Friday, 28 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, World Day of Prayer for the Sanctity of Priestly Life (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, celebrating the popular devotion to Our Lord’s Most loving and Sacred Heart, as first revealed through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and all others through whom God had revealed the great love in His Most Sacred Heart, the great love of a loving Father, the love of a most loving and compassionate Shepherd, Our God.

In the Scripture passages we have heard today, most prominently the Lord was depicted as the Good Shepherd, as the Figure Who showed great love and compassion, care and mercy to us all, who are of the Lord’s flock, His most beloved sheep. This is most profound example used by the Lord Himself to show how much He has loved His people, in a community where many among the people had the profession of shepherds.

In the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, the passage which is our first reading today spoke of the Lord referring to Himself as the Shepherd of Israel, the One Who would guide His people to the right path, protecting them from harm, binding and healing their injuries, watching over them and looking out for those who have been lost from Him. He would guide them all with justice, mercy and compassion, which is exactly what the Lord Jesus would reiterate with His message of Himself as the Good Shepherd.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord again referred to Himself before the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as the Good Shepherd, showing to those people how God is loving and merciful, kind and compassionate to all of His beloved ones, even to the worst and most rebellious, the most wicked and the greatest of sinners among them. No one is ever beyond the reach of God’s love and compassionate mercy.

In order for us to understand the significance of the encounter and the words the Lord spoke to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law more clearly, we must understand the philosophy and the actions that those two groups of people often took at that time. They put the obedience and adherence to the Law over everything else, and they were very particular with how those laws and regulations are preserved and followed.

And they deemed all those who did not follow the Law as they have followed and preserved it to be inferior and unworthy, to be sinners and undeserving people while at the same time thinking highly of themselves and being proud of their own obedience and adherence to the strict observation of the Jewish customs, traditions and laws, and being highly respected by the people and being very influential in the community.

That was why they were very ardent in their prejudiced attitude against the prostitutes, tax collectors and other people deemed to be sinners in general. They also thought of people with disabilities and sicknesses as those whom God had punished and cursed because of their sins. They looked down on them and rejected them, and when the Lord sought all these people, they immediately cast the same prejudice on the Lord, seeing Him approaching those whom they deemed to be unworthy and unclean.

This is where the Lord showed His love and revealed what it truly means for one to obey the Lord and His laws. Mankind might have been unfaithful, wicked and filled with sins, and yet, fundamentally we are all still His beloved creations, His beloved children and people. We are the sheep to Him, Who is the Shepherd of all of us. And a shepherd loves his flock of sheep above all else, and a true and dedicated shepherd will do everything just so that his sheep will be good, safe and well taken care of.

Sometimes the sheep end up going wayward on its own, being misled or distracted by things that probably sparked its curiosity, and the sheep becomes lost from the flock. The shepherd knows all of his sheep, and every single one of them are precious to him. If one of the sheep is lost, the shepherd will come to know of this very quickly, and unless he does not care for his sheep, he will do whatever he can to find that lost sheep.

A sheep that is left to wander on its own is in a great danger because of all the threats that can destroy it, from falling into a ravine, or off a cliff, of being hunted and killed by wolves and predators among many others. And how are all these relevant to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is what each and every one of us have experienced ourselves and perhaps even are experiencing now at this very moment.

For it is sin and the temptations to sin which have led us astray from the Lord, end up in us being separated from God and from the flock of God’s faithful as we end up falling deeper and deeper into sin. We have become the lost sheep of the Lord, and the Lord Who is our Good Shepherd does not want us to be lost from Him. Rather, He wants us to be reconciled to Him and be found, and He had done everything He could to gain us back.

That is what He meant when He said that the shepherd would seek the one lost sheep even though there was only one lost sheep among one hundred sheep in all. The shepherd would do everything to find that one lost sheep so that the lost sheep may be found and be reunited with the rest of the flock, safe from all the dangers that could have happened to it if it remained lost and separated from the flock.

Unless we are found and reunited with our loving Shepherd, we will fall deeper and deeper into sin, and from there into the danger of eternal damnation, out of which there is no escape from eternal despair and suffering, annihilation and total destruction. This is not the fate that God, our loving Father, Creator and Shepherd wants to happen to us, because He loves each and every one of us so much.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate this great love which Our Lord has shown from His most loving and compassionate heart, His Most Sacred Heart, which was filled with love for each and every one of us, so much so that, He did the ultimate act of love to show us just how much He loves us and how precious each and every one of us are to Him. He took up His Cross, suffer persecution, pain and the worst of pains and went through a most humiliating death so that, all of us may live.

That is just how much Our Lord loves us, in His loving and bleeding Most Sacred Heart. In the depiction of His Most Sacred Heart, we see the Lord’s Heart being surrounded by a crown of thorns and with a great burning flame representing His ever passionate and burning love for us. And that crown of thorns represents all the pains and sufferings He had suffered for the sake of that love He has for us.

And now, we have those whom God had called to be His caretakers, His shepherds made in His own image and example, namely our priests, who are shepherds of God’s flock, representing the one true Shepherd in our midst. They are the ones who go around the world taking care of us all, God’s beloved people, showing the same love that God has poured forth from His Most Sacred Heart.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today that is why, on this Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we also pray as the whole Church together for those who have been called by God, to be His servants and followers, His priests, dedicating themselves into the priestly life and to shepherd His beloved people. On this day, we gather our prayers for them, that each and every one of them may be courageous and be loving just as Our Lord has loved us so deeply.

And at the same time, let us all realise this great love that God has shown us, that He had done everything for our sake, enduring every kinds of imaginable sufferings of the worst kind, that we may be saved. He did all of that in order to save us and to reunite us to Himself. Each and every one of us are truly precious to Him. Next time, before we even contemplate to sin or to disobey God, let us remember that every single sins we commit, no matter how small, how insignificant they may seem to us, they are wounds we inflict on the Lord, that He bore willingly for our sake.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to be better disciples of the Lord, and be more dedicated to Him, remembering how He has loved us so wonderfully and generously despite of all of our nonsense and disobedience. His patience and most loving Sacred Heart is truly our hope, and we should cling closely to this hope we have in Him. May the Lord Jesus Christ, His most loving Sacred Heart continue to love us all, now and forevermore as always. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us all. Amen.

Friday, 28 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, World Day of Prayer for the Sanctity of Priestly Life (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 15 : 3-7

At that time, Jesus told the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law this parable : “Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’”

“I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”

Friday, 28 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, World Day of Prayer for the Sanctity of Priestly Life (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 5 : 5b-11

Because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, pouring into our hearts the love of God. Consider, moreover, the time that Christ died for us : when we were still helpless and unable to do anything. Few would accept to die for an upright person; although, for a very good person, perhaps someone would dare to die.

But see how God manifested His love for us : while we were still sinners, Christ died for us; and we have become just, through His Blood. With much more reason now He will save us from any condemnation. Once enemies, we have been reconciled with God through the death of His Son; with much more reason, now we may be saved, through His life. Not only that, but we even boast in God because of Christ Jesus, Our Lord, through Whom we have been reconciled.

Friday, 28 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, World Day of Prayer for the Sanctity of Priestly Life (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Friday, 28 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, World Day of Prayer for the Sanctity of Priestly Life (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 34 : 11-16

Indeed YHVH says this : I, Myself, will care for My sheep and watch over them. As the shepherd looks after his flock when he finds them scattered, so will I watch over My sheep; and gather them from all the places where they were scattered in a time of cloud and fog. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from their countries. I will lead them to their own land; and pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in all the valleys and inhabited regions of the land.

I will take them to good pastures on the high mountains of Israel. They will rest where the grazing is good, and feed in lush pastures on the heights of Israel. I, Myself, will tend My sheep and let them rest, word of YHVH. I will search for the lost and lead back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak; but the fat and strong will be eliminated. I will shepherd My flock with justice.

Thursday, 27 June 2019 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings we heard two stories, one from the Book of Genesis, and the other from the Gospel of St. Matthew, both which remind us of the need for us to trust in God and to be faithful to Him, so that our lives may truly be blessed and be firm in His hands, and not being swayed by the uncertainties of this world we are living in today.

In the first reading today, we heard about the story of Abraham and Sarah, then known as Abram and Sarai respectively, who have not yet had a child on their own, even though they have been married for a long time and by then they were already quite old and Sarai was already past the child-bearing age. Without an heir of his own, Abram had planned that his wealth and possessions would be inherited by one of his own trusted servants, but God made it clear that it was not how things would be.

Instead, God revealed that Abraham would have an heir and son as He has promised to him in the Covenant He made with him, that the descendants of Abraham would be as numerous as the stars and would be blessed by God forevermore. Abraham trusted in God’s will and plan, but his wife, Sarai, had a different idea in mind. Instead of waiting patiently for God’s plan to come to fruition, Sarai instead chose to take a shortcut.

According to the ancient customs of the time, Sarai took his own slave, Hagar, to bear a child with Abram, as a child of a slave at that time was recognised as the child of the legal wife of the person, the one who owned the slave. As such, when Ishmael, the son of Abram and Hagar was born, technically he was recognised as the son of Abram and Sarai. But this was not what God had meant for his servant Abram.

Nonetheless, God still blessed Ishmael as one of the descendants of Abraham and reassured him that Ishmael and his descendants would still be blessed by Him. Yet, at the same time, God reiterated that His will was for Abram to have a child with Sarai, and fulfil the promise of the Covenant which He had made with Abram. And indeed, God is ever faithful and eventually, Abraham and Sarah had a child, named Isaac, the one whom God had promised.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples using a parable which many of us are surely familiar with, speaking of two houses built upon different foundations, one on a foundation of sand, while the other one was built on a firm foundation of rock. When the winds and the waves battered the house built on the foundation of sand, the house is destroyed and toppled, while the one built on the firm, rocky foundation remained strong.

In this parable we see the comparison with the case of Abraham and his wife and slave as we heard in our Gospel passage today. What do I mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? The actions of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, in taking a shortcut with her own slave to provide a child for herself and Abraham was an example of the lack of faith and trust in God, akin to building a house on the foundation of sand.

And true enough, when Ishmael grew older, conflict grew between Ishmael and Isaac, and also between Hagar and Sarah, as rivalry grew between them and pride got in between them all. It ended with Hagar and Ishmael being exiled and cast out so that Isaac could have his full inheritance. We see how Sarah’s plan did not go well in the end, causing just sorrow and sadness to all who were involved.

That will likely the same outcome for us, if we choose to trust in ourselves alone and in our own human judgments in how we choose to live our lives, and not putting our trust and faith in God. Putting our trust and faith in God is like building a house on a firm foundation of rock, as no matter what happens, and no matter what challenges we may encounter, God is always ever faithful, and while man may fail us and be unfaithful, God cannot deny His own love and faithfulness.

This does not mean that our lives will be free of difficulties and challenges if we choose to trust in God. Rather, if we remain faithful, in the end, if we look back through what we have gone through, we will indeed realise just how much God had blessed us with, and how much He has strengthened and provided for us. He is our firm foundation upon which our faith strengthens us and keeps us steady amidst the dangers and challenges of the world.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast day of one of the holy and devoted servants of God, whose life was anchored to the Lord so deeply, that he can be a great inspiration to all of us in how we should be living our own lives with faith. He is St. Cyril of Alexandria, the very influential Patriarch of Alexandria and therefore one of the great leaders of the Church during his time, leading his flock for thirty-two years.

St. Cyril of Alexandria was remembered for his great piety and dedication to God, his courageous faith and orthodoxy, defending the true faith against the false teachings and heresies that were espoused and held by priests, bishops and leaders of the Church at the time, chief of all being the heretic Nestorius, who espoused the Nestorian heresy, which at that time had the support of the Emperor and many among the influential members of the Church and the society.

The Nestorian heresy claimed that Jesus the Man and the Son of God or the Logos, the Divine Word of God were separate and distinct from each other, an argument that the orthodox and true Apostolic faith firmly rejected, defended by St. Cyril of Alexandria and others who stood by the truth that in the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, His nature as the Son of Man, and His nature as the Son of God, His humanity and divinity, were united and inseparable from each other, two natures in one person, equally and fully God and Man.

St. Cyril of Alexandria had to defend the faith against all these false teachings and this brought him into quite a few conflict both within the Church and also with the secular authorities. St. Cyril stood his ground strongly and devoted himself to the Lord fully, that he persevered through all the challenges and oppositions, all the struggles he had to go through throughout his ministry of the people of God.

Through the leadership of St. Cyril of Alexandria and several other prominent leaders of the Church, the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus was convoked in the year 431, to resolve the dispute between the orthodox party and the Nestorian supporters. In the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, the heresy of Nestorianism was officially condemned, but St. Cyril of Alexandria had to suffer, as the Emperor supported the Nestorians who convened a rival Council of their own.

St. Cyril had to endure arrest and imprisonment for a while, and yet he continued to struggle for the true faith, and eventually, with the backing of the people and the support of many others who defended the true faith, the heretic Nestorius was deposed and sent into exile, and St. Cyril was freed and continued to shepherd his flock to the end of his life. Truly, we have seen in the life of this holy saint, a great inspiration for us all to follow in how we live our virtuous Christian lives.

Let us all be inspired by the virtuous examples of St. Cyril of Alexandria as well as the faith of Abraham, our father in faith, in trusting the Lord completely and putting our faith in Him, He Who is the firm foundation of our lives, that despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter, we do not take shortcuts and means that put our faith more in our own human and worldly power as Sarah had once done.

Let us all build our Christian lives upon the firm foundation in God, and devote ourselves with ever greater zeal and fervour from now on. May the Lord continue to guide us throughout our lives, and may He bless us all in our journey through life, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 27 June 2019 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Matthew 7 : 21-29

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My heavenly Father. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not speak in Your Name? Did we not cast out devils and perform many miracles in Your Name?’ Then I will tell them openly, ‘I have never known you; away from Me, you evil people!’”

“Therefore, anyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts according to them, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house. But it did not collapse, because it was built on rock. But anyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible collapse that was!”

When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were struck by the way He taught, because He taught with authority, unlike their teachers of the Law.