(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Seventh Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 36 : 16-17a, 18-28

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, when Israel occupied her own land and defiled it by her way of life and her actions. I poured out My fury on them because of the blood they shed in the land and because they defiled it with their filthy idols.”

“Then I scattered them among the nations  and dispersed them in other lands. I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. But when they were brought to other nations, My Holy Name was profane because others said of them : ‘The people of YHVH had to be exiled from His land!'”

“Then I was concerned for My Holy Name, profaned by Israel among the nations where she had been dispersed. Now you shall say to the people of Israel : ‘It is not for your sake that I am about to act, but because of My Holy Name that you have profaned in the places where you have gone.'”

“‘I will make known the holiness of My great Name, profaned among the nations because of you, and they will know that I am YHVH when I show them My holiness among you. For I will gather you from all the nations and bring you back to your own land.'”

“‘Then I shall pour pure water over you and you shall be made clean – cleansed from the defilement of all your idols. I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I shall remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.'”

“‘I shall put  My spirit within you and move you to follow My decrees and keep My laws. You will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you shall be My people and I will be Your God.'”

(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Fifth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 55 : 1-11

Come here, all you who are thirsty, come to the water! All who have no money, come! Yes, without money and at no cost, buy and drink wine and milk. Why spend money on what is not food and labour for what does not satisfy? Listen to Me, and you will eat well; you will enjoy the richest of fare.

Incline your ear and come to Me; listen, that your soul may life. I will make with you an everlasting covenant. I will fulfill in you My promises to David.

See, I have given him for a witness to the nations, a leader and commander of the people. Likewise you will summon a nation unknown to you, and nations that do not know you will come hurrying to you for the sake of YHVH your God, the Holy One of Israel, for He has promoted you.

Seek YHVH while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. Let the wicked abandon his way, let him forsake his thoughts, let him turn to YHVH for He will have mercy, for our God is generous in forgiving.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways, says YHVH. For as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My word that goes forth out of My mouth : it will not return to Me idle, but it shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which it has been sent.

(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Fourth Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 54 : 5-14

For your Maker is to marry you : YHVH Sabaoth is His Name. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called God of all the earth. For YHVH has called you back as one forsaken and grieved in spirit. Who could abandon His first beloved? says your God.

For a brief moment I have abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will gather My people. For a moment, in an outburst of anger, I hid My face from you, but with everlasting love I have had mercy on you, says YHVH, your Redeemer.

This is for Me like Noah’s waters, when I swore that they would no more flood the earth; so now I swear not to be angry with you and never again to rebuke you. The mountains may depart and the hills be moved, but never will My love depart from you, nor My covenant of peace be removed, says YHVH whose compassion is for you.

O afflicted city, lashed by storm and unconsoled, I will set your stones with turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will crown your wall with agate, make your gates crystal, and your ramparts of precious stones.

All your children will be taught by YHVH, and they will prosper greatly. Justice will be your foundation; tyranny and the fear of oppression will never come near you.

(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Third Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 14 : 15 – Exodus 15 : 1

YHVH said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. You will raise your staff and stretch your hand over the sea and divide it to let the Israelites go dryfoot through the sea. I will so harden the minds of the Egyptians that they will follow you. And I will have glory at the expense of Pharaoh, his army, his chariots and horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am YHVH when I gain glory for Myself at the cost of Pharaoh and his army!”

The Angel of God who had gone ahead of the Israelites now placed Himself behind them. The pillar of cloud changed its position from the front to the rear, between the camps of the Israelites and the Egyptians. For one army the cloud provided light, for the other darkness so that throughout the night the armies drew no closer to each other. Moses stretched his hand over the sea and YHVH made a strong east wind blow all night and dry up the sea.

The waters divided and the sons of Israel went on dry ground through the middle of the sea, with the waters forming a wall to their right and to their left. The Egyptians followed them and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and horsemen moved forward in the middle of the sea.

It happened that in the morning watch, YHVH in the pillar of cloud and fire, looked towards the Egyptian camp and threw it into confusion. He so clogged their chariot wheels that they could hardly move. Then the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites for YHVH is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Then YHVH said to Moses, “Stretch your hand over the sea and let the waters come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.

At daybreak the sea returned to its place. As the Egyptians tried to flee, YHVH swept them into the sea. The waters flowed back and engulfed the chariots and horsemen of the whole army of Pharaoh that had followed Israel into the sea. Not one of them escaped. As for the Israelites they went forward on dry ground in the middle of the sea, the waters forming a wall on their right and their left.

On that day YHVH delivered Israel from the power of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. They understood what wonders YHVH had done for them against Egypt, and the people feared YHVH. They believed in YHVH and in Moses, His servant.

Then Moses and the people sang this song to YHVH : I will sing to YHVH, the glorious One, horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.

(Easter Vigil) Saturday, 26 March 2016 : Easter Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord, Holy Week (Psalm after First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 103 : 1-2, 5-6, 10, 12-14, 24 and 35

Bless the Lord, my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; O Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment; You stretch out the heavens like a tent.

You set the earth on its foundations, and never will it be shaken. You covered it with the ocean like a garment, and waters spread over the mountains.

You make springs gush forth in valleys winding among mountains and hills.

Birds build their nests close by and sing among the branches of trees. You water the mountains from Your abode and fill the earth with the fruit of Your work. You make grass grow for cattle and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth.

How varied o Lord, are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all – the earth full of Your creatures. May sinners vanish from the earth, and may the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, my soul!

 

Alternative Psalm

Psalm 32 : 4-7, 12-13, 20, 22

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

The heavens were created by His word, the breath of His mouth formed their starry host. He gathered the waters of the sea into a heap, and stored the deep in cellars.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole race of mortals.

In hope we wait for the Lord, for He is our help and our shield.

O Lord, let Your love rest upon us, even as our hope rests in You.

Monday, 22 July 2013 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene (Psalm)

Psalm 62 : 2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

O God, You are my God, it is You I seek; for You my body longs and my soul thirsts, as a dry and weary land without water.

Thus have I gazed upon You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.

I will bless You as long as I live, lift up my hands and call on Your Name. As with the richest food my soul will feast; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.

For You have been my help; I sing in the shadow of Your wings. My soul clings to You, Your right hand upholds me.

Sunday, 23 June 2013 : 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Psalm 62 : 2abcd, 2e-4, 5-6, 8-9

O God, You are my God, it is You I seek; for You my body longs and my soul thirsts.

As a dry and weary land without water. Thus have I gazed upon You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.

I will bless You as long as I live, lift up my hands and call on Your Name. As with the richest food my soul will feast; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.

For You have been my help; I sing in the shadow of Your wings. My soul clings to You, Your right hand upholds me.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to follow Christ means to suffer with Him and to carry our own crosses alongside the cross He carried on the way to Calvary. To be with Christ means to drink the same cup of suffering that He has drunk, that all of us may be saved. This cup of suffering for Christ is so great that He actually, in His agony in the garden, wanted to avoid it, but because He was perfectly obedient to His Father that He accepted that cup.

That cup of suffering, my brothers and sisters, is linked with all of us, all of us who has ever sinned and rebelled against the love of God. That cup of suffering is none other than the combined weight of our sins and those sins committed by our forefathers and our ancestors since Adam and Eve, the first to sin in this world created by God. There had been many billions if not trillions of men living and lived since creation, and you can just imagine the weight of all their sins combined together.

Sin is what has caused the wounds of Christ, and the suffering that He suffered on the way to Calvary, and on the cross itself. Yes, the cross, the physical cross is heavy, but it is nothing compared to the spiritual weight of all our sins combined, as we are truly sinful and filthy creatures who have sinned for ages since the early days of creation.

Wars, violence, hatred, prejudice, malice, and many other things that man had done in this world, that caused evil and destruction, and hurting other people and creatures, and even to the extent of causing death, has made our sins to accumulate like a mountain, and this mountain is the mountain of sin that our Lord Jesus Christ carried on His way to Calvary.

Our pride and arrogance in particular had become our greatest obstacles in achieving salvation by accepting the salvation that God has offered through Christ, His Son, whose death and resurrection had redeemed all mankind, but the gift of salvation is only ours if we truly accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour. Pride and arrogance, in our own powers and abilities has prevented us from accepting the truth that is in Christ, preferring to trust men over God.

That is why men has sinned so much, because we trusted ourselves more than we had trusted God. We give in easily to our basic instincts, greed, lust, pride, and so much other evils that had been within us. It is so much easier to follow the world and the devil because it seems to be a much easier and a better way! Following the Lord is never easy, brothers and sisters in Christ.

We have to strive to carry our own crosses with the Lord every day, brethren, that we too share in the suffering of Christ, and through His death, we too are dead to our past lives, and reborn in a new life with Him through His glorious resurrection. This too was what happened at our own baptism, when we are welcomed into the Church of God, either as an infant or as an adult.

Remember our own baptism, brothers and sisters, when we are truly baptised like Christ had been in the Jordan, when we are sealed in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just like Jesus, the Son of God, was baptised by John in the presence of the Father in His voice, and the dove which is the Holy Spirit. When we are baptised, we belong to Christ and will no longer be separated from Him, as long as we remain faithful to His commandments and the mission that He has entrusted to all of us.

May God be with us in all our dealings and in our lives, that He will transform us into beings of love, no longer be prideful nor arrogant, and placing the love for God above any other thing, enabling us to love God with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls, placing Him above every other things. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Gospel reading that we should not hamper the works of those, while not belonging to our group, but they work in the Holy Name of the Lord. Jesus Himself said that it is impossible for those who do not belong to Him and use His authority to be able to perform such miracles as what they had performed.

And in addition to that, I am sure that we had heard some people thinking that this means that, we do not need to belong to the Church to do the work of God, is it not? We can then just be ourselves, so long as we believe in God or some kind of greater being up there, and doing what is good in our lives, then we all can be saved, is it not? Why then bother to join the Church and be troubled by the numerous rules and regulations as laid down by the teachings of the Church?

That is because, while mankind indeed has the capacity to do good, because mankind indeed was created by God who is good, but this kind of goodness that is in them is imperfect. Without the presence of God, goodness remains just superficial, and although they may seem to be real goodness, but they lack the necessary ingredient to make them perfect, and this crucial component is none other than God.

There are those who also quote someone who said that Jesus redemption is for everyone, even for atheists. Who are atheists, my brothers and sisters? Atheists are different from agnostics in that while agnostics believe in the presence of certain superior, ‘supernatural’ being, but atheists reject the notion of this supreme being and God in its entirety.

There had been many atheistic movements rising in our societies in the past decades and centuries, like humanism, and scientific atheism. Many too are their champions, with the most prominent ones being Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, who adopted a very aggressive approach in relation to religion. Particularly Dawkins who had been very confrontational in the matter of religion and he even launched a suit to bring the Pope to trial!

Of course, atheists, agnostics, and all the people who do not yet belong to the Church are all belonging to mankind too, brethren, and they are our brothers and sisters too. Even among our own family members, our friends, our relatives and acquaintances, I am sure we will meet many of them, each with beliefs of their own.

And indeed, Jesus may indeed die on the cross in Calvary, for the sake of all mankind, including even those who had persecuted Him and His disciples, and even the chief priests and the Jewish people who had condemned Him to death and cried out for His blood. He forgave them on the cross, especially asking the Father to forgiveness because in their ignorance, the people did not know what they had done, that is killing the Messiah of the Most High God, and the Son of God Himself.

Christ forgave them, and therefore also offered His redemptive death on the cross to all of them, to those who love Him, and also to those who hated Him. Christ certainly did not choose or prefer one over the other, and offered His salvation to everyone. Remember, brethren, that all of us, His children, are equal before Him, and our ranks, our degrees matter no more before Him. But there must be a clear distinction made between redemption and salvation, and this is indeed ought to be misinterpreted by many of the people, especially those not in the Church, but even by many in the Church, especially indeed because the Pope himself had made the utterance.

Misunderstanding the teachings of the Church can be fatal, brethren, because, the Church had been the continuous font of light of Christ, since it was established by Jesus Christ Himself upon Peter, His apostle, and which grew amidst tribulations and happy times, to become the Church as we know it today. The teachings of the Church are not there just to be trifled with, and neither are the teachings to be ignored, since it has been passed down to us, by the Apostles and the early Fathers of the Church themselves, to guide us in the path of salvation.

What then, is the difference between redemption and salvation? Both of them may mean the same thing in the English language, and terms are indeed very confusing at times, but in order to make it clear, let me elaborate that, while Christ offers salvation to all mankind through His death on the cross, by the outpouring of His Most Precious Blood, the blood of the Paschal Lamb of God, but few would eventually receive Him and accept Him and the salvation that He has offered in its fullness. Fewer still, even among those who had accepted Him, would truly do His will and do what is good in His eyes. Of course not to forget, as I mentioned earlier, those who do good in their life, but do not receive Christ and did not take up the offer of salvation that Christ had freely offered to everyone.

When Christ died on the cross, His death and His blood redeems all mankind from their sins, their original sins. This is what redemption is about. Original sins are the sins that remain with us and become a taint in our soul, ever since our ancestors, the first mankind, Adam and Eve, disobeyed the Lord’s commands by falling into the devil’s temptation, and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Therefore, when Christ died, He who came as the new Adam, to make a new covenant between God and mankind, which first had been made at creation, but broken by the rebellion of the first mankind, a new covenant was made, and Christ became the source of redemption to all mankind, all who are descended from Adam and his wife, Eve, erasing from them the taint of sin, and releasing them from the slavery of Satan.

But this is where it is important to distinguish between salvation and redemption, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Why do I keep referring to all of you as my brothers and sisters, my brethren, in Christ? In Christ because, through our baptism we have become the children of God, and we have therefore become one body, united by Christ, and this one body is our Church. Brethren, salvation is different from just redemption because, salvation requires that necessary step, that is baptism, and entry into the Church of God, which can only be done through baptism.

Why is baptism so important? Because, at baptism, we place ourselves humbly before God, and ask Him for forgiveness, and at the same time, mark ourselves with the eternal mark of baptism, which sealed us in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, essentially sealing us as a children of God in the Holy Trinity.

Therefore, brethren in Christ, if anyone who does not belong to the Church and the faith asks you, if we can just be good people and do good in this world, in the absence of God, why then do we even need to bother with joining the Church at all? Why then do we need to be Catholics and follow the teachings of the Church if we can just be good person, be a good man, and doing good to our brethren?

No, brothers and sisters in Christ, that is the first word you should tell them, and that while goodness is indeed possible for those not within the Church, as indeed Adam and Eve had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is it not? Therefore, they would have been able to identify what is evil from what is good, and capable therefore of doing good, just as they were able of doing what is evil. The same therefore also applies to us living in this world today.

Thus, goodness and doing good alone is not enough. That is why, while our salvation comes not from faith alone, as some would have it, but neither is our salvation from good works and service alone. Anyone can be good and does good service to the poor, to all mankind, if they wish to, but that does not give them salvation, because, although Christ redeemed them through His death on the cross, they did not accept the salvation He offered, by having faith in Him.

Neither can then, that we just have faith in Christ without doing anything good at all. Many Christians in fact are ‘do-nothing’ Christians, Sunday Christians, and passive Christians, because they do not make use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that had been granted them. Our faith must be made alive through action, and through service that is grounded in love. Without love, we are dead, and if we do not make use of the love that is in us, and keep it to ourselves, we will also perish.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to step up evangelisation, to ensure that the many good people in the world out there, who does good things and service for the sake of their fellow mankind, can gain true salvation by accepting Christ as their Lord, their God, and their Saviour, through baptism, when they, like all of us once, will be sealed with the Lord’s seal of the Holy Trinity’s Name.

And of course not to forget those Christians who had grown complacent and cool in their faith, that through our action, we can reawaken the flames of the Holy Spirit once again in them, and allowing them to truly make use of the gifts they have in them, and do good things for the sake of God, and for their fellow men.

Finally, today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we also commemorate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, a religious sister who was made a saint out of her great piety and endurance for the faith, despite being abused and hurt by her former husband before she joined the religious profession. Her life was truly exemplary to all of us, through her loving actions in ensuring that her family remained in the love of God, and her teaching of the value of forgiveness and kindness to her son. Through her actions, she made great peace between the feuding families of her hometown, which had resulted in her husband’s assassination.

St. Rita of Cascia is therefore, brethren, a perfect example of what we need to learn today, that we need both faith and good works in order to gain greatness, glory of God, and salvation. St. Rita of Cascia’s strong and inviolable faith in the Lord enabled her to endure her suffering and anchored her against the hatred and corruption of the world, and as a result, transformed those around her, and this, coupled with her numerous good works, are great examples of faith lived through action, of faith made alive and vibrant through good deeds, and not mere words and devotions.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today, let us reflect on ourselves, whether we have already done what the Lord wants us to do, that is to fully accept Him as our Lord and God, and to accept His teachings that are reflected in the teachings of the Church, that is our faith, and whether we have already implemented this faith in the reality of the world, through service and good deeds to others. And not to forget also, that we need to accomplish the mission God has placed on us, that is to make disciples of all nations, and seal them with baptism in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity.

Remember, redemption through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is not enough for salvation, for in that redemption, Christ freely offered Himself to us, and if we do not accept Him, we can have no part in Him, and we will be condemned, even if we have done good things in our life, because we often do it not for God, but for ourselves, for our own pride and glory. And be careful not to misinterpret the Scripture, and hence, learn the Scripture through credible and authoritative source, that is the Church. That man who performed miracles in the Name of Christ, did those miracles because he has faith in Christ, and therefore belonging to Christ, in the same way as baptism marks us as children of God, and the saved ones, so long as we also do good in the practice of our faith.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, pray, and pray hard that more and more people will come and see the light of Christ, especially through our own actions, that reflect Christ, that more people who are good, and who do good things, but have yet to believe and accept Christ, can truly be saved, through the waters of baptism. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 13 May 2013 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima (First Reading)

Acts 19 : 1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul travelled through the interior of the country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples whom he asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered, “We have not even heard that anyone may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Paul then asked, “What kind of baptism have you received?” And they answered, “The baptism of John.”

Paul then explained, “John’s baptism was for conversion, but he himself said they should believe in the One who was to come, and that One is Jesus.” Upon hearing this, they were baptised in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Then Paul laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came down upon them; and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of them in all.

Paul went into the synagogue and for three months he preached and discussed there boldly, trying to convince them about the Kingdom of God.

 

Reading from the Mass of Our Lady of Fatima

 

Isaiah 61 : 9-11

Their descendants shall be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a race YHVH has blessed.

I rejoice greatly in YHVH, my soul exults for joy in my God, for He has clothed me in the garments of His salvation, He has covered me with the robe of His righteousness, like a bridegroom wearing a garland, like a bride adorned with jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its growth, and as a garden makes seeds spring up, so will the Lord YHVH make justice and praise spring up in the sight of all nations.