Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the last Sunday of the current liturgical year, where the cycle of the Church’s liturgical celebrations reached a culmination in the celebration of Christ our Lord and King, as the One Who is the true ruler and authority over all things throughout the universe. Today we mark the occasion of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Lord and Master of all things that are in existence.

Through the Scripture passages today, we heard about the Lord Jesus Who is a King, and the One True King from Whom all authority, power and wisdom came from. Yet, His kingship is not akin to one that is of the world, that is, His kingdom is not like the kingdoms that exist in this world. On the other hand, His kingship and His kingdom transcends the worldly boundaries of power, authority and majesty.

Why is this so? That is because the kingdoms of this world, their rulers and masters are all very bound and affected by the worldly aspects of glory, of fame, of influence and affluence, of human praise and positions of fame, and they continue to strive ever more for the greatness in accordance of human measures, and that is why the kingdoms and the powers of this world are ever concerned about the self-aggrandisement and gathering of more power and glory for themselves.

Human and worldly powers are always fragile and temporary. These powers did not last beyond certain criteria and requirements that need to be met in order to preserve the powers in accordance with the ways of this world. This is why much misery, sufferings and injustice occurred in the world, both past and present, because of the tempting nature of having in possession such power and authority, and thus our reluctance and unwillingness to let them go from us.

Just for an example, the kings, princes, dukes and other worldly powers went to war with each other because each of them wanted to increase their dominion, influence and power. And because they have given themselves in to the ways of this world, therefore, accordingly, they wanted to preserve what they had, even at the expense of morality and justice.

This is why, if we look at the many rulers and governments that are maintained with iron fist, they are always in constant fear of losing their power to those who do not belong to the ruling elites. And they would use all things and armaments in their disposal in order to protect themselves and avoid their own fall from power and glory. This was exactly what Jesus said to Pilate, about if His kingdom were to be of this world, His supporters would have gone out all the way to save Him.

Instead, Jesus clearly stated that His kingdom and His kingship are different from all that, from all the traditional notions of power and glory that we mankind and this world are familiar with. This is because His kingdom is a kingdom of truth, of justice, of righteousness, and ultimately His kingdom is a kingdom of love. He leads as a King, not by fear and tyranny, nor by anger or hatred, but through genuine leadership shown through example and perfect love.

We have to realise that all of us are truly fortunate to have been placed under the grace and sovereignty of our Lord’s eternal and universal kingship. His kingship is eternal because it is a kingdom which reign and rule will never end, and God’s rule will persist forever without end. And His great rule will extend all over the entire universe, over all of creation and over the entire existence, since He has created all things, and therefore rightfully, He also lords it all over all of them.

But He did not despise all those that He had created, nor did He oppress them and treat them as if they were slaves. This is unlike the common action and perception of the kings and princes of this world, who stand above the rest of their respective peoples and treat them as subjects and subordinates that need to serve their needs in all things.

Instead, God is a loving Master, Who had not just expected from us obedience and genuine faith, but He also gave us the love, care and commitment that is equivalent if not greater than the obedience, faith and commitment that He is expecting from us. His kingship is a kingship of love and justice, and He as the King, leads all by His examples, through servant leadership.

Do we all still remember what Jesus frequently told His disciples about Himself? That He came into this world to serve and not to be served, meaning that even though He is King, and truly the King and Master of all the universe, but all these did not make Him proud or haughty, but instead, in order to fulfil perfectly the love and compassion which He has for us, He came down into this world, not as a great conquering King, but instead as a humble and poor Man.

Yes, and He came offering Himself to be our Deliverance and as our Saviour, to save us from our distress, and by giving Himself up, He showed us an example how a leader should lead others, by example and not by power and tyranny. We know the phrase that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is a reminder that we should not be obsessed with worldly power but rather we should look up at our Lord and see His good examples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how is this relevant to us? It is very relevant indeed, since all of us by partaking in our Lord and as we become the members of His Body, we have also shared in His divine and eternal kingship. We have been called to be a shepherd, priest and king through our baptism, and in the divine kingship we share with our Lord, we have our responsibilities to play.

And it is that all of us should live righteously before the Lord, leading one another by example through our own actions, that in all the things we do, we become paragons of righteousness, virtue, love and justice. Let us all remember this even as we rejoice and honour our Lord Jesus Christ, King of all kings and King of all the universe, that we also have a share in His kingship, both in the privilege and honour, as well as in its responsibilities.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, our King, Lord and Master be with us always, and may He guide us on our path, that we shall become ever better guides for our own brethren, and may through our actions and deeds, more souls shall come closer to the Lord and His salvation. Be with us, Lord, our Master and King. Amen.

Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 18 : 33b-37

At that time Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Does this word come from you, or did you hear it from others?”

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed You over to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship does not come from this world. If I were a King, like those of this world, my guards would have fought to save Me from being handed over to the Jews. But My kingship is not of this world.”

Pilate asked Him, “So You are a King?” And Jesus answered, “Just as you say, I am a King. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears My voice.”

Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 1 : 5-8

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him Who loves us and has washed away our sins with His own blood, making us a kingdom and priests for God His Father, to Him be the glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

See He comes with the clouds and everyone will see Him, even those who pierced Him; on His account all the nations of the earth will beat his breast. Yes. It will be so. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, He Who is, Who was, and Who is to come : the Master of the universe.

Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

The Lord reigns, robed in majesty; the Lord is girded with strength.

The world now is firm, it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o Lord, from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your house day after day without end, o Lord.

Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Daniel 7 : 13-14

I continued watching the nocturnal vision : One like a Son of Man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into His presence. Dominion, honour and kingship were given Him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served Him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; His kingdom will never be destroyed.

Thursday, 15 October 2015 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast of one of the most renowned and greatest saints of the Church, namely St. Teresa of Jesus, also known as St. Teresa of Avila after her birthplace, where she was born in the city of Avila in the Kingdom of Spain about five centuries ago, and she lived during one of the most turbulent times in the Church, in the midst of the raging, so-called Protestant ‘reformation’.

During that time, across the heart of Christendom, the European continent was rocked by the scandal of heresy and disobedience against the true teachings of the Lord as espoused and taught by the Church that He had established. Many people fell into the trap of their own vanity, personal desire, selfishness and the inability and blindness to the truth and reality which God wanted to reveal to all mankind through His Church.

The Church was split apart by those who have preferred to walk in the path of sin and worldliness. And on the pretext of reforming and helping the Universal Church which at that time was indeed beset with troubles and issues, they waded their own paths and radically tried to pull as many of the faithful and as many souls as possible from the path towards salvation into the myriad paths that lead to somewhere else.

St. Teresa of Jesus was one of the several holy, devoted and committed servants of God who dedicated themselves to help save all those lost souls that had gone astray from the Lord and His Church. She was one of the spearheads of the Church in what was to be known as the Counter-Reformation movement and action, where the Church went on the counteroffensive against the forces of Satan and his agents, and by ceaseless prayers, ministries and works, they managed to stem the tide of heresy and destruction, and called many souls back to God’s salvation.

St. Teresa of Jesus was renowned for her exemplary and incredible piety, the prayer life she led and the spirituality she espoused in her life was truly commendable. She grew to understand the nature of mankind’s sins and wickedness, and how these become barriers and obstacles in one’s journey to attain the salvation in God, and how there is indeed a need for us to subject ourselves to God’s mercy, repenting and changing our sinful ways.

In this, we see the wisdom of God as revealed through Jesus His Son in the Gospel today. In that Gospel passage, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in a series of woes and curses arrayed against them because of their actions and their failures in acting and behaving as those whom God had appointed to be shepherds and guides to His people.

They have not been righteous and true to their faith, and they have fallen on the path of God’s righteousness, and they became people engrossed and obsessed with their own vanity, with their own glory and greatness, and as a result, they became judgmental and oppressive upon all those who have differing views and ideas from them, including the prophets and messengers whom God had sent to remind them to stick true to the way of truth.

They thought of themselves as above the Law and as the only ones righteous and just, and because they thought that by living their lives and observing the Laws as they had done, they were pious, favoured and glorified before the Lord, but in reality, they have veered far away from the path of God and into sin, for they were too deep in their own pride and distracted by the sins.

This was just how it was during the time of the Protestant ‘reformation’, when those who have become haughty and proud in their way, forced it upon themselves and others to follow their way and their methods, disobeying the way of the Lord, and leading others into sin and wickedness. This is what St. Teresa of Jesus had worked all her life so hard in order to reverse, for the sake of the countless souls in the danger of damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to renew our commitment to the Lord in our actions and deeds, and we are all called to become less and less attached to our pride, ego and greed, and instead, grow ever stronger in our humility before God and in our love for one another. Let us be ever more committed to God and His ways, be true to the way He had shown us and commit ourselves to walk in the footsteps of St. Teresa of Jesus and the other holy saints and servants of God.

May Almighty God bless us all in all of our endeavours, and may He keep us ever in His grace, and may all of us come to realise ever more the love and compassion He wants to show us and give to us. Amen.

Thursday, 15 October 2015 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 11 : 47-54

At that time, Jesus said to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, “A curse is on you, for you build monuments to the prophets your ancestors killed. So you approve and agree with what your ancestors did. Is it not so? They got rid of the prophets, and you build monuments to them!”

“For that reason the Wisdom of God also said : I will send prophets and Apostles and this people will kill and persecute some of them. But the present generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, the people of this time will have to answer for them all.”

“A curse is on you, teachers of the Law, for you have taken the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you prevented others from entering.” As Jesus left that place, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to harass Him, asking Him endless questions, setting traps to catch Him in something He might say.

Thursday, 15 October 2015 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a

Out of the depths I cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand? But with You is forgiveness, and for that You are revered.

I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects the Lord more than watchmen the dawn. O Israel, hope in the Lord.

Thursday, 15 October 2015 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 3 : 21-30a

But, now it has been revealed altogether apart from the Law, as it was already foretold in the Law and the Prophets : God makes us righteous by means of faith in Jesus Christ, and this is applied to all who believe, without distinction of persons.

Because all have sinned and all fall short of the Glory of God; and all are graciously forgiven and made righteous through the redemption effected in Christ Jesus. For God has given Him to be the victim whose blood obtains us forgiveness through faith.

So God shows us how He makes us righteous. Past sins are forgiven which God overlooked till now. For now He wants to reveal His way of righteousness : how He is just and how He makes us righteous through faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our pride? It is excluded. How? Not through the Law and its observances, but through another Law which is faith.

For we hold that people are in God’s grace by faith and not because of all the things ordered by the Law. Otherwise, God would be the God of the Jews; but is He not God of pagan nations as well? Of course He is, for there is only one God and He will save by faith the circumcised Jews as well as the uncircumcised nations.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we continue the theme of the readings as we heard yesterday, of the Lord creating the whole world and the entire material universe as we know it now. He made all things good and perfect, all free from the taints of imperfections and evil in the beginning. Then indeed, we may be asking, how come then is it that there is so much evil things in the world now? How come is it that there is so much hatred, violence, jealousy and greed around us?

The answer lies in what mankind had committed in disobedience against the Lord, the sins which they have done in the presence of the Lord and men alike. Sin is a sickness of the soul, a blemish in the otherwise perfect and immaculate creations of God, especially for mankind, the greatest of all God’s creations. That is why there is so much evil in the world, so much sadness, sorrow and conflict that strike us all on daily basis.

And that was why God sent His Son Jesus into the world, in order to bring about the true purification of all mankind from the taints of sin. And today’s readings indeed share the same theme, that is cleansing and purification. However, we can see clearly in the Gospel today, the conflict that existed between Jesus our Lord and the Pharisees in how they approach this.

As I have often mentioned, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are notorious for having adopted an excessively strict and unforgiving stance on the interpretation and application of the Law. As a result, they gave a great burden for the people of God to bear. There are many laws, rules and regulations which the people to obey, from things that are truly important to trivial matters and things such as the cleansing of the hands before meals, just as the one mentioned in the Gospel today.

The hereditary laws and customs of the Jewish people stipulated that each person should undergo ritual cleansing, washing and purification regularly, and this includes the ritual washing before meals, where each person are supposed to wash up to and including their elbows. Indeed, such is the complicated nature of the laws, to the point that obeying them and following them required a great deal of effort, and it is likely also that many would lose the true and real intention behind why they even observed those laws in the first place.

And that was why Jesus criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law so much, because they are focused so much on the external cleansing and the purity of their exteriors, that they completely forgot about their insides, that is their heart and soul. It is useless if we are concerned only about the cleansing of our bodies and the exterior, ignoring the correct alignment of our heart, that is our interior.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? Christ had mentioned in another passage that to be concerned about which food that is worthy or unworthy, clean or unclean does not make sense, for that which brings about sin and corruption comes not from the outside but rather from the inside. External dirt and filth while unappealing do not bring about the corruption of our beings, but the corruption that is within us will eventually corrupt our bodies and externals as well.

Already this can be seen in how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law reacted to the teachings of Jesus. They professed to be faithful to the Lord and liked to show off their piety by public display through prayers and other actions in the public places, and yet they were so judgmental to sinners and all those who genuinely needed God’s help that you truly would not believe at all that they belonged to the Lord in the first place.

They also rejected Jesus and His teachings and they spat upon His actions, which were clearly the actions of God made real in this world, the manifestation of God’s love and mercy. Instead, they were so blinded by their pride and their hubris, that these eventually led to their eventual downfall. Just as they have rejected the Lord, so will the Lord reject them.

Today, we also celebrate the feast day of St. Scholastica, a holy virgin and saint of God. St. Scholastica by tradition was the twin sister of St. Benedict of Nursia, another great and renowned saint well known for his holiness and dedication to the Lord. Both St. Scholastica and St. Benedict were devoted servants of the Lord who made monastic lifestyle an appealing way of life to the people of God.

Monastic lifestyle is for those who have decided to give all of their lives in complete and total dedication to the Lord. They withdrew from the world and from all forms of worldliness and instead, dedicate themselves in a life of prayer. As such, they commit themselves to a life of contemplation, of looking into themselves and the emptying of oneself of personal ego, but seeking the cultivation of individuals filled with the love of God.

In that way, rather than seeking the purification of the externals first, we focus on the purification of our interiors first, that is to shun all forms of temptations of sin, the lies and sweet words of Satan designed to bring about our downfall. That is what the Lord wants from us, that we all genuinely reject sin and all forms of wickedness and instead follow Him with all of our heart.

May all of us be awakened and see in Christ and all He had done, the abundance of love and mercy which God wants to shower us with, if only that we can listen to Him and learn to practice the faith we have by action and real dedication from the heart. Let us not lose our focus as the Pharisees had lost theirs and let us all be truly faithful, not just in external appearances, but truly love God from the deepest depth of our hearts. God bless us all. Amen.