Thursday, 3 July 2014 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is St. Thomas, also known as the Twin and famously also as St. Thomas the doubter, the one whom we know in the Gospels to be the one who doubted that the Lord had risen from the dead after His Resurrection and after He had shown Himself to the Apostles except to St. Thomas, who was not with the others on that day.

And St. Thomas also voiced out openly his doubt when Jesus announced His intention to travel to Jerusalem for the last time, when He would eventually face His Passion and death, before the aforementioned Resurrection from the dead, which St. Thomas had no faith in. St. Thomas said to the other disciples, that they would go unto their death with Jesus together as they went to Jerusalem, in his own words, ‘Let us go and die together with Him.’

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this attitude which St. Thomas exhibited is truly common in our Church, and among all of us. It is easy for us to condemn others for their lack of faith, but we often fail to realise that in each one of us, we have our own ‘Thomases’ dwelling in us, and we often exhibited actions and behaviours that marks us as no better than little Thomases.

How often in our lives is it that we have so much on our hands and on our minds that we forget about God and about His existence? How often in our lives is it that we are angry at God for apparently not being there for us and accuse Him of abandoning us and ignoring us? And how many of us actually give thanks to God for His kindness and blessings in our lives, be it in big or small things? If we have done all these, or forgetting to do what is due to God, then we are just like Thomas the doubter.

But the quality of the faith that was in Thomas, was that he believed and repented his previous transgressions immediately once the Lord showed Himself to him in the fullness of His Risen glory. Thomas believed when he had seen and heard the Lord in person, to which Jesus kindly commented that, indeed that is good, but He said that how much better it would be if he had not doubted at the first place, that even without seeing the Lord, Thomas had believed.

We who believe in Jesus today, without witnessing directly the events of His life, death and resurrection are truly blessed indeed, because we believe without the need to witness directly the Lord and His majesty. But are we truly free from doubt and moments of weakness in our faith and devotion to the Lord? More often than not, this is not the case. In our lives, as history had often shown, mankind had succumbed too many times to doubt, especially in God’s providence and saving help, and came to rely on their own strength and ended up in darkness.

This is what we need to avoid, brethren, in each and every one of us. We should support each other to awaken the faith within us, that we are to have genuine faith in the Lord, one not based on blind obedience or lack of awareness of the Lord, but on the genuine faith that arise from the hearts of men. We need to follow in the example of St. Thomas and do even better than that.

Let us realise that the Lord is present, real and concrete, in the world around us through His love for us. Let us realise how much God truly cares for us, and let us doubt no longer but believe truthfully and completely place our trust in God. May we all be able to grow stronger in faith, hope and love, and make this world a truly better place for all the faithful ones in God. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 30 March 2014 : 4th Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Laetare Sunday)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the story of Jesus healing the blind man, and in the first reading story on the Lord’s choosing of David to be His faithful servant. In the series of readings from the Scriptures today, we are reminded today that we must never be selfish nor feel self-righteous and just to the impediment of others. We must never be judgmental nor be prejudiced against others because of who we perceive them to be.

God sees what is inside the heart, and what is truly man’s values and worth. He judges man not by his or her appearance, but by their true values and what are inside their hearts. God judges mankind by their heart not by their face values. Therefore we too should follow His examples and not be prejudiced against our fellow mankind in any way, especially in how they look and act.

It is in our human nature to feel hurt when we are challenged in our pride, or shown that the way that we believe in things is wrong. We easily fall to the temptations of jealousy and greed, and this shows in the way we act and do things. And that was also exactly what the Pharisees had shown, condemning and judging on the healed blind man, alleging that he was a sinner, when they felt that their teaching authority and influence was challenged.

They judged mankind by appearances, disdaining the poor and the disabled, those with diseases and afflictions, and they also set themselves by appearances, preferring to show off their rituals, prayers and observations of the faith so that others may see what they had done and praise them for that. This is the kind of faith the Lord does not want, for it is superficial and temporary, and it is not true and genuine faith to the Lord.

Yes, brethren, for in fact in their observations they gave in to the tempting forces of fulfilling their own ego and desires. They did those acts to gain human praise and worldly glory. They did not truly do them for God. They thought only of themselves and their own righteousness. And they rejected the Saviour sent to them, Jesus Christ, the very One and only Son of God, the Messiah.

That is because they saw Christ and they did not understand Him and what He had done. They were only able to think in terms of human power and glory, and in terms of human minds, which made them unable to comprehend the teachings of Jesus, and in their lack of faith and understanding, they hardened their hearts and sharpened the edges of their hearts’ pride, and made them resolved to resist and oppose Christ at every turns and opportunities.

They condemn the deaf because they were unable to hear, but they themselves were deaf, because they failed to listen and take in the message of Christ which He had spoken repeatedly as He taught, and yet they refused to believe. They condemned the blind ones because they were unable to see and mocked them for that, just as what they had done to the blind man Jesus healed in today’s Gospel.

They condemned tax collectors, prostitutes and many other people they considered as sinners and plagues of the society, thinking that they were beyond any redemption, but yet, they failed to look beyond their prejudices. They were blinded by their own pride and arrogance, thinking that they are the best over any other people. They failed to recognise that in them, an even greater sin was present.

What is this sin? This is the sin of condemnation, the sin of jealousy, the sin of arrogance, and the greatest of all, the sin of pride. Not only that they did not honour God in their pride, rejecting Jesus everywhere He went, but they also brought calamity to many of their fellow mankind, by condemning them, cursing them, and leading them to the false paths that did not lead to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this session however cannot become a bashing session for the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. They have had their share of faults, but shall we also look into ourselves? Have we ourselves done things in the same way that those Pharisees had done? It is easy for us to quickly judge others and be prejudiced, all because of our human pride and arrogance, thinking that we are better than others.

We sometimes look at the fault in others without realising our own faults and mistakes. We blame others and condemn them, quick to jump into conclusion, often without taking careful considerations of things before we judge.  That was the exact same thing that the Pharisees had done, disregarding their own sinfulness while calling others sinners.

They may look great, and like us, we may look amazing and wonderful, yes, indeed, in the eyes of men. But do we really look great in the eyes of God? Maybe, or maybe not. It all depends on whether we have done what the Lord asked of us to do, and not ignore those who are in need of our love and help. It does not mean that we must look utterly miserable in the eyes of men, but we cannot seek the glory of men and solely that, to the detriment of our brothers and sisters.

Hence, brethren, shall we reflect on our own lives and actions? We have to devote ourselves to complete and total devotion to God, changing our ways to conform to that of the Lord’s way. Loving one another and committing ourselves to that love is what is needed from us. And in order for us to be able to truly love genuinely without any hidden motives, we have to really cast away our prejudices and love our brethren as they are.

May the Lord guide us always in our path, that we will ever walk in His path and not to fall into the temptations of the devil. God be with us all. Amen.

 

Friday, 31 January 2014 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White (Priests)

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 6bc-7, 10-11

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone have I sinned.

What is evil in Your sight I have done. You are right when You pass sentence and blameless in Your judgment. For I have been guilt-ridden from birth, a sinner from my mother’s womb.

Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offenses.

Monday, 20 January 2014 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green and Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 6 January 2014 : Monday after the Epiphany (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : ‘The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a light has shone.'”

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people. The news about Him spread through the whole of Syria, and the people brought all their sick to Him, and all those who suffered : the possessed, the deranged, the paralysed, and He healed them all.

Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Ten Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea, and from across the Jordan.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013 : Seventh Day of the Christmas Octave, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 11-12, 13

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name; proclaim His salvation day after day.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them; let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy.

Let them sing before the Lord who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Friday, 27 December 2013 : Feast of St. John the Evangelist, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 11-12

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

He sheds light upon the upright, and gladness upon the just. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are blameless, and give praise to His holy Name.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Wisdom 2 : 23 – Wisdom 3 : 9

Indeed God created man to be immortal in the likeness of His own nature, but the envy of the devil brought death to the world, and those who take his side shall experience death.

The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. In the eyes of the unwise they appear to be dead. Their going is held as a disaster; it seems that they lose everything by departing from us, but they are in peace.

Though seemingly they have been punished, immortality was the soul of their hope. After slight affliction will come great blessings, for God has tried them and found them worthy to be with Him; after testing them as gold in the furnace, He has accepted them as a holocaust.

At the time of His coming they will shine like sparks that run in the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will be their king forever. Those who trust in Him will penetrate the truth, those who are faithful will live with Him in love, for His grace and mercy are for His chosen ones.

Monday, 4 November 2013 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White (Bishops)

Romans 11 : 29-36

Because the call of God and His gifts cannot be nullified. Through the disobedience of the Jews the mercy of God came to you who did not obey God. They in turn will receive mercy in due time after this disobedience that brought God’s mercy to you. So God has submitted all to disobedience, in order to show His mercy to all.

How deep are the riches, the wisdom, and knowledge of God! His decisions cannot be explained, nor His ways understood! Who has ever known God’s thoughts? Who has ever been His adviser? Who has given Him something first, so that God had to repay Him?

For everything comes from Him, has been made by Him and has to return to Him. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013 : 30th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today to all of us, the Lord revealed the nature of the kingdom of God, as well as the hidden nature of our eternal reward in God. The Lord warned us that His way will not be easy to follow, and there will be plenty of obstacles ahead of us, but the reward He promised us is great.

He likened the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, because a mustard plant when it was still a seed, is a very small and insignificant seed, that people tend to overlook and ignore. Yet when it grows to its full height, it is glorious, tall, and majestic, with long and extensive branches. No one would have expected that such a small seed would grow to be such a large and majestic tree. It is the nature of God’s kingdom and His salvation.

The Lord also likened it to yeast that leaven three measures of flour, until the flour becomes leavened bread. How is it like the kingdom of God and His salvation? It is because indeed, once again, the glory of God and the heavenly rewards that He offers us in salvation is hidden from us. It is only through perseverance and hard work, that we gain the rewards, that is the big, fluffy, and delicious leavened bread.

That is the aim of our life, the target that we all strive to reach, the eternal reward that God promised all of us. Yet, it is hidden behind the struggles that we all have to go through in this life. Therefore, if we look at it directly, it may seem that this path is particularly difficult and unappealing, and that is why many of us tend to choose the other way and look away from the path towards salvation in God.

Yet, what is the other option? The other option is apparently easier for us, and it seems that the path is less troublesome and more appealing, but that is the path to damnation, that is the path of the devil. It is an easy way, since the things that go against the Lord is truly much easier to do, than to follow the Lord and His precepts and laws. It is much easier to sin rather than to repent and do good. It is indeed a choice between an easier and more enjoyable life now on earth, and eternal suffering later on; or persecution and suffering on earth now, and eternal joy and happiness later on.

The Lord Jesus had come upon us and become one of us, to share with us and reveal to us the nature of God’s kingdom, which we will share in, if we remain faithful and committed to the cause of the Lord, and do not stray away from the path of righteousness. He revealed to us the love of God, and the promised salvation, the rewards that is ours if we remain faithful. Although the rewards are indeed good and wonderful, but the path to reach them is perilous.

What are we to do then, brothers and sisters in Christ? We ought to work hard to reach out to the Lord, and to follow Him and His laws. It will definitely not be easy, but if we do not make the effort, we will never be able to reach that desired end. Instead, if we remain idle and do not make the effort, the path to salvation will be further and further away from us, and we will be closer to the path of doom and eternal damnation, out of which, we will never escape.

Therefore, what can be do? Pray, and pray hard, and keep the Lord ever close to our hearts. If the Lord is in us and He is ever close to us, we will be less likely to stray away from His path. Open ourselves to His love, and humbly seek His mercy. The kingdom of God awaits those who are loving, merciful, humble, and faithful. There is nothing impossible for God, and certainly, the same too applies for us, if we keep the Lord as our anchor and the centre of our lives.

May the Lord our God who promised us the reward of eternal life and His eternal kingdom, continue to bless us, embrace us, and shower us with His love and graces. May we too remain faithful to Him and keep faithfully on His path, always, till the end of our days. Amen.