Saturday, 8 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, from the first reading in which we heard the words of the prophet Habakkuk, we heard of the words of anguish spoken by the prophet on behalf of the people highlighting their frustrations and desperation seeing how those who were righteous and faithful suffered and endured bitter trials while those who were wicked seemingly managed to live on without harm or trouble.

But the Lord reassured His people and told them that He will never abandon them no matter what, and that everything will happen as it has been deemed by God, and everything will happen in due time. When we think that why is it that those who were wicked rejoiced and lived while the righteous and the faithful suffered, then we must remember that every bits of sin, no matter how small, will be left untouched, when the Lord judges all of His people at the time of the Last Judgment.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus and His interaction with a man who approached Him begging on Him to heal his son, who had been afflicted with epileptic activity, which at that time was also one of the signs of the demonic possession. The man said that although he had sought the disciples, but they were not able to heal the child from his condition, and he therefore asked the Lord to help him.

The Lord rebuked His disciples and those who followed Him for their lack of faith, and after immediately healing the man’s child without issue, spoke of just how little faith they truly had in Him, that they doubted Him and doubted the ability and power by which He could have saved the child. We may indeed be a bit confused by everything that happened, but contextually, it was likely that first of all, the disciples thought that the miracles they performed were because of their own power and might, and not by God’s power.

And it was also likely and possible that the disciples themselves had doubts in their hearts and minds, and they had not yet trusted the Lord completely, as what the Apostle St. Thomas frequently showed during the days of his ministry with the Lord, as he constantly spoke out showing his doubt and disagreements with the Lord, in the midst of the other disciples. The other disciples, although they might not be as skeptical as St. Thomas had been in those days, but they were likely to have their doubts as well.

This is just like what the prophet Habakkuk, speaking the sentiments of the people as included in our first reading today, was exactly speaking about. The prophet’s words was a representation of the people’s doubts, and how those doubts in fact became themselves obstacles in the path of the people in realising that God truly cared for each and every one of them. God reassured His people and showed His love, that no power on earth or beyond earth, are capable of standing between us and Him.

Just as the Lord spoke of the coming of reckoning for Assyria and all the enemies of the faithful, thus, in our Gospel passage today, the Lord showed before all those who doubted Him, either intentionally or unintentionally, those with weak and wavering faith, that He is truly faithful to the Covenant He had made with us, and He will always uphold His words, as He liberated and healed the man’s son from his troubles, from whatever demonic possessions or other shackles he had been troubled with.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Do we still doubt the Lord and do we still lack the faith that God is always with us and by our side even in our darkest times and in our most challenging moments? Especially as many of us suffered during these past weeks and months, losing our jobs and livelihood, suffering in health, in body or in mind, and as we endure the continuing and depressing impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic, the associated economic collapse and troubles, among other things.

Are we still having faith in God, and believe that even in the midst of great challenges, that God is still there with us? If we do not, then perhaps it is because our relationship with God is not strong and good enough as it should have been. As unless we are deeply committed to God, and live in the midst of His love and grace, and appreciating His daily blessings, it is unlikely that our faith in God will be strong and enduring.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why this day as we celebrate the feast of one of the most renowned saints in the Church, namely St. Dominic, also known as St. Dominic the Guzman, the Founder of the Order of Preachers, also famously known after their founder as the Dominicans, we ought to look upon St. Dominic as our great example and inspiration in faith. St. Dominic was remembered for his tremendous zeal and commitment in serving the Lord, his great piety and dedication he showed in serving the Lord and His Church.

St. Dominic had been renowned for his piety even from a very young age, when he was still very young and famine ravaged the lands. It was told that St. Dominic donated part of his possessions to help the poor and feed those who had been terribly afflicted by the great hunger. St. Dominic then dedicated himself to be a holy and devout priest, and dedicated his time to preach to the people, especially in his efforts to convert the Cathar heretics who have abandoned the true faith in the region now part of southern France.

As St. Dominic began his efforts in trying to convert the heretics, he began gathering the effort to establish a religious order of like-minded men who would reach out to those who have erred and fell away from the right path, as what the charism of the Order of Preachers is all about. St. Dominic led the efforts of the Dominicans as they were all came to be known for, in preaching the words of truth to the people and calling them to embrace once again the truth and love of God.

St. Dominic also helped the faithful to renew their faith and commitment in God through the deepening of their spiritual lives, most well-known being through the popularisation of the use of the rosary as a prayer, which eventually would become one of the most popular of devotions in the Church, helping to connect countless souls throughout the ages to the Lord, with the assistance of His blessed mother, Mary.

Through his many great contributions and his establishment of the Dominicans, St. Dominic showed us all that God can do so many great deeds before us, if only that we allow Him to act through each and every one of us just as He had done with St. Dominic. And this is only possible if we lead a life of virtue, faith and love as St. Dominic had done, and all of us are called to follow in his footsteps, in putting our trust and faith in God, and in obeying His will at all times, in our lives. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 7 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, Pope and Companions, Martyrs and St. Cajetan, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are reminded that we have all been called to follow the Lord and to focus our attention on Him, as those whom He had called and chosen to be His people. And at the same time we are also reminded that to follow God and to be faithful to Him will often require from us dedication and commitment that may lead us down the path filled with obstacles and challenges.

That is why the Lord said to His disciples as described in our Gospel passage today, that for all those who want to follow Him must take up their crosses and follow Him. This means that we ought to share in the Cross and the sufferings that He had borne for our sake, and strive to seek the Lord and His righteousness above all other things, and to look beyond the false glory, pleasures and satisfactions of the world, resist the temptations and remaining faithful to God.

Indeed, this will not be an easy task, as just the Lord encountered plenty of opposition and challenges from those who disagreed with Him and refused to believe in Him, was persecuted and forced to endure humiliation, punished for the punishment that He was innocent from, and bore the cross of condemnation, and we heard how these enemies also acted against His disciples, that is why as followers of Christ, we too are likely to suffer the same fate as the Lord, hated and despised by the world.

That is why, we are presented with the choice, whether we want to follow the Lord, taking up our crosses in life and walking with Him, or whether we want to follow the path of the world, to embrace the path of disobedience and sins against God. These are the paths and choices presented to us, and unless we have strong faith in God, it is very easy for us to fall into the temptation to walk away from God.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Nahum, we heard of the Lord’s promise to His people that He shall crush the wicked and all those who have oppressed His people. It is the promise that the Lord will be faithful and will stand by His people in the midst of persecution and suffering. He will not abandon them to the darkness, and while for a while they might suffer, in the end, those who have kept their faith in Him will be triumphant while those who opposed Him and rejected Him will be crushed and destroyed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is therefore a kind reminder for us not to easily give in to the temptation to sin and disobey God, although the path of faith may seem to be challenging and daunting. In the end, as the
Lord said, “What worth is it for man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” This shows us that it is better for man to lose the whole world and yet remain in God’s grace. For the pleasures and glory of this world is all but temporary, while the soul is eternal.

What worth is it therefore for us to gain the comforts and pleasures of this world if we end up losing in the battle for our souls? When the souls of the wicked and those who were unrepentant are judged and condemned, they will all suffer for eternity from which there is no recourse or any way out at all. All these for the temporary taste of worldly goodness and joy, and in the end, eternal suffering awaits us all.

And the devil and his forces are always active out there trying to pull us away from God’s path, by tempting us to follow the temptations of our desires, by presenting to us many forms of worldly pleasures and false leads, into which if we succumb to them, it will be difficult for us to get out and escape, unless we make the conscious effort to resist those temptations. What shall we do then? This is where we should thus look on the examples set by our predecessors in faith.

Pope St. Sixtus II, holy Pope and Martyr, together with his many companions were persecuted by the Roman Empire and the pagans, who tried to destroy the Church and crush the faithful. Pope St. Sixtus II led the Church during the turbulent days of the Church when persecutions were rampant, and even so, he dedicated his life and effort to unite the Church, and tradition stated that he successfully restored the relations between the Church in Greece and Africa that had been torn apart and divided by certain issues earlier on.

And to the very end, when the Roman Emperor Valerian continued the persecution of the Church and the faithful, Pope St. Sixtus II was among the many faithful arrested for refusing to abandon their faith in God, and despite the efforts to convince them otherwise, and the pressures, Pope St. Sixtus II and his companions in faith chose to remain faithful to the very end, dying as martyrs rather than to enjoy reprieve and comfort by giving in to the state.

Meanwhile, today we also celebrate the feast of St. Cajetan, a priest and also founder of the Religious Order of the Theatines, remembered very well for his care and concern for the poor and the needy, for those who were suffering especially from spiritual sickness and the lack of faith. He chose to dedicate his time, effort and attention to help all those who have lost their compass and guidance in life, and chose to spend much time to care for their needs and guide them back to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we see from today’s saints’ examples, we can see how being faithful and doing what the Lord had asked us to do is not something that can easily be done, and we see just what kind of difficulties and trials that they all had to face, and how some had to endure even death in martyrdom for being faithful. But this is exactly what is meant by ‘taking up our crosses and following the Lord’, for being Christians is not one of inaction and comfort, but instead one of dedication and commitment.

Let us all therefore discern carefully from now on, how we will carry on living our lives, with all the opportunities that we have been given. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith and be ever more genuine and devoted in our love for God from this moment onwards. May the Lord, our loving God, continue to guide us and help lead us down the right path in life, giving us the strength to carry our crosses faithfully and follow Him wholeheartedly, all the days of our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we rejoice in the remembrance of the historic event of the Dedication or Consecration of the Papal Basilica St. Mary Major, also known well by its Italian name, Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. This is one of the four great Papal Major Basilicas, and it is also the most important of churches and basilicas dedicated to the Blessed Mother of God.

The Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major is a great Marian shrine, most well-known for its holy icon of the ‘Maria Salus Populi Romani’ or the Protectress of the Roman people. This icon is a Byzantine style icon that dated from the fifth or century after the birth of Christ, and therefore had been around in Rome for a very long time, and was well-known and had great following both in Rome and beyond. In recent years, our Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis had been visiting the icon before and after his foreign trips and thus made the icon even more popular.

The icon of ‘Salus Populi Romani’ further highlighted the Marian character of this great church and Basilica, but how did this Basilica came up to be in the first place? It was one of the oldest churches in Rome, lasting from the late era of the Roman Empire, from a time not long after Christianity was tolerated and eventually became the official faith of the entire Empire. This Basilica was also often known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Snows for the well-known miraculous occurrence that led to the foundation of the Basilica.

It was told in the Church history and tradition that a Roman patrician named John and his wife made a vow to donate their personal land and wealth as they had no son and heir to continue their family and inherit their legacy. They made the vow to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and they prayed asking for guidance and help in finding the proper site to build a church dedicated to God and to His blessed Mother.

And in the most wonderful and miraculous way, on the fifth day of August, on one of the hills of Rome, the Esquiline Hill on which the Basilica of St. Mary Major now stands, during the very height of the hot Roman summer, snow falls on the hill and covered the very spot that Mary had marked for this great shrine and church. And that was how this great Basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Snows, the Blessed Virgin Mary, came to be.

Ever since then, the Basilica had stood for many centuries as the symbol of the faith that all of us mankind has in the Lord through His mother Mary, and it has become a strong rallying point and place for devotees and the faithful, inspiring many to return to the faith. And this homage to the Blessed Mother of God was also part of the affirmation that came with the official recognition of Mary as the Mother of God at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, which took place around the time the Basilica was built and dedicated.

Why is it that we have such great dedication and devotion to Mary? That is because we honour her first and foremost as the Mother of God, by virtue of her being the mother of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who is both God and Man, and because Mary is the Mother of Him Who is God Incarnate, that is why she is also the Mother of God. And throughout history the mother of an important persona, such as rulers and kings have always had great honour applied to them.

And even more so than just this, Mary is so honoured because of her exemplary faith and dedication, her righteousness and piety, her love for her Son, all the virtues she has possessed that are great examples and inspiration for each and every one of us. Indeed, if the Lord were to point out for someone or an example for us to follow, first and foremost, He is likely to say, “There is My mother, follow her and her examples, devote yourself to her, and you will find the straightest path to heaven.”

That is why, as we celebrate the Dedication of this church and House of God, we recall Mary, the mother of God, and her brilliant examples in faith. Let us all follow her and be inspired by her and love God wholeheartedly as Mary had once done. Let us all look towards the Lord with faith, and commit ourselves anew to Him, with His mother Mary by our side, guiding us on the path forward that we will always do what the Lord has taught us to do, that indeed, we will be blessed because we obey God’s will and does what He wants us to do as said in our Gospel passage today.

O Holy Mother of God, Mary, Our Lady of Snows, most virtuous and wonderful of all the children of man, pray for us and intercede for our sake always, before your Son in heaven. Pray for all of us sinners now, and at the hour death, and lead us all into your Son, that He may show us mercy and forgive us our sins. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate as the whole Universal Church the feast of the great saint, St. John Vianney, the renowned Patron saint of all priests and all those who have dedicated themselves in the sacred priesthood in serving the people of God. St. John Vianney, also known by his epithet of the ‘Curé of Ars’, based on the town in which he based himself at, was a truly great and holy man of God that should be our inspiration in how we should live up our faith.

St. John Vianney was born into a devout Catholic family and spent the early days of his youth enduring plenty of difficulties due to the upheavals caused by the French Revolution. Most importantly, for St. John Vianney and his devout family, it was tough for them as many people especially those who supported the revolution who persecuted the Church and those who remained faithful, and they often had to travel far in order to find and participate regularly in the Holy Mass as priests were being persecuted and many were martyred, and celebrations of the Mass sometimes had to be done in secret.

All these and what the young St. John Vianney saw in the priests who still braved through persecutions and celebrating the Holy Mass in secret during those difficult years inspired him in his own journey and calling to priesthood, and he grew up strong in faith despite the challenges that he had to endure throughout his formative years. He did face difficulties in his academics and studies however, as the Revolution interrupted his crucial young academic formation years.

And the wars that occurred during that time under the reign of the Emperor Napoleon caused further trouble to this young aspirant, as he was drafted to the army and further disrupting his studies. Sickness and other circumstances caused him to unintentionally deserted from the army. Nonetheless, God helped the young man and having been pardoned from the desertion, he could once again continue with his studies, which he nonetheless faced a lot of difficulties from.

As he was struggling with Latin and other academic matters, St. John Vianney was almost expelled or suspended from his formation as a priest, because he was considered too slow and sluggish in his studies, unpromising and uneducated. But thanks to the intervention of a local priest, Abbé Balley, St. John Vianney managed to receive his minor ordination and eventually ordination to the sacred order of priesthood, as his piety was used as a reason to push him through the formation.

Because of his issues, he was assigned to be the parish priest of a small and insignificant village of Ars, a small village of merely just over two hundred individuals. Not only that St. John Vianney got lost as he travelled to the secluded village, but he also faced great difficulties from the indifference showed by most of the people, his parishioners, many of whom did not practice their faith and led a wretched life. St. John Vianney was determined to do what he could in order to resolve the situation.

As the local parish priest, St. John Vianney began to do the work to undo the worst damages caused by the French Revolution among other things, spending much time providing for the needs of the people, and he spent long hours in the confessionals, as more and more people gradually became touched by his efforts and outreach, his commitment, his piety and humble outlook in life. He spent much effort in reaching out to sinners, and long lines came to form as more and more people came to him to confess their sins and seeking his guidance and advice, and miracles were told by those who witnessed it.

For all of these, all the dedication that St. John Vianney had showed, someone who was slow and academically challenged due to the circumstances of his youth and formative years, almost did not succeed in fulfilling his calling to be a priest, all in the end did not matter because what mattered was that St. John Vianney was faithful and true to his faith in God. And in answering God’s call, St. John Vianney gave himself wholeheartedly and with true zeal and love, as a great and true inspiration for all of us to follow.

Are we all willing to follow in the footsteps of St. John Vianney? For all of his dedication and exemplary actions as priest and shepherd to those entrusted under his care, and to countless others who came to him seeking God’s help, St. John Vianney was honoured as the Patron saint of all priests, especially the parish priests. While not all of us are called to be priests, and each one of us have our own vocations and calling in life, be it as priests, as religious brothers or sisters, as lay members of the Church, as responsible members of family in sacred matrimony and those who have dedicated themselves to holy life, all of us are called to look upon the examples of St. John Vianney, humble servant of God, holy man of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to be holy and exemplary in life, following the good examples of St. John Vianney. Let us all dedicate ourselves to God anew and serve Him faithfully through our holy and pious lives from now on, that just as St. John Vianney had done, we may also lead more and more people to the salvation in God by our holy lives and faithful examples. St. John Vianney, holy patron of saints, pray for all of us and especially our priests that they may indeed be holy as you were, and that our priests may have the ‘heart of a priest’ like you. Amen.

Monday, 3 August 2020 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us to trust in the Lord, in His promises and in His providence. We must listen to God and hold onto Him, and be careful not to be easily swayed by the words of the false prophets and all those who may attempt to mislead us for their own benefits and selfish gains.

In our first reading today we heard from the story of how the prophet Jeremiah faced tough opposition from all those false prophets that were present during the end days of the kingdom of Judah, as those false prophets tried to mislead the king and the whole nation for their own benefits and gains. For example, when the prophet Jeremiah constantly warned all of them that the Lord’s judgment and day of reckoning would come upon them with the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah, the false prophets tried to speak otherwise.

The false prophet Hananiah spoke to the king before everyone that the Lord would help Judah to crush the Babylonians, and helped to reverse all the losses and humiliations that they had suffered under the latter. But this was not the truth or the words of God, rather, it was the words of opportunism and designed to please its listeners. Hananiah said something that everyone wanted to here, reassurance and hope, but unfortunately it was false reassurance and false hope.

What Hananiah had told the king and everyone was meant to earn him a good standing among the king and his council members, and history had often showed that, sometimes, such people were indeed possible to have been agents of the enemy, placed in the court of the king to sow confusion and to undermine them before the enemy themselves were to strike. Hananiah might not have been an agent of the enemy, but his actions and some among the courtiers and the people might have been hidden agents, supporting what Hananiah said to support their own agenda.

In the end, the kings of Judah rebelled against the Babylonians and wanted to free themselves from subjugation by the latter. They thought that they could free themselves from the bondage and servitude to the kings of Babylon by depending on politicking and support of the world, and their ego filled with the false words of the false prophets like Hananiah among many others. If only that they could see the futility of their efforts and how they would be humiliated and crushed for their lack of faith in God.

Through all of these, we are all reminded and shown that to trust in man and in the world is futile and pointless, as none of these can compare to the Lord, His providence and everything that He has done for our sake. In the Gospel we heard of the story of the Lord coming to His disciples in the middle of a great storm walking on the water, and the disciples were all very afraid that their boat would sink due to the waves and wind hitting and rocking their boat.

But the Lord told them all not to be afraid and to trust in Him. And as unbelievable as it might have been to them to see the Lord walking on the water, even to the point of thinking that they had seen a ghost, the Lord reassured them and said that it was indeed Him that they had seen. St. Peter asked the Lord that if that was truly Him, then he would be able to come to Him walking on the water. But along the way, St. Peter still doubted even as he miraculously walked on the water, proving that the Lord’s words were indeed true.

The Lord helped St. Peter when he doubted and almost sank into the water, rebuking him for his lack of trust and faith in Him that made him doubted. This is why all of us are reminded today of this need to put God first and foremost as our trusted hope and ally in whatever situation and challenges we encounter in life. We must not be like the king of Judah who easily trusted in the falsehoods of Hananiah, in the lies of the false prophets who tried to sell forth untruths and temporary respite and comfort, but one that lasts only for a short while before the reality comes and sets in.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all from now on put more faith and trust in God, putting our trust in Him Who has provided for us and blessed us with His love. And God has proved to be ever faithful even in our darkest moments and hours. Let us all cling to Him and do not fall to the temptation of pleasure and listening to the lies of the devil, all the falsehoods that did not come from God. Instead, although the path forward may be filled with trials and challenges, let us all trust in the Lord, Who has always been faithful to the Covenant He has established with us, all the time.

Just as He lifted St. Peter up from the water and helped him to renew his faith in Him, let us all pray and ask the Lord for the strength and faith to be always ready to persevere in faith, that we may indeed be filled with trust and faith in God, now and always. May God bless us all and guide us through our journey in life. Amen.

Sunday, 2 August 2020 : Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday all of us heard one clear message from our Scripture readings today, that God is Love, and God loves each and every one of us so greatly and so wonderfully that we must really appreciate all that He had done for us all these while. Too often we mankind have ignored God’s love, rejected His compassion and mercy and preferring to do things our own way. Imagine how terrible it is for to be so stubborn and to rebel against God Who has loved us all so very much.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord spoke to us all, calling on us to look for Him, that He will provide for us whatever we need, be it food or drink, be it sustenance in other form, as well as love and care, and He will fulfil the Covenant that He had once made with our ancestors, and which He has renewed again and again throughout time, and which He made one final renewal for all eternity in the New Covenant that He has established through Christ, His Son.

And in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the well-known miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, as the Lord was faced with five thousand men and thousands more of women and children, their family members, who followed Him as He taught them and spoke to them of God’s truth and love. As we all know, the Lord miraculously fed all the multitudes of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, blessing them and breaking them for all the people to eat until they were all satisfied.

The Lord fed His people who hungered for food, and not just the physical food as we heard how they all ate of the bread and the fish, but in fact also, the food of the Word of God, as the people listened to the Lord teaching to them. The Lord said, that ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from the mouth of God’. It is there then the Lord, the Divine Word Incarnate in the flesh, became the Bread of Life for all of His people.

Thus, from what we have heard in today’s Gospel and the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of just how God fulfilled His promises and words, that truly, He meant every single words that He had said, and gave us the ultimate gift and the perfect manifestation of His love in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. For through Him we received the guarantee of eternal life and glory with Him, that by our living and genuine faith, we are to be part of this Covenant He has made with us.

As I said earlier on, God is Love, brothers and sisters in Christ, and God’s love is the very reason why the world and all of us exist. God is perfect in all things, and His perfection means that He does not have need for anything. Yet, in the overflowing love that exists between the members of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, God Who is Love created all of us to share in this wonderful love, for that is what love is all about, to show care and concern, passion and desire for the best things for one another.

And God’s love for us is so powerful, great and all-encompassing that St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans in our second reading today said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ and he also said how no power, no matter how great, be it on earth, in heaven or hell, or from wherever in the universe or beyond, will be able to separate us from the love of God, the wonderful, gentle and all-encompassing love of God. God’s love has been provided for us so generously, and which He has shown again and again through the generations, just as our Gospel passage today is just one small example of this Love.

Yet, the question that often then comes to our mind is that, ‘Lord, if You love me so much, why is it then I have to suffer in this world?’ And this question is often the number one reason why we doubt, why we are unsure of God’s love, why we even become angry at God and refuse to believe in Him. We see suffering all around us, and which we also see in ourselves, and we doubt God’s love and even existence, for after all, if God does love us, then shouldn’t all of us be happy and good?

This is then where we need to understand that while God’s love for us have always been genuine, unconditional and true, the same often cannot be said for us. Our love is often conditional, selfish and self-centred, tainted with desire and greed, with jealousy and even with hatred. And that is why we have not been able to experience the fullness of God’s love as all the many temptations and obstacles present in our lives prevented us from truly experiencing this true love.

For example, on the matter of hunger and food, sustenance and providence that we have focused on a lot today, a lot of people may ask, if God truly loves us, then why is it that people are suffering daily from hunger, from famine, from lack of food and from impoverishment? Should all these things be absent if God truly loves us? These are definitely questions that run through our minds if we look at the situation all around us. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the answer is actually simpler than what we think.

God’s love has been abundantly given to us, and He has blessed us wonderfully. In the optimal and expected condition, this would have meant that everyone has enough for themselves, and yet, if we look around carefully, don’t we see plenty of inequalities, as some people dined in great excess and how food wastage is common in many countries, just as others suffered from hunger and famine in other countries? It was in fact our greed that had led to this sad and unfortunate situation.

What do I mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was our misuse and indeed, abuse of God’s wonderful love and also freedom given to us that led to much suffering of all forms all around the world, in the past as it is in the present now and how it will also be in the future. As people succumbed to their greed and the temptations in desiring for more good things for themselves, this led to oppression, manipulation, extortion and even exploitation of others just so that some people can enjoy benefits at the cost to others, those who are less powerful, less wealthy and less privileged.

Alas, this is exactly what I meant when I said that the way we mankind has loved is imperfect, conditional, selfish and self-centred. We allow our ego and pride to mislead us, and greed to pull us into the trap of selfishness and self-centredness, and we have not loved as God loved us, as we were so preoccupied with ourselves and our desires that we ended up hurting others, being unfair, selfish and wicked in our actions in life.

That is why today, all of us as Christians are reminded that as God is Love, and as He has shared His love with us, we too shall love just as the Lord has loved us, in an unconditional, selfless and sincere way. This is true, genuine love that all of us must have within us, and which we must aspire to and spread in our practice towards one another. As children of humanity, and as God’s beloved children, and all the more, as Christians, we need to walk in the path of God’s love.

Therefore, we need to show this love through our every day actions, through every little gestures and interactions we have with one another. We must remember how God fed His multitudes of thousands and everyone had enough, just as in the past, during the Exodus, God fed His people with manna and everyone had enough to eat, with no one lacking or had excess, and as proven by the twelve baskets of leftovers that God had given His people more than enough.

As it was our selfishness and greed that caused hunger, suffering and sorrow for many, then it is our responsibility and calling to be the ones leading the way and show everyone the path of God’s love. Are we willing to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to show God’s wonderful love to our fellow brothers and sisters, and are we willing to challenge the customary ways of this world by rejecting the inherent selfishness and greed present in our current way of life?

As we all share in the one Body of Christ, let us all remember that we are first and foremost brothers and sisters, one family in the same one Lord, and through Him we have been united and have a share in His infinite and amazing love. Let us share God’s blessings by being more generous in giving, in whatever means we are able to, in order to help those who are less fortunate and suffering in our midst, especially this year as we have seen so many people suffered the extended effects of the pandemic and economic troubles in the past few months.

Many people have suffered, lost their jobs and getting retrenched, lost their pay or got their wages and salaries cut or suspended. Many people have fallen sick and suffered, not just from pandemic but also from various other health problems and are facing issues because of the strain being experienced by healthcare systems worldwide. And many lost their loved ones from these illnesses and from other reasons.

And we have seen how during these difficult and challenging times, the stresses and trials caused great friction and conflict within our communities, that we saw all the civil disturbances, riots and troubles that occurred between the divided members of our communities, as people fought one another over matters of racial divisions and prejudices, economic imbalance and insecurities, biases and intolerance. We have seen how people acted selfishly in trying to protect themselves, hoarding for essential goods and items that created scarcity for others who really needed the supplies.

Unfortunately, Christians were among many of those who participated in these actions, these selfishness and lack of compassion which caused even greater anguish and suffering for those who have already suffered. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on this and discern in what way that we can share the love of God in our communities beginning from now, if we have not done so yet. Let us all be filled with God’s love and love Him first and foremost, and love one another with genuine love, now and always.

May the Lord, our loving God and Father continue to love us as He has always patiently been doing all these while. May He grant us the strength to continue to show the same love, and the perseverance and compassion in our hearts, to reach out to our less fortunate brethren all around us, to those who were unloved and poor, those who had been marginalised and suffered, especially during these difficult days and times. May God bless us and our good endeavours and works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the message from the Sacred Scriptures in which we are again reminded to abandon sin and evil, to turn away from the path of disobedience and instead embrace God’s path. We heard how our predecessors had refused to listen to the Lord and His messengers, the prophets, and instead succumbed to temptation that led them to sin more and more against God.

In our first reading today we heard of the prophet Jeremiah, continuing from the narrative of the previous few days, as he was accused of fear-mongering and even treason for his words, which was in truth the words of the Lord Himself warning that unless the people all changed their way of life, reject sin and evil, be reconciled with God, they would suffer the consequences, which included the destruction of their nation and city, the desecration of the Temple and House of God.

But the people accused him of slandering and treason against the king, nation and the people and refused to listen to the words of the Lord. Yet, as we heard in today’s first readings, just as Jeremiah left himself and his fate at the hands of those who were up against him, speaking that he had spoken whatever the Lord had commanded him to say and presented his case to them, there were still some of those who took Jeremiah’s side and protected him from harm’s way.

Although this saved Jeremiah from death, but in the end, this did not change the fate of the kingdom of Judah and the people, who were crushed by the Babylonians, had their city and Temple destroyed, and most of them sent to decades of exile in Mesopotamia and Babylon. And the words of Jeremiah was therefore proven to be correct, and it was unfortunate that the people had been stubborn and allowed themselves to be affected by their ego and pride in refusing to believe him.

Then, in our Gospel passage today we heard about the story of king Herod of Galilee, who was admonished by St. John the Baptist for his wicked and adulterous behaviour with his own brother’s wife, Herodias, while his brother was likely still alive. This immoral action constituted adultery and grave sin, and as a king and ruler of the people, all the more it was unbecoming for the king to have committed such a sin.

Instead of listening to the words of wisdom and truth from St. John the Baptist, reflecting and correcting his way, king Herod chose to arrest and imprison the man of God, and later on, by the plotting of Herodias who despised the saint for his opposition to her adultery, Herod ended up being forced to execute St. John the Baptist by beheading, and therefore, the innocent blood of the saint stained his hands and those who have plotted against him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day therefore all of us are reminded that we need to look at our lives and how we have acted thus far. Have we been following God and His ways, listening to Him and obeying His precepts and laws? Or have we instead allowed ourselves to be swayed and tempted by the temptations of power and glory, of pride and greed, of material wealth and worldly matters? Have we been blinded by our obsession with all these things that we have lost our way like the people of Israel of old and also king Herod?

That is why today, as we reflect on these matters, we should also look up at the examples shown by our saint whose feast we celebrate this day. St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known better as the Redemptorists, was a truly holy man and a role model that we can emulate in our own lives. St. Alphonsus Liguori was remembered for his great piety and dedication to serve the people of God.

At that time, St. Alphonsus Liguori dedicated much of his time serving the poor and the needy in his community, as a priest caring for the spiritual needs of the people, being engaged and in touch with their plight and troubles. He was notable for his simple and yet effective homilies, his courageous and loving outreach to those under his care and the people in his community. St. Alphonsus encouraged the people to spend more quality time with God, caring for their spiritual needs and organising prayers and activities to support that. Many people converted and became more active again in living their faith through his efforts.

And eventually St. Alphonsus Liguori founded the Redemptorists as a religious order, gathering people with like-minded intention to follow his drive to seek the lost souls and all those who have been distanced away from God. The emphasis on the loving Most Holy Redeemer, the call for repentance and conversion is the cornerstone of the Redemptorist order charism and work. Over the many years, St. Alphonsus Liguori, his followers and many other Redemptorists touched countless people that they brought back from the brink of damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what the Lord has called us to do in our lives, to devote our time and effort to serve the Lord and to inspire more and more people to be faithful to God in all of their ways. The Lord has given us all His love and He has always been patient with us all these while, but we are the ones who have often ignored Him and rejected His efforts in reaching out to us.

Let us all therefore walk in the footsteps of St. Alphonsus Liguori, opening our hearts and minds and allowing God to lead us that through our lives, sanctified and blessed by His love, we may be inspiration for others just as how St. Alphonsus Liguori inspired many people to turn back to faith instead of being stubborn like that of the Israelites and king Herod. May the Lord bless us all in our every endeavours and good work, now and always. And may St. Alphonsus Liguori intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listen to the words of the Scripture we are reminded that we have often been stubborn and rebellious before God, and we have often ignored the Lord’s genuine love and call for us to return to Him, as history and Scriptural records and truth had revealed to us. As it had once happened at that time, so it has happened again at present and will happen again in the future.

In the first reading today, taken from the passage of the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the words of the Lord that He spoke through Jeremiah and which He asked of the prophet to convey to the people of Judah, calling them all to repent and turn away from their sins, that He might forgive them and stay His wrath from them all and rescind the punishments for the many sins that the people had committed all those while.

And the Lord also reminded His people that unless they repent from their sins, then what happened to the sanctuary of Shiloh would also happen to them all, as a kind and loving reminder that God still yet gave more and more chances to His people to repent and turn away from their sins. For the context, the sanctuary of Shiloh historically had been important religious centre for the Israelites since the days of the Judges before the rise of the kingdom of Israel.

And Shiloh was likely the place where the then Judge and High Priest Eli had his seat and where the Ark of the Covenant was kept under the Holy Tent. When the two wicked sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas led the Israelites against the Philistines who raided and attacked them, they brought the Ark of the Covenant with them, thinking that they would win and triumph over the Philistines. On the contrary, they suffered a terrible defeat, the wicked Hophni and Phinehas were killed and the Ark of God was taken away by the enemy.

The story of the sanctuary of Shiloh was a great tragedy and humiliation for the Israelites, and the utterance of the place was the way for the Lord to convey the message to the Israelites that if they continued on in their path of wickedness and sin, just as it had happened before, then it would happen again. And this was proven correct later on, as within about two decades, both Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Babylonians, the Temple destroyed and the Ark went missing since then.

It was a humiliation on a perhaps much greater scale than the humiliation of Shiloh, but it could have been prevented had the people then been more humble and accepting of God’s love and mercy. But they hardened their hearts as we heard from our first reading today, opposing Jeremiah and protesting publicly against him and whatever he had said and done, while refusing to reinspect and relook once again at their own lives and actions, their lack of faith and sin.

In the Gospel today, we heard a parallel story in how Jesus was doubted and rejected by none other than His own townspeople, those who had seen Him grow up in their midst, His neighbours and even perhaps friends. Those were the same people who expressed doubt and disbelief at the Lord after hearing Him speak and performing miracles. They had seen Him grow up in a poor carpenter family just like many of them, in a poor backwater village in Galilee. Therefore, it could even be seen as the people being jealous and refused to believe that the Lord Jesus could have been genuine.

It is sad how these attitudes are leading people away from God, and they kept so many people in their ego and pride, their hardened hearts and closed minds that they ended up being ever more and more distant from God. Yet, God has always been patient in reaching out to us and calling on us to follow Him despite our many transgressions and disobedience. And just as the path of disobedience leads to our downfall and annihilation, should we turn away from sin and be reconciled with God, then a bright future awaits us.

Today, we remember the memory of one of such converts, a great saint and holy man of God, devout as priest and champion of Christendom against its many troubles and enemies. Yet, when this holy man of God was young, he was not at all devout, and treated God as someone insignificant and distant, preferring to seek worldly ambitions and dreams of glory and might, as the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits can tell us.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born into a minor noble family in northern part of what is now Spain. He was brought up in the common norm of the time as part of the nobility, surrounded by wealth, power and privileges, and the young St. Ignatius of Loyola dreamt of great pursuits and noble, chivalrous deeds as was expected of many among the nobles then. To that extent, in the pursuit of glory and power, St. Ignatius of Loyola joined the military, and at that time, wars and conflicts characterised many parts of Christendom as kings fought for power and influence.

In one of the sieges, St. Ignatius of Loyola was badly injured and he had to stay in the hospital to treat his terrible wounds. As he was bedridden for a while, he was initially restless and wanted to resume his previous military career. But his almost life-threatening injury ended his military life, and he went through profound spiritual conversion through reading the lives of the Lord and the saints. As he continued to explore this newfound interest and passion, St. Ignatius of Loyola left behind the worldly pursuits and desires he once had, and instead, he sought to imitate the holy lives of the saints and serve the Lord.

To this extent, St. Ignatius of Loyola came to practice spiritual discernment and experiences that he would later also be famous for, as the Ignatian spirituality. And as he met and gathered like-minded people, who wanted to serve the Lord and the Church particularly during the troubled times at that time when the Church and the faithful were threatened from both the outside by the rising power of the Ottomans that persecuted Christian communities and conquered many nations, to the rapidly growing heresy of Protestantism that divided many communities of the faithful and led many astray from the true faith.

Therefore, St. Ignatius of Loyola together with several other men founded the Society of Jesus and became in time, the spearhead of the Church’s efforts in countering the threats faced at that time by the faithful. Led by St. Ignatius of Loyola, many Jesuits would go to various places throughout Christendom and through many years of labour and loving commitment, brought countless souls back to salvation in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard how St. Ignatius of Loyola had been transformed by the chance experience he had when he was injured, and how he opened himself to the Lord and desired to seek Him as he went on to learn more and more about Him. And this is what we should all be doing as well in our lives. This is what each and every one of us have been called to do, to allow God to lead us in our lives to the right path, and for us to follow Him wholeheartedly, rejecting sin and evil for good and righteousness.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and remember his motto, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ meaning ‘For the greater glory of God’. Let our lives and actions be transformed and changed by God, that in everything we say and do, in our every interactions, we will glorify God and be inspiring role models for one another, that we all may become ever closer to God and His salvation. May God bless us always in everything we do, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 30 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard in our Scripture readings today firstly the words of the prophet Jeremiah speaking about the Lord as the Potter, our Potter as One Who moulds us and shapes us as He desires and wills, while in the Gospel passage today we heard about the Lord speaking to His disciples and explaining the kingdom of heaven to them with a parable, the parable of the fishes and the kingdom of God.

In our first reading today, we heard the prophet Jeremiah speaking metaphorically using the example of a potter, a common profession at that time making clay products used for various purposes in the community. Those clay products come in many different shapes and forms, from jugs and drinking cups to basins and containers, as well as decorative pots and vases for many purposes. And the shapes vary widely depending on the fashion at the time.

The prophet used the example of a potter to compare the Lord’s work on His people, as if a potter is not happy with the product he created, he would reshape it and remould it while it was still soft and mouldable. The potter would reshape the clay patiently and change it to suit the intended final product, before heating the completed product in the oven and the clay harden into the final shape due to the heat. But once the clay has already hardened, should there be a mistake or defect, then there is no other way to rectify it other than to crush it and destroy it.

By this symbolism, the Lord is saying to His people how He has been so patient all that while reaching out to them and calling on them to repent and return to Him with faith. The Lord has always been patient in trying to remould and change the hearts and minds of His people, despite all of their stubbornness and rebelliousness. But of course, as with the potter’s clay and pottery works, there will come a time when it will be the end of the line, when it is too late for us, if we constantly refuse to be changed and remoulded by God by continuing to follow down the path of rebellion and sin.

In the Gospel reading today, we heard a related reading in which the Lord used the parable to explain the same intention to His people, by comparing the kingdom of heaven to a large fishing net in which good and bad fishes were all caught and gathered together. Only the good fishes would be gathered and kept, while the bad and poor quality fishes would be thrown away and discarded, unwanted and rejected.

Through this, the Lord wants us all to know that everyone is welcome in His Church, the Church often being symbolised and represented as a boat, and the fishes being all of us. God calls on all of us, whether big or small, good or bad, regardless of our background, our character, our race or origin, all of us are called and welcome in the kingdom of God. And God has given us all many chances to change ourselves and to turn towards Him once again with faith, rejecting all sorts of falsehoods and evil.

Are we going to ignore that, brothers and sisters in Christ? God’s ever great generosity and love for us? Let us not wait until it is too late for us to realise that we have spurned so much of His love and mercy, when we stand by the gates of hell from which there is no hope and escape any longer. Those who end up in hell are those who by their conscious choice, chose sin over good, chose wickedness and evil over righteousness, and chose the path of Satan over God’s path.

Today we also have the inspiration from one of our holy predecessors, whose life and inspiring works can be a role model for us all in how we ourselves ought to live our lives moving on from this point onwards. St. Peter Chrysologus, a renowned preacher and bishop, a great Doctor of the Church has inspired many with his life’s examples and actions, and hopefully he can inspire all of us as well.

He was known by the epithet and name ‘Chrysologus’ meaning the ‘Golden-mouthed’ precisely because of his very inspirational and wise preaching, that drew many people to the Lord and helped to gain salvation for many souls during his ministry as priest and later on as the Bishop of Ravenna in the late Roman Empire era. His inspirational homilies and preaching touched many people deeply, with the style being simple and relatable to the people and yet also rich in theological truth.

He was also renowned for his great and deep piety and devotion to God, that further encouraged many of his listeners to turn towards God and to avoid the falsehoods and heresies that were very rampant at that time. Through his life, obedience to God and faith, St. Peter Chrysologus inspired many to be good and true Christians and to turn to God before it was too late for them. Are we able and willing to do the same too, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Now, let us all discern how we are to proceed in life from now on, keeping in mind that the Lord has given us generously many opportunities to be reconciled to Him, to reject sin and evil, and to embrace His love. Let us all seek the Lord with renewed spirit and vigour from now on, that in the end, we may indeed be worthy to enter into His most glorious kingdom, to enjoy forever the promise of eternal life and happiness, the joy everlasting free from sin and evil.

May the Lord be with us in this journey and may all of us be ever more devoted, and be willing to commit ourselves to be good Christians in all words, actions and deeds. May the Lord strengthen us all in faith that we may persevere through even when we encounter many obstacles and temptations in life preventing and blocking our path and progress forward. St. Peter Chrysologus, holy saint of God, faithful and devout servant of our most loving God and Father, pray for us all sinners, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the feast of one of the more renowned saints as she was mentioned in several occasions in the Gospels. St. Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus and featured prominently during the time when the Lord visited her household and also when Lazarus died and was resurrected by the Lord. They were considered as the close friends and disciples of the Lord.

St. Martha was remembered most for the moment when the Lord came to visit her house, and she was very busy preparing everything to serve the Lord and to show Him the best hospitality that she could offer. However, in doing so, she had in fact forgotten that she spent most of her time being busy in preparing all the hospitality and service rather than attending to the Lord and listening to Him, as Mary her sister had done.

Initially St. Martha was angry and unhappy that her sister had left her to do all the preparations, and she even told the Lord of her issues and asked Him to tell her sister to help her in her work and preparation. But the Lord kindly reminded St. Martha and told her that she had not done what she should have done, and that in fact her sister had chosen the right course of action. In her preoccupation with preparing for the Lord’s coming, St. Martha had been distracted and forgot that first and foremost, she had to be there for the Lord.

Instead, she allowed herself to be sucked into the procedures and details, into the things that she thought would impress the Lord as a good hostess and friend, not realising that she had spent the precious time she should have spent with the Lord away from Him, in the kitchen or elsewhere in the house. That is also why the Lord reminded her that her sister Mary had done the right thing, by doing what mattered the most, that is to be with the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our own lives, we are perhaps often like St. Martha, in how we have lived our lives. We may have been so busy with our lives and been so preoccupied with the many things and concerns we have in life that all of us have often forgotten about God and put Him aside for those other concerns and things we desire in life. We are often too busy to even notice how He has always cared for us and provided for us, even when we have been wayward and delinquent with our lives so far.

St. Martha reminded us all that even sometimes we can be busy and preoccupied to a fault, being particular and detailed to a fault but we forget the most important aspect of life itself and that is to focus ourselves and our attention on God. It is very easy otherwise for us to lose our focus and be distracted as St. Martha herself has experienced. But now that we know and have been reminded of this, it is then up to us how we want to proceed forward in life from now on.

Are we able and willing to detach ourselves from the attachment to our busy life schedules, especially to our work and profession, as well as our attachments to other pursuits in life? It is not that we cannot have job or be busy, but rather, we need to ask ourselves, what is truly, our priority in life? There are people who genuinely work hard because they need to earn to support their families and loved ones, but many among us seek for many unhealthy pursuits and addictions in life.

Instead of being tempted and swayed by the pursuits of power, glory, material wealth and fame, pleasures of the body and mind, among many others, all of which are distractions and are in fact leading us away from God, let us rather redirect our lives and our emphasis and focus, that like Mary, the sister of St. Martha, we find the true treasure and focus of our lives, that is God, knowing that in Him alone we can find true happiness, joy and satisfaction.

There are many things we desire in life, and we certainly know it. And we also know how all these desires cannot be fully satisfied one, as when we have what we want, we have the tendency to crave and desire even more, and that is why we fall into the trap of our routines, our busy activities and being distracted in life, and forget about God. Let us all therefore rediscover our love for God, and reorientate our lives once again towards Him from now on.

May the Lord help us in our journey and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, that we may find our true focus in God, and that we may seek for what we will never lose, that is the love of God and to focus ourselves on Him, rather than on the mundane and repetitive schedules and preoccupations in life, to focus on God’s love rather than on our own desires, our own greed and wants, our own pursuits for the fleeting and temporary pleasures of the world. May the Lord bless us all and may St. Martha intercede for us sinners always. Amen.