strengthen our faith and our love for the Lord our God. There are many ways to do this, that our faith will blossom and grow together with our love, both for God and for our fellow men. Pray often, speak to the Lord our God through prayer, that we constantly remain in connection to His will and His words, that we do not easily fall astray of the true path to God.

And following the push by the Dominicans and their founder, St. Dominic, let us pray the rosary often with meaning and devotion, and not just merely chanting the prayers, but that we really mean the prayers in the rosary that we offer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, that she will then deliver our prayers to the throne of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, God and King of all the Universe, who will hear us, and succour us at all times.

May the Lord who is faithful and loving be with us always and give us His love and kindness, strengthening us whenever we are weak, and planting the seeds of faith in us, anchoring it on solid rock foundation, that we will withstand whatever assault Satan tries to make, and whatever temptations this world attempt on us, to lead us astray from salvation into damnation. Let us, inspired by the example of St. Dominic, reach out to one another and help one another in our devotion to the Lord, that all of us will be saved together. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to Jesus explaining the meaning behind the parable of the weeds and the sower which He had told to His disciples and the people of Israel. He told them that the fate awaiting the wicked ones is death and eternal suffering in hell, while the fate awaiting the righteous ones is eternal joy and bliss in heaven, with our Lord, reunited in perfect goodness and glory of God.

The seeds of the weeds spread by the devil is the evil and corruption he had spread in this world to lead mankind astray from their path towards the Lord. The seeds of evil are greed, wrath, hatred, lust, jealousy, despair, arrogance, and pride. They are our weaknesses that made us prone to fall into the damnation reserved for the devil and his fallen angels, the fate of the weeds. This is because, as we all know, weeds are dangerous, because they compete with the healthy plants for nutrition, and when the weeds grow large, they also may likely strangle the healthy plants and kill them.

The same therefore is bound to happen to all of us, if we do not take precautions against the devil and his mischievous tools, all the tools in the world that he possesses to be employed against us, the beloved children of God. The devil is the sower of the evil weeds of sin, that if we are not careful, will grow within us and around us, and choke the good that is in us, turning us from the path of salvation into the path towards doom.

Our Lord and God, as Moses had said in the first reading we heard today, is a merciful and loving God, One who is slow to anger and rich in kindness and compassion. He is sure to welcome us back into His embrace if we are to be repentant and truly regret our sins and our wrongdoings before Him. We must not be shy to admit that we have sinned before God, because He is our loving Father, and He wants to rescue us from certain death.

But He is also a jealous God, a God who is just and against any form of sin. That is because He is perfect goodness and sin is corruption that had marred our perfection ever since the times of Adam and Eve, when Satan tricked Eve into eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and disobeyed the Lord in the process. It is because of our disobedience that we deserved death, and Adam and Eve deserved death and annihilation, and yet God showed them mercy and although they were punished to live in great difficulty on earth, they were not annihilated.

Death did claim them and our ancestors in the end, but death would not have the final say. That was because the Lord Himself gave His all so that we may have a new hope for eternal life in Him, to return us to our true inheritance, as what God had originally intended for us at creation. He did not desire us to suffer or die, but He wants us all to live, forever with Him in the bliss of heaven, to spend all our time in the beautiful Gardens of Eden.

He sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the fulfillment of His long-awaited promise, that He would send a redeemer to all mankind. The ultimate proof of His love and care for us. So great is His love that He is willing to suffer in our place, to die in our place, and to be our light of hope. He is the light of hope and salvation, because He did not remain in the land of the dead, but by the power of the Lord, He broke free the chains of sin and death that had held us for generations, and risen from the dead He became the source of salvation for all who believe in Him.

We must sow the seeds of faith, of hope, and of love in our hearts, brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we will be ever ready to combat the seeds of evil that Satan and his cronies always try to sow within our hearts. Do not be afraid, for he no longer has any power or authority over us, ever since Christ broke that bond that enthralled us to the evil one. We must however remain ever vigilant and ever careful, lest the devil successfully subvert our thoughts and our hearts to be against the Lord and His will.

Let us strive to be the wheat and not the weeds, and may the seeds of faith, hope, and love that is within us grow strong, that they become the nutrients and fertiliser that help us, the wheat to grow strong and bear much fruits, that the Lord who sees us, will be pleased and He will then tell His angels to come and collect us from amongst the weeds and bring us to Him, to enjoy forever His grace, His blessings, and His loving embrace.

Today, brothers and sisters, we also commemorate the Feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, who was made a Bishop of Ravenna in the ending years of the Roman Empire during the early Church. He was well known for his inspiring speeches and preaching, that called all Christians to be faithful to God and defend themselves against any form of heresies that threatened to corrupt their soul and their true faith in God.

At the time of St. Peter Chrysologus, at the heyday of the Roman Empire, there existed numerous heresies of the faith, many of which were really serious threat on the unity of the Church and the faithful, and some of them had ideas diametrically opposite to the truth of the Apostolic Fathers, the truth that is of Christ. Many of them, corrupted by the seeds of evil, the weeds planted by the evil one, subverted the words of the Lord and the message of salvation to serve their own ends, and ultimately, serve the cause of evil.

Many people fell victim to the corrupting nature of these heresies, which attacked the truth about our faith in the Lord, in the Lord Himself, and even His Blessed Mother, Mary. St. Peter Chrysologus, as the then Bishop of Ravenna in today’s Italy, was faced with the same problems and challenges that faced the Church of his time. Yet, he did not waver nor did he become afraid to confront those challenges. Instead, he faced them courageously, and with great zeal and inspiration, through his sermons, he converted the faithful back to the truth of Christ, getting rid of the weeds that choked the life out of the faith of the people of God.

Today, my brothers and sisters in Christ, the need is ever greater for more people like St. Peter Chrysologus, in defending our faith and ourselves, from the corruption that comes from Satan. We must be courageous in standing up for the Lord in the face of the devil and bluntly reject all his approaches and his temptations to us. We must stand up for the Lord and His love, His compassion for us. Never let go of the Lord and embrace evil, no matter how difficult the challenges of life are. We must always be strong, as St. Peter Chrysologus had been.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today renew our commitment to God, to the Lord who loves us, to God who cares for us every day of our life, and commit ourselves to glorify His Name among men, and to never give in to the allures of the evil one, and be courageous to reject all of his approaches. May the Lord who is love and who is mercy, forgive us our sins, purify us and make us whole once again. St. Peter Chrysologus, pray for us sinners and intercede for us before the Lord our God. Amen.

Sunday, 28 July 2013 : 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Luke 11 : 1-13

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this :

Father, may Your Name be held holy,

May Your kingdom come;

give us each day the kind of bread we need,

and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive all who do us wrong;

and do not bring us to the test.”

Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to his house in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine who is travelling has just arrived, and I have nothing to offer him.’

Maybe your friend will answer from inside, ‘Do not bother me now; the door is locked, and my children and I are in bed, so I cannot get up and give you anything.’ But I tell you, even though he will not get up and attend to you because you are a friend, yet he will get up because you are a brother to him, and he will give you all you need.

And so I say to you, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened.

If your child asks for a fish, will you give him a snake instead? And if your child asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”

Thursday, 18 July 2013 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, come to Christ our Lord whose yoke is light, and come to the Lord who had liberated us from the yoke of sin and death. He has liberated all of us from our fate that is death through His own death on the cross, and His resurrection give us all new hope of life, in the eternal bliss of heaven.

Yes, following the Lord has its own crosses, that is difficulties, because this world that is filled with evil will certainly oppose us with all of its might, that they will try to destroy us just as they had tried to destroy our Lord Jesus Christ by condemning Him to death, the humiliating death on the cross. Yet, Christ had triumphed, and not even death could hold Him captive, but He gloriously turned hell upside down, releasing the souls of the faithful from the slavery in hell and death.

For Christ is like the new Moses, whom the Lord had sent to liberate all the people, all mankind, all of creation, instead of just the people of Israel. If Moses was sent to liberate the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt under the Pharaohs, Christ was sent to liberate everyone, without exception from our slavery under sin, with Satan as the jailer.

Following Christ will be difficult, and there will be lots of oppositions from those in the world, particularly from the allies of evil. But this is nothing if compared to the suffering and difficulties that we will face for eternity, if we do not follow Christ and choose to follow the devil instead. That is also to represent how light is the yoke of Christ, compared to the yoke of the devil, because while the yoke of Christ leads eventually to eternal happiness, and only a temporary suffering, the yoke of the devil leads to never-ending eternal death and suffering, from the complete separation of man from God.

But yet, many people seem to prefer the heavier yoke of the devil than the lighter yoke of Christ, why? That is because the yoke of the devil looks more attractive in our hearts. It looks better and also feels better than the yoke of Christ. The yoke of the devil looks sweeter, better, and more promising, and the devil had also sweetened it further with all the pleasures and offerings this world can give, whereas in the yoke of Christ, we can only see suffering, although it is a suffering accompanied by the love of God.

That was why the same had happened to the people of Israel, when they followed Moses through the desert towards the Promised Land. They rebelled and rebelled constantly against the leadership of Moses and against God Himself. They saw the desert as the sure place of death, while their life in Egypt, under slavery, they deemed to be better than the nomadic life in the desert. Yes, even in slavery! They were glad to remain in slavery rather than be free, so that they could enjoy their ‘good’ life in Egypt.

That good life in Egypt, my brothers and sisters, is truly equivalent to our current life in the state of sin. Because sinning is actually enjoyable, and the devil put no stops to ensure that we remain in our state of sin and indifference towards the merciful God. We constantly rebel against the will of God and the teachings of His prophets and apostles, as we have always done, just like the people of Israel themselves had done in the desert. They complained of their temporary suffering, as we does now, but they failed to realise that true happiness lies at the end of that suffering. Remember, the yoke of Christ is light, and it leads to salvation, while the yoke of the devil leads only to death and eternal suffering.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we resolve now to take up our crosses while following He who was crucified? That is to take up the Cross of Christ? Or do we slacken and let the devil has the better of us and lead us to eternal damnation? If we are to follow Christ, as He Himself had said, we must be ready to take up our crosses and suffer the rejection by evil and the world. But that is nothing, compared to if we are rejected by our Lord Himself, in which, then, there will be no hope left.

Let us resolve to follow the Lord and be ready to face all the consequences of following Him, facing it with faith, courage, and devotion, without ever going out of our way or being led astray. May the Lord who is merciful look kindly upon us, and help us during this journey of the faith, and guiding us through the persecutions and sufferings that will be inflicted upon us.

May the Lord bless us all and protect us, so that all of us will persevere, and fall not into eternal damnation in hell, but achieve eternal life in bliss in heaven, with our Lord who loves us. Amen.

(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 30 March 2013 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Scripture Reflection)

Today marks the greatest day in our entire year, and marks the greatest event that there ever was in the history of all mankind and the history of the world. For today, our Lord, who had died for us on the cross, did not stay dead, but was risen by the glory of God to Father in the most glorious Resurrection.

Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is Risen Lord, has harrowed hell in His descent there after His death,  He has liberated souls of sinners imprisoned and enchained by Satan, but having true faith in the Lord, freed from their bonds, and now join our Lord in His glorious Resurrection. Yes, glorious indeed is  His Resurrection. For in His Resurrection, our life are restored, in a new life in Him, just as our past is dead, when Christ died for us on that cross on Calvary.

Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, had given His life that all of us who shared in His death through baptism, just as St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans, we can also be freed from eternal death in sin, and enter into eternal life and be Resurrected to true life just together with Christ’s resurrection. All of us who had been baptised in Christ, had been marked by Christ, our Lord as His, and His alone. The devil and his snares of sin no longer has any power over us.

Indeed, we who had been baptised, had received the gift of life through our faith in the living God, the resurrected Christ, who triumphed over Satan and death. But we must always stay vigilant, that Satan certainly will not stay silent while his dominions over sinful men are being assailed. He will fight back hard, and all of us must be ready, and must be strong.

As in what we had heard in all the readings we have today, today we hear the story of God’s love and His love for all of us, from the time when He created us and all the earth, through all the tribulations that His people encountered in Egypt, and through His salvation of them through Moses, His servant, and finally through the prophets, and ended in the greatest love and salvation of all that is, the salvation of all mankind through Christ, who died for us, and risen for us, that all of us join Him to once again return to the Father who loves us, and who created us out of His breath of life though we are dust.

So great is God’s love that He laid down His life for us, for His is the only worthy life that when surrendered in death, worth all of our iniquities and faults, that we who believe in Him can be rid of those, and becoming truly perfect in virtue, in our being and our soul, that we are worthy of being one with God, and be in His Presence again.

For when our forefathers rejected God through their rebellion, through Adam and Eve’s disobedience of eating the forbidden fruits of the tree of knowledge, we had been marred, and therefore, we could not stand before God in our imperfections, for God is perfect, and though He loves us so much indeed, no imperfections or iniquities can stand in His presence and survive.

A great chasm had appeared between us and God the Father, our creator. Ever since Adam and Eve were banished from the Gardens of Eden for their disobedience, we have ever since wonder around in this earth, separated from the fullness of God’s love, which Adam and Eve enjoyed in their early life of bliss in Eden before the fall of mankind to sin, and which we are to enjoy again, if we truly believe in Christ, and allow Him to transform us through His death and resurrection, to be purified, and therefore, worthy once again of the fullness of love of our God.

For, just like the slavery of the people of Israel, God’s people in Egypt shows to us, this separation from God is just temporary. For as God sent Moses, His servant to free the people of Israel from their bondage under Pharaoh, so He had sent His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver all of us, not just Israel, God’s first chosen people, but now through Christ, He delivers all of us, His new chosen people, from the bondage under sin and Satan, the evil one.

Just as He split open the Red Sea through Moses, to allow the people of Israel to walk dryshod through the sea, so He also opened the path to Himself, through Christ, to allow us to walk and return to He who loves us. For that great chasm between us and Him is insurmountable and infinite in span, but yet, Christ, our Lord, who gave His life for us, had become that great bridge through His Resurrection, that this bridge, like the dry land of the Red Sea’s seafloor, it allows us to pass through despite the chasm, to return back to our Father in heaven.

Yet, the path would not be easy, and we may fall along the way. Indeed, we had been chosen and marked by Christ through baptism, that we reflect His death and resurrection in ourselves, within our heart, but just as God’s chosen people, the people of Israel had shown, we can fall in our way. We knew it well that Israel often rebelled against the Lord, beginning from when they had been brought out of Egypt, when they often brought the Lord to the test, and made numerous complaints to the Lord, and even established rival gods like that of the golden calf, and the false gods of the people of Midian and Canaan.

We too can falter in our way, and can also fall into the same kind of trap that had befallen Israel. Therefore, we must always be vigilant, and keep at all times, our focus in Christ, our Lord, in His love and trust in His authority. Let us keep one another strong in faith, strong in God’s love, and strong in our hope for eternal life through Christ. Help out one another, especially those who are struggling with the faith.

Though the people of Israel, the chosen people, constantly rebelled against God and His commandments, and slaughtering many of His chosen prophets, and ultimately crucified His Son, God incarnate in Christ Jesus, He still readily forgave them, since in His own words that they do not know what they are doing, that in their ignorance, and in the blindness of their eyes and hearts, they failed to see God and His wonderful mission of redemption.

Therefore brothers and sisters in Christ. Today let us make true the mission that God has entrusted to all of us through His Apostles, that is to spread the Good News to all the nations, and to baptise them in the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. As we commemorate the Resurrection of our Lord today, let this moment be a moment of renewal of our commitment to evangelise the Good News of the Lord to all the people.

That through evangelisation and knowledge of the Lord, the people will no longer rebel against the Lord who loves them, and will no longer dwell in sin and darkness, but will return to the light, just as all of us had been redeemed into light by our own baptism.

Let us pray fervently for our brethren who will be baptised in the ceremony today, either in the Easter Vigil or the Easter Sunday celebrations, that the love and fear of the Lord will continue to grow stronger in their hearts, that the call which they had received to become catechumens, will continue to resonate loudly within their beings and their hearts even after their baptism. May the Holy Spirit descend upon them and dwell in their hearts, and through them and their actions, and also in all of us gathered as one community of the faithful ones in Christ, bear much fruits of the Holy Spirit, most important of which is love.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I wish you all a most happy and blessed Easter, that in this holy season of Easter, may all of us rejoice in the glorious Resurrection of our Lord, and commit ourselves to further the evangelisation of our Lord’s Good News, that many more will be able to join our Lord too, in new life, born out of baptism, and be resurrected like Christ was resurrected, from our past lives and die to ourselves, so that we can be born into a new life in Christ. God bless us all. Amen.