Sunday, 16 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after the Solemnity of the Pentecost, the Universal Church again celebrates another great and very important Solemnity, one that is concerning the very centre tenet and distinctiveness of our Christian faith that is the belief in God Who exists in Three Divine Persons and yet, at the same time, is also One and Indivisible. And that is why on this Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

On this day, we focus our attention on Who we worship, God Who is ever loving, merciful and compassionate towards us, He Who is One, and only One, but existing in Three distinct Persons, namely the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The true nature of the Most Holy Trinity has eluded many people and many among us the faithful throughout time, but all of us must realise and know Who is Our Lord Whom we worship, so that we can better appreciate our faith in Him.

We do not believe in three different Gods, as the most common misconception about the Most Holy Trinity is often about. We believe that even though there is distinction between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, but they exist in perfect unity and harmony with each other, as the one and only True God. Three Divine Persons but One Unity in One Godhood. That is what the Most Holy Trinity is about.

Yet, throughout the history of the Church, particularly during the early days of Christianity, people constantly were conflicted on the nature of their God, and there had been many divisions, conflicts, disagreements and bitterness over the nature of the Most Holy Trinity, the relationship that the Father has the Son, and with the Holy Spirit, and the nature of the Son Himself, the relationship that He has with the Father, and also with the Holy Spirit.

And there were those who doubted and questioned the divinity of the Son in particular, those who doubted that Jesus Christ Our Lord is God as well as Man in the same person. And there were those, like the Arians, who considered Christ as being lesser than the Father. They regarded Him as a Being Who was created and therefore not equal with the Father, not co-eternal with Him. And therefore, they did not believe in the Most Holy Trinity in the way we believe today.

At that time, many people actually subscribed to the teachings and the faith of Arius, the one who propagated the Arian heresy. And there were bitter struggle for the belief of the faithful as those bishops and priests who remained true to the orthodox and genuine Christian teachings struggled with the many bishops and priests who embraced Arianism. And one of the most courageous and faithful defender of the true faith was St. Athanasius, the Patriarch of Alexandria, whose defence of the faith in the Most Holy Trinity and the equality between the Son and the Father is memorialised in the now famous Athanasian Creed.

The Athanasian Creed was an expansion of the usual Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed we have always used, in which the Athanasian Creed is a much more detailed and clearer version of the Creed where in particular, the nature of the Most Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit is explained clearly and succinctly against the heresies of the time that tried to diminish the Holy Trinity or mislead the people with wrong ideas and thoughts about the Trinity.

In the first part of the Athanasian Creed, it is clearly mentioned that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three equal parts of the One Godhood of our one and only True God, avoiding the idea of worship of more than one god and at the same time, also stressing on the importance and distinctiveness of each of the three members of the Most Holy Trinity. The Father is not the same as the Son, and the Son is not the same as the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the same as the Father, and yet all three are united perfectly and indivisibly as one indissoluble union of perfect love.

And being equal, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not submitted to the Father or less equal from the Father in anything, neither created nor made. The Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, has existed with the Father from the very beginning, from before the beginning of time, co-equal, co-eternal and equally omnipotent and Almighty. He is not created but rather begotten from the Father, remaining distinct and yet inseparable from the Father and the Holy Spirit. He assumed the appearance and flesh of man, uniting in Himself, the Divinity of the Son of God and the humanity of the Son of Man.

The Holy Spirit meanwhile is also co-equal, co-eternal and omnipotent as well as Almighty as the Father and the Son is. He is not created by the Father either, nor is subservient or created or begotten from the Father or from the Son. Rather in this case, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, equal in all things, and is God’s Spirit that is in all things and performs His works in all things.

Many have tried to explain the concept of the Most Holy Trinity, with St. Patrick of Ireland being the most prominent one. St. Patrick made use of the three-leaf shamrock as a way for him to explain the Trinity of Christian God to the pagans then living in the land that is now called Ireland. He used the three-leaf shamrock, now closely associated with St. Patrick himself, as the representation of the Most Holy Trinity, as if any of the three leaves is taken out, the whole shamrock becomes incomplete.

Therefore, just as a person can clearly distinguish each of the three leaves of the three-leaf shamrock, we can distinguish between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit clearly. But at the same time, they are also perfectly united as One, just as the three-leaf shamrock is part of the one whole shamrock leaf, which if any of the parts are taken out, the whole shamrock becomes incomplete just as the Most Holy Trinity is not complete without any one of its members.

Another way for us to try to explain the concept of the Most Holy Trinity is that of a lighted candle. A lighted candle has three main important properties, that is the light produced by the candle, the heat produced by the candle and the flame produced by the candle burning. All these three cannot be separated from each other and yet they are also easily distinguishable from each other.

The candle cannot have light without the burning flame, and without the flame there can be no heat either. And neither can there be flame without heat to make the candle burn in the first place, and with heat energy comes light that is produced by the heat of the reactions of the burning of the candle wax. And lastly, without light, it does not make sense for a candle that is burning to have no light, as flame always produces light and heat.

We can see from this example alone, how flame, light and heat are easily distinguishable from each other, as the light is clearly different from the heat, and flame itself is distinct from the light. The flame has a limited shape but the light illuminates the entire room far beyond the physical reach of the burning flame, and the heat can be felt on our bodies when we stand nearby the burning candle. Yet, each one of them cannot be separated from the other, or else we would not have a burning candle.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having listened to what the Most Holy Trinity is all about, and how we try to explain this concept both to ourselves and to others, now that we have probably greater understanding and grasp of this concept, we must then also be aware of the significance of the Most Holy Trinity of Our God to ourselves as Christians. We must first and foremost remember that as Christians we are called to model ourselves on God Whom we believe in.

If Our God exists in a perfect love and harmony in the Most Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, then surely our Christian communities must also have this same love within us, that in the Church of God to which we belong to, we must be united in love and not being divided one against the other. And each and every one of us, just like the members of the Holy Trinity, are unique and have our own distinctiveness that we can bring in to enrich the good works and wonders of the Church of God.

Are we able to practice what we believe in the nature of our loving Triune God, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in our own lives? Are we able to imitate the loving examples and unity of the Three Divine Persons in our own Christian communities united in love and harmony with each other? This is how we as Christians reflect God in our own lives, in showing the same love that He has within Himself, which He has shared with us and now, we share with one another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our faith, commitment and devotion to Our God, the Most Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Let us all be witnesses of our faith in Him, in each and every moments we live, in our every actions so that all the people around us may see our faith and come to believe in God, the Most Holy Trinity as well, fulfilling what He has commanded us all to do, to make disciples of all people of all the nations and baptise them in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Let us glorify our God, the Most Holy Trinity once more, with the prayer “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”

Sunday, 22 May 2016 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Trinity Sunday and Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we commemorate together a great solemnity and occasion, celebrating the mystery of our Lord and Master, Who is One and only One God, and yet, consisting of Three inseparable and equal Divine Persons. This is the mystery of the Holy Trinity of our God, One but Three, Three but One, equal and distinct, and united perfectly through perfect love.

This mystery is one of the most difficult aspects of our faith to be understood, as we have to realise that disagreements about the nature of our Lord and Divine Master had caused numerous divisions in the Church, with countless heresies and peoples claiming their own versions of the teachings to be correct. And most contentious of all was indeed the nature of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

Throughout history, and even until this very day today, there are many peoples and groups who ridicule us Christians, the people of God, because of our believe in the Most Holy Trinity, One God with Three Divine Godheads. They thought that we are those who believe in many gods, like the pagans do. They ridiculed us because they misunderstood our faith, and what we believe, and Who we believe in.

There were those who thought that we were committing sacrilege and blasphemy against God, especially those who refused to believe in the nature of God as a Trinity. They thought that we are committing a great sin by thinking that we have three Gods instead of just one God. But that is exactly because they have failed to understand the truth about our Lord which He Himself had revealed to the world, to us all who believe in Him.

Then I should ask all of you, each and every one of us, to reflect on the Most Holy Trinity, about what we believe in our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Do we truly believe in the Most Holy Trinity? And in fact, do we mean what we always say, when we made the holy sign of the Cross? The Sign of the Cross is not just merely a symbol of victory and triumph over evil and death, but it is also the standard of the Most Holy Trinity.

When we mark ourselves with the Cross of Christ, do we feel proud of having been marked as the children and the possession of our God through the cross? Do we feel the pride of telling all that we believe in the Most Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit? Or do we do it in secret, or out of apathy, just doing it for the sake of doing it? We can see it clearly in how we make even in such a basic gesture as making the sign of the Cross.

The belief in the Most Holy Trinity is crucial and essential part of our faith, and it is what distinguishes us from all those who believe in heretical teachings and aberrations, or from the pagans and those who rejected God and His truth. And it is important therefore that we are familiar with all of its aspects, so that if someone is to ask us about it, we will not be embarrassed, and worse, turn people away from salvation because of our failure to show the truth to them.

We do not believe in three Gods, all separate and distinct from each other. Instead, our core belief remains the same as it had been since the days of Abraham and Israel of old. We believe in one and only one God, the one God Who created all creation and all the universe. There is no other God besides Him, and all other gods, pagan or otherwise, are all false gods and idols, and in fact, even demons.

But at the same time, as Jesus our Lord and Saviour had revealed to His disciples, and from them to us, is that that one God, Supreme and Almighty, consists of three Divine Persons, or Aspects, distinct from each other, and yet remained united in a perfect harmony with each other, as the inseparable part of the whole One Divinity, the one and only True God. Without one or the other, the wholeness of the one God is not complete.

Thus, when we talk about the Father, we cannot separate Him from the Son and the Holy Spirit, or the Son from the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. To separate out any of them from the others means to diminish the Lord and the wholeness of His divinity. And when they are working, they work together as one, working in perfect harmony in all things.

When God created the world, His Holy Spirit were all around, hovering over all creations. And by His words, He has willed all thing to be created. And that Word of life, the Word through which God created all life, has descended down upon us, taking up the flesh, and through the Holy Spirit, was made Man, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

At creation, we saw how the Trinity worked together harmoniously as one, with one will and intention. The Father willed all things to creation, which the Son in the Word executed the will of the Father and made all things to be created, and which in the end, the Holy Spirit filled all things and all creation, and gave life to all. As a result, the universe with all of its wonders were created, through the works of the one and only true God, and yet we can see clearly the Three Divine Aspects of God, the Trinity.

And at the moment of the incarnation, God the Father willed the incarnation of His own Son, the Divine Word, part of Himself and the Trinity, to become one like us, as a Man, save for being pure and free from sin. And the Holy Spirit came over Mary and covered her, and by the Holy Spirit, the Lord became Man, just as what we believed and which is part of our Creed.

In all these examples, taken from the Scriptures themselves, we can see how God is indeed One, and even though He consists of the Three Divine Persons, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, but one cannot understand the Father without understanding the Son and the Holy Spirit and vice versa. This is what we must know, and what we must understand with all of our hearts and minds.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if someone asks us about our belief in the Holy Trinity, then how should we respond to it? Perhaps then we should tell them about something as simple as a flame. And not just that this is for them to think and discover about the truth of the Trinity, but perhaps for many of us too, who doubted in the Trinity, may now come to believe the fullness of God’s truth.

A flame consists of the visible flame that we are able to see with our eyes, but a flame also consists of the material of the flame that we can touch with our hands, the energies of the flame which made it visible in the first place as the flame. And last of all, a flame can also be felt as we place our hands nearby the flame but not touching it, in the form of the heat that warms our hands and bodies close to it.

We cannot take out the light out of the flame and then still call the remaining object as a flame, and neither can we take out the heat or the matter of the flame and can still call the remaining as a flame. Undeniably, the light and the heat and the matter of the flame are distinct from each other, as they are all different, and yet they are inseparable parts that made up a flame. In the same manner, and even more so, the Most Holy Trinity is similar to this approximation.

Instead of muddling our minds and thoughts in trying to understand the nature of the Lord our God, One but Three, and Three but One, we should rather have faith in Him. If only that we can learn to trust Him and His truth, and learn to accept the truth which He had brought to us. Mankind had refused to believe His truth, often and simply because it was too much for their feeble minds and intellect to understand God and His ways.

Let us all instead work together, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may find our way to the Lord our God, and work together in the same way as how harmonious the Lord in the Trinity is. Jesus Himself prayed to His Father in the time before His suffering and Passion, that He would make His people to be one, just as He and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were one.

Thus, as we proceed on with our lives in this world, let us all heed the examples of the Most Holy Trinity, our Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that we too may be united in faith, hope and love in our Lord. Let us never be shaken in our faith and devotion to the Most Holy Trinity, believing in the one and only True God, and in His Three inseparable but distinct Aspects, and then show the same love which has united Them as One, so that we too, the faithful people of God, may be united in love and harmony with one another.

May God bless us all and strengthen us, that we may resolve to keep this faith burning strongly in each one of us, and have the love in us, and show that love by caring for each other, devoting our time and efforts to care for our brethren, especially to those who are in the greatest need for our help. May God awaken in each one of us, the love we ought to have for each other. O, Most Holy Trinity, the Triune God, be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, 21 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate the feast of the dedication and presentation of the Blessed Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this day, we remember the time, just as His Son Jesus was presented before God at His Temple, she was also presented in the same manner, just as the Law of God revealed through Moses had prescribed.

In the Scripture reading of today that we have heard, we witnessed how mankind fell into sin through the instigation of the devil who persuaded them to sin by disobedience against the Lord, tempting them with false promises of power and greatness that would be ours if we would just eat of the forbidden fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, without knowing the consequences of such disobedience would bring us.

But God Who punished them for their sins and disobedience did not entirely gave them up to destruction and condemnation. Instead, He gave them a new opportunity, the chance for them to change their ways, turn around from their sinfulness and rebellion, and therefore regained the favour of God and from their position of shame and from the punishments they endured, they would emerge triumphant of having resisted the temptation of Satan unto the end.

And God promised to mankind that deliverance and hope would come, and even though Satan would have the first bite at us, inflicting upon us, generations upon generations of mankind, the bitterness of the sufferings of the world because of our sins, just as the Lord had said that there would be bitter feud between the sons of men and the forces of the evil one, therefore, the salvation would come through the Woman whom God had promised to be the one through whom the Saviour would come forth into the world.

And this Woman is Mary, the special one among mankind whom God had prepared since the beginning to be the one through whom the salvation of the world would come, that is in Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, born from her through the power of the Holy Spirit and by the Will of God the Father. But it was not because of Mary’s own might and power that she had done all these, but rather through her humility and obedience to the will of God.

Yes, Mary is the new Eve just as Christ is the new Adam according to St. Paul. While the old Eve, the first woman sinned and disobeyed the Lord because she was unable to hold her desires, the new Eve, that is Mary was obedient to God in all things, and she accepted fully the role she was to play in the salvation of all mankind.

Both Eve were born without sin, for Eve was created by God from the flesh and bones of men without the taints of sin, for creation was pure and without sin in the beginning. Meanwhile, Mary was specially prepared by the Lord to be immaculate, free from the taints of sin in any form from the very moment of her conception. This is because she was to be the mother of the Lord God of all creations, and the Lord most holy, Who certainly would not deserve a vessel tainted by sin.

Yet, if we notice, it was the choice that the new Eve took that differentiated her from the very first Eve, who chose the other option. The first Eve chose the world and all of its glories, the temptation of knowledge and power that tempted her and turn her away from the way of the Lord. But Mary, the new Eve did not choose that path. Instead, she chose obedience and complete submission to God.

Therefore, as we celebrate today’s feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when Mary the mother of our Lord, the new Eve was presented pure and blameless before the Lord on His Temple, let us all also commit ourselves to the Lord, renewing our faith and our dedication to the Lord our God. We all also need to model ourselves after our role model in faith, Mary, whose faith in the Lord was truly remarkable.

It is not impossible for us to walk in her ways, as we lead our lives on in the path of God. What we need is conviction and genuine desire for us to lead a life that is in accordance to God’s will, and be thoroughly and completely devoted in our ways, so that in all the things we say and do, we always do them or say them in the Name of the Lord and for the greater glory of God.

May Almighty God be with us all, forgive us all our sins, and may He guide us on the path to His everlasting happiness and glory. May God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 20 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings are perfectly unanimous in their messages, which the Church intended for us all to know and understand, so that in our own respective lives we may grow ever more faithful and devoted to Him Who is present in us and Who dwells in all of us, the Holy Temple of His most Holy Presence.

In the first reading, we heard about how the forces of the faithful Israelites led by the Maccabee family retook the Temple of God in Jerusalem which had been captured by the Greeks earlier on and made into an abomination of the pagan gods and idols. The faithful removed all the wicked things and vile idols from the Temple, tore down the old and defiled altar and rebuilt a new altar in its place.

Then in the Gospel reading, we heard about how Jesus our Lord became angry because of the merchants, money changers, all the sins and the vileness of human greed that took place in the courtyard of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, where many people cheated each other in money and possessions, and where greed had no bounds, without due regards for the Lord’s House and its sanctity.

Therefore God was right to be angry and His wrath was justified, for all these people had defiled His House, His sanctuary and His dwelling place, just as those Greeks under king Antiochus IV Epiphanes had done many years before the birth of Jesus. He cast them all out with a whip, and with that purified the Temple of God from all the evils of the world, the evils of money, of greed and of boundless pride, the pride of men before God.

But all these readings will not make sense to us, and neither will they be beneficial to us, if we do not understand their true significance, their important meaning and what they wanted to convey to us. It is the very fact that because all these abominations and evils had corrupted the Temple of God in Jerusalem that God had been angry with, sending His faithful and later even His own Son, to be the ones to cast out all of the wickedness away from His holy Presence.

And that Temple of God built first by Solomon, and later rebuilt by the priest and prophet Ezra, and built to a new height of architectural glory and fame by the king Herod the Great, all these in their magnificent appearance, all the gold, silver and precious items within, all these cannot be compared to the new Temples of His residence which God has decided to dwell in, no longer in the Temple of God in Jerusalem, but in the hearts of His faithful.

Yes, lest we are all unaware of this fact, and lest that we have been deceived into thinking otherwise, we have to remember what St. Paul mentioned in one of his letters, reminding us the faithful that we are all the Temples of the Holy Spirit, for as with the Apostles who received the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost day, from them, we have received the same Spirit as well.

And do not forget that we have also received in the Most Holy Eucharist, our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Most Precious Blood, and therefore, we dwell in Him and He is dwelling in us, in body, spirit, mind, heart and soul. Thus all of us are the essence and substance of His new dwelling in this world, and there can be no compare between the temples built by the kings and the prophets which were made from stones and precious items of the earth, but not from the very creation of God, made in His own image, that is us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be ever vigilant, that in all of our words, actions and dealings, all of us will be always faithful to our Lord without exception, and always try to keep our body, our mind, our heart and our soul free from the taints of sin as much as possible, so that the Lord Who sees all hearts and minds, will find us worthy and bless us. For otherwise His righteous anger will be upon us, and we will be cast out forever from His presence into eternal damnation.

May God bless us always, and help us to keep our ways righteous, just and holy, so that our Temple of His presence, our own bodies, minds, hearts and souls will be pure and holy and worthy to be His dwelling on earth. God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Thursday, 19 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings we heard about the tribulations that continued to face Israel at the time about a hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ, as we continued from the narrative told from the Book of the Maccabees, of the Jewish rebellion against the tyranny and pagan rulership and imposition by king Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire and his successors.

We heard about how the king enforced the decree of pagan worship and submission to the Greek culture and way of life to his entire kingdom, including the people of Israel who lived in territories ruled by the king. As a result, dilemma and conflict arose, as there were those who readily and willingly accepted the king’s order and gained important court position and influence as a result, and those who refused to follow the king’s orders.

The king and his officials ordered the people of God to abandon their righteous and devoted ways, and instead of sacrificing to the Lord and worshipping God alone, they were compelled and forced to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods of the Greeks at the time. And this is a perversion and aberration to the rule that God had established with His people, that they ought to have no other gods beside Him and worship Him alone.

Yet, there were those who followed the king’s commands and succumbed to either the pressure and threats given by the king’s officials, or they were bought over by the temptations of pleasures and wealth that accompanied their acceptance into heresy and darkness. But in this, we saw how the righteous servant of God, Mattathias, in his great anger, struck at those who have betrayed the Lord and rejected Him.

In the Gospel today, our Lord Jesus lamented over Jerusalem and all the terrible things that would happen to it in the near future of His time. He was telling the people of the upcoming downfall and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans which would happen about four decades after Jesus had prophesied about the downfall of the holy city to the forces of the enemies of the faithful.

The city of God was besieged by the Romans just as it had been during the days of the Babylonian invasion under king Nebuchadnezzar. And on both occasions, the city was destroyed, its walls and gates were thrown down, the buildings, houses and palaces were destroyed, and most important of all was that the Temple of God, the Dwelling place of our Lord were torn down and destroyed.

These reminds us that living righteously in a world filled with sin and darkness will not be easy, and indeed is not easy. There will be opposition, struggle, resistance and suffering for our contrasting ways as compared to those of the world’s. But if we persevere, the rewards will be great and God will bless us without compare. He is always rich with His mercy and blessings for those who have kept their part of the covenant with Him.

Now we are all the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Temple of God’s Holy Presence, for God Himself dwells in us, as we have all received His Most Precious Body and Blood into ourselves. Let us make ourselves worthy, honourable and holy so that we shall be ever worthy of the Lord and will always receive His grace at all times. Shall we commit ourselves to actions that are in accordance to His will and be ever loving and faithful in all of our actions? Let us all do this, for the sake of the salvation of our souls. May God bless us always, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate the great celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of the two great Houses of God, two churches dedicated to the two greatest saints of Christendom, the patron saints of the very heart of Christendom, and God’s most esteemed servants, the chiefs of the Apostles.

St. Peter the Apostle and St. Paul the Apostle were two of Christ’s most important disciples, and they were the ones whose works and dedications resulted in the establishment of the Church as we know it today. They helped laid the foundations and the structure from which the Church of God would grow and enabled the faithful to assemble together in the Church of the Lord.

St. Peter the Apostle was the chief and the first among all of Christ’s Apostles and disciples, and he was given the direct command from the Lord Himself, to be the shepherd of shepherds, as the leader of leaders of the faithful, as none other than the very Vicar of Christ Himself on earth, the chief representative of our Lord and the head of the Universal Church, the Body of Christ, which Jesus our Lord is the true Head.

Meanwhile, St. Paul the Apostle was the Lord’s chief evangeliser and the bearer of the Word of God, the Good News to the many nations, the Apostle to the Gentiles. While many of the disciples of the Lord in the beginning preached only to the Jews and kept the word of salvation only to the sons and daughters of Israel, it was St. Paul who took one of the first steps of the Church’s outreach to the non-Jews, the Gentiles, especially to the Greeks.

These two faithful servants of the Lord were very important in their respective roles, St. Peter as the head and leader of the Church, uniting the many and diverse leaders and elders of the Church, establishing many of the churches himself as he went about his missions to many places, and while St. Paul preached to the many nations including the Greeks, and bravely stood up for the faith against the opposition of the Jews and the Roman authorities.

Both of them eventually ended up making the fateful journey to Rome, the centre and heart of the Roman Empire, the superpower at the time, which would eventually persecute the faithful and the Church for many, many years and brought martyrdom to countless faithful souls. The two great Apostles would lead the way in becoming the very first martyrs among them, standing up for their faith.

St. Peter the Apostle would be crucified for his faith, and opting to be crucified upside down for his great humility of not wanting to die in the same manner as his Lord and God had died. St. Paul the Apostle would be beheaded by the orders of the Emperor, both likely blamed for a great fire that occurred in Rome in the year AD 64, which became one of the first official great persecutions against Christians.

Their blood, the blood of their martyrdom became the seeds and inspiration for the future generations of the faithful, many of them also martyred in the same manner, defending their faith courageously against the world. But both of these holy men were not called holy and great, as these two Apostles were themselves once struggling with their faith and weak in their hearts.

If we remember the story of St. Paul, we would know how he used to be a great persecutor of Christians himself, as the champion and zealous defender of the Jewish traditions against the Christians whom he saw as heretics and their teachings as heresy and perversions of the Jewish faith in God. But God made him to see his errors when He showed Himself to him as he was on the way to Damascus, and from a persecutor of Christians, St. Paul, once known as Saul, became a great champion and defender of the Christian faith.

Meanwhile, St. Peter himself was a humble fisherman who plied daily along the lakeshore of the lake of Galilee, spending his time with St. Andrew his brother and the other fishermen catching fishes from the lake into the boats. He would never have dreamed on the task that he would carry out in the name of God. But Jesus did tell him that he would no longer be a fisher of fishes, but instead as a fisher of men from then on.

And we know that St. Peter was not very steady in terms of his faith, just as we saw in the Gospel today, as he was sinking out of fear because his faith in God was shaken up. And we know how St. Peter betrayed Jesus three times during the times of His Passion, when out of fear and self-preservation, He refused to acknowledge Jesus in front of His persecutors, refusing to admit that he was one of His disciples.

Yet, God forgave him and made him the greatest of His disciples, entrusting to him nothing else than His entire flock on earth, the Church itself, and he became the very first Pope. This is because of the love and dedication that St. Peter had shown, as if we notice, St. Peter was almost always the first to go forth and seek the Lord, as shown at the time when He made a miracle for them on the boat, making them catch so many fishes, and on another occasion when Jesus had risen from the dead.

This tells us that, as we commemorate the dedication anniversary of the two great Basilicas dedicated to these two great saints and Apostles of our Lord, that Jesus did not come to call the great and the mighty to serve Him, but rather, He called the simple and the ordinary, sinners and weak people alike, to make them great and mighty, not in the force of might and strength, but in the force of word and faith.

Let us all follow in their footsteps and realise that we still have so much to do as the modern day Apostles and disciples of our Lord. Let us all commit ourselves to bring the Good News, the words of the Gospel to the nations. May all of us be able to share the joy of our faith with one another, and be the light to all the nations, that through our works, just as St. Peter and St. Paul had done, we may bring God’s salvation to many more souls. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we witnessed the story of Eleazar the elder, faithful and devoted servant and follower of the Lord, who loved during the time of the persecution of the faithful Jews by the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who ruled over the Seleucid Empire. The king enforced a common religion and customs for all of his subjects, and many of the Jews who were faithful only to God, refused to follow the orders of the king.

And Eleazar in today’s first reading showed us an example of the dilemma facing all those who want to remain faithful to the Lord, and yet the worldly authorities had a different opinion, that is wanting the people to abandon His ways and to betray Him for the ways of this world. That is the dilemma and the conflict, knowing that to accept the world, we would reject the Lord, and vice versa.

And grievous sufferings and pain awaited all those of Eleazar’s time who were not willing to abandon their faith. Eleazar’s fate was just one of the many examples. In the other passage from the Book of the Maccabees, we witnessed how a mother with her seven sons were martyred for their faith, because they refused to follow the king’s orders, and even despite persuasions and temptations by the king and his officers, they adamantly remained true to their faith in God.

They suffered for remaining true to their faith, as they have chosen the lot of the Lord rather than the lot of men. Had they chosen the path of the king, they would have been saved from the sufferings and the pains of death they had encountered, and they would receive much riches and wealth, the blessings of the world bestowed and promised to them by the king. However, to be saved temporarily in the world is not worth the loss of eternal salvation.

We have to remember in this case, what Jesus told His disciples about those who try to preserve their lives and thus lose their lives in the world that is to come, and also those who have lost their lives for the sake of the Lord, and therefore regain those lives manyfold, by the blessings of God’s eternal life. That was what Eleazar and the other faithful people of his time had done, enduring the sufferings of this world and its rejection that they might receive God’s grace and eternal glory.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who was a Hungarian princess renowned for her great piety and many charitable acts throughout her life, and even though she encountered great anguish of losing her husband and being widowed at a young age, she continued her life in a life dedicated to the Lord and used whatever wealth and possessions she had to help the poor.

It was not a way that was the norm in the world at that time, just as such behaviour is also not a commonly acceptable way in our world today. Our world always teaches us to be selfish and to think first of ourselves and all the goods we have before we think of others around us. This is just as what the king Antiochus tried to persuade the faithful with, in abandoning their faith.

The king promised riches, wealth and position in his government, his friendship and all the honour associated with it, if they would dishonour the covenant which God had made with them and followed the pagan ways and worshipped the pagan idols of the Greeks. But these goods, wealth and materials are all truly temporary and will not last. Neither will the happiness and the joys, the pleasures of this world will last forever.

That is why, for us the path is clear, but is not an easy one. We are easily tempted and lured away from the true path that leads to the Lord. And if we are not careful, we will be dragged into the inescapable path of destruction that lands us in eternal hell, the suffering from which there is no escape. Now we have to ask ourselves, whether we want for ourselves a temporary salvation from the sufferings of the world, or an eternal salvation with God.

Let us all devote ourselves more to the Lord and commit ourselves to Him in our actions, words and deeds. Let us not worry about acceptance by the world and any persecution or suffering that will come our way when we act in ways in accordance to the Lord’s bidding and against that of the world. Do not fear those that can only inflict destruction on the flesh, but fear more He Who can bring about eternal suffering and destruction of body and soul, when He rejects those wicked ones and cast them into hell.

May God bless us in all of our endeavours, and may He continue to guide us in this life, providing us with encouragement and blessings for all that we do, that we may be righteous, just and true to our faith in Him. May God bring us to the eternal life and the blessings He had promised us. Amen.