Wednesday, 7 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us listened to the words of the Scriptures, in which we are reminded of God’s providence and love for each and every one of us. All of us are promised a life that is free from the sufferings of this world and all the troubles surrounding us now, which will be ours in due time. The Lord leads us all to this journey towards this new and everlasting life, after our worldly journey comes to an end. We are reminded today that our life in this world is not an end to itself, but is merely a temporary stop towards an eternity to come. Eternal life awaits all of us and no matter how much hardships and sufferings that we will have to endure now, in the end, the Lord will lead us to a new life and existence that is free from all sufferings and hardships, into a life that is full of the grace and love of God, when all of us are risen from the dead with Christ.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Tobit, in which both Tobit and Sara, who were facing great tribulation and hardships back then, were praying fervently to God to help them out of their predicament and hardships. Each one of them were suffering greatly because of the challenges that they faced, with Tobit suffering from his blindness and from the ridicule even from his own wife and friends, after his blindness and attitude made him unliked by those who were around him. Meanwhile, Sara was the daughter of Ragouel that was a friend of Tobit’s. She was beset by a powerful demon named Asmodeus, who has struck at all the seven brothers who were married to her and became her husbands. Thus Sara was ridiculed by her own maidservants that accused her of having murdered all of her past husbands when she had done no such thing.

In distress, both Tobit and Sara prayed to the Lord and sought His help and guidance, and the Lord heard them in their distress and all of their prayers. The Lord sent His Archangel Raphael, one of His chief Angels to guide and help both Tobit and Sara, as He sent him to accompany Tobias, the son of Tobit on his journey. Eventually, through the assistance rendered by the Archangel Raphael and all that God had sent to His faithful servants through His Archangel, both Tobit and Sara were liberated from their misery and troubles. They were given reprieve, and not just that, but even greater blessings from God, much as what we may know of another tragic story in the Scriptures, that of the man of God, Job, who similarly faced hardships and difficulties before he was freed from all those.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to a group of Sadducees who challenged the Lord, questioned Him and attempted to test the Lord by using a case study, which was rather similar to what we have heard from the Book of Tobit. The Sadducees were one of the two most influential and powerful groups in the society of the Jewish people at that time in the region, especially at Judea and in Jerusalem. Those Sadducees consisted of those whose beliefs were diametrically opposite of the conservative and hardline religious members of the Pharisees. As opposed to the deeply spiritual and Law-observant Pharisees, the Sadducees were those who rejected any spiritual aspects of the Jewish society. They did not believe in the resurrection, or the Angels or any other spiritual matters.

Thus, they were mostly a worldly people with lots of influence and wealth, through which they exercised their power and influence. They asked the Lord regarding how resurrection was possible if in the case study they presented, seven brothers who shared a wife eventually died, and when the woman herself died, whose wife she would be, as they thought in the ways of the people of this world. The Lord thus refuted their thoughts and way of beliefs, by saying that whatever the world to come is to be like, it will be different from our way of life in this world, which is often materialistic and even to the point of being hedonistic and selfish, filled with greed and worldly desires. There is indeed a life beyond death, life that is fully satisfied by the fullness of grace from God.

The Lord Jesus reminded us all that if we seek satisfaction from this world, we will soon be easily disappointed by the hardships, challenges, rejection, ridicule and all the obstacles we may encounter on the way. Like what Tobit and Sara had experienced during their most difficult moments, without the guidance and strength in God, and without the hope of the life that is to come in the Lord, we will easily give in to despair. But God is always with us, by our side, guiding us and strengthening us throughout our journey, and as He has often demonstrated, even in our own lives, we should continue to entrust ourselves to Him and to walk ever more faithfully in His path, living our lives well and righteously so that we will always be good role models and inspirations for one another.

We should not be easily swayed and tempted by the many worldly temptations all around us, or by any desires for worldly matters and corruptions, all the pursuits of worldly glory, pleasures, ambitions and more among all those that we encounter in this world. And if we do encounter hardships in life, we must always remember that God is there by our side, supporting and guiding us all in each and every moments without fail. We may have to endure sufferings and hardships, but we must remember that God has suffered the ultimate suffering, rejection, ridicule and persecution for our sake, and He has endured what we are enduring as well. All of us are always in God’s good hands, and we ought to remember this fact.

May the Lord continue to strengthen and encourage us by His love, His grace and ever present guidance in our daily lives, so that we may always walk ever more graciously and with faith in the path that He has presented to us. Let us all continue to be upright and commit ourselves each day with ever more dedication and obedience to Him, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 7 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 12 : 18-27

At that time, the Sadducees also came to Jesus. Since they claim that there is no resurrection, they questioned Him in this way, “Master, in the Scriptures Moses gave us this law : if anyone dies and leaves a wife but no children, his brother must take the woman, and with her have a baby, who will be considered the child of his deceased brother.”

“Now, there were seven brothers. The first married a wife, but he died without leaving any children. The second took the wife, and he also died leaving no children. The same thing happened to the third. In fact, all seven brothers died, leaving no children. Last of all the women died. Now, in the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife? For all seven brothers had her as wife.”

Jesus replied, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry, but are like the Angels in heaven. Now, about the resurrection of the dead, have you never had thoughts about the burning bush in the book of Moses?”

“God said to Moses : I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is the God not of the dead but of the living. You are totally wrong.”

Wednesday, 7 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 24 : 2-3, 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

In You my God I trust; let me not be put to shame, let not my enemies exult over me. Those who hope in You will never be humbled; those who turn away from You will suffer disgrace!

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Wednesday, 7 June 2023 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Tobit 3 : 1-11a, 16-17a

Distressed, I wept and prayed and expressing my sorrow, I said, “You are just, o Lord; all Your actions and all Your ways are merciful and just; Your judgments are always true and just. Remember me, Lord, and look on me. Do not punish me for my sins nor for the wrongs I have committed through ignorance.”

“Pardon the sins which my fathers have committed in Your sight, for they disobeyed Your commandments. You have allowed us to suffer pillage, captivity and death. You have allowed us to be mocked by all the pagan nations among whom we have been dispersed.”

“Ah well! All Your judgments are just when You choose to punish me for my sins and those of my fathers, because we have not accomplished Your will, nor have we sincerely obeyed Your commands. We have not walked before You in truth. Do with me as You will. Order my life taken from me, and turn me into dust, because I prefer death to life. In this way free me and let me return to dust.”

“It is better for me to die than to live, because these unjust reproaches have caused me great distress. Command that I be now released from trials, and let me enter my eternal dwelling place. Do not turn Your face away from me.”

That same day, at Ecbatana in Media, Sara, the daughter of Ragouel, was insulted in a similar way by her father’s young maidservants. Sara had had seven husbands, but the demon Asmodeus had killed each one of them before the marriage had been consummated.

The maidservants said, “It was you who killed your husbands. You have had seven husbands and you have not enjoyed marital relationship with any of them. Why do you punish us? Since they are dead, go and join them. May we never see a son or daughter of yours!”

That same day Sara was so distressed in mind that she went to the upper room in her father’s house. She wished to hang herself. But she thought better of it and said : “If people ever reproached my father and said to him : ‘You had an only daughter whom you cherished and she hanged herself because she was unhappy,’ I would cause my father in his old age to die of grief. It is better for me not to hang myself but to ask the Lord that I may die and not live to hear any more insults.”

At that moment she stretched forth her hands towards the window and prayed. The Lord in His glory heard the prayer of Tobit and Sara and He sent Raphael to heal them both – to give back his sight to Tobit and to give Sara, the daughter of Ragouel, to Tobit’s son Tobias, as his wife.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the last day in the month of May, also known as the month of the Rosary, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Chronologically, this feast celebrates what occurred back then during the time when Mary, who was bearing within her the Son of God Himself, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the hillside of Judea. Elizabeth was then heavily pregnant and was almost due for her son, the future St. John the Baptist, and both women had their children conceived in the most miraculous way. Mary conceived the Child in her womb without any human intervention, as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and by the power and will of God, the Divine Son of God, the Word of God Himself became incarnate in the flesh, to be born of Mary as the Son of Man, the Saviour of the world. Meanwhile Elizabeth conceived a child in her old age, something that seemed impossible, especially after many years having unsuccessfully conceived a child at all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard from our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we are reminded that this day is truly a joyful celebration because of the great things that the Lord had done for His faithful servants, for Mary and Elizabeth, in performing great and miraculous deeds through them and their respective conceiving of their children. The prophet Zephaniah was conveying the great joy that the people of God ought to experience because of everything that the Lord had shown them, in the faithfulness and steadfastness that He had shown towards His Covenant with all of His beloved people, and in many other things that He has done for us. And most importantly, as mentioned, through Mary and Elizabeth, the light of God’s salvation and Good News was finally revealed to us, through our Lord and Saviour Himself, and through His Herald, St. John the Baptist.

Then, as we heard the account of the encounter between the two women, Mary and Elizabeth as told by our Gospel passage today, we are all reminded of the love which God has shown us that He was willing to come into our midst, and He did so not in a magnificent and glorious manner, but He came to us through two ordinary woman, and especially through His mother Mary, a most ordinary woman and virgin from the unassuming small town of Nazareth in Galilee, with her cousin Elizabeth, another ordinary elderly woman living in Judea. Yet, it was through them that God made His salvation tangible and real to us, one as the mother of His Herald to proclaim His Good News and to prepare everyone for His coming, and one as His own Mother, allowing Him to enter this world in the flesh, coming upon us and dwelling in our midst.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the great song of rejoicing by Mary, who was full of the Holy Spirit, inspired to sing that song which we all now know as the Magnificat. The Magnificat is a great hymn of praise and thanksgiving which summarised the great joy which all of us mankind experienced for having seen and received the salvation from God and the assurance that everything which He had promised would come true. For Mary herself, the joy was even greater because she would become no less than the Mother of God herself, and God chose her, a humble and poor young woman, as the Vessel and the one to bear the Saviour, to bring forth the deliverance that God has long promised His people. God truly works in mysterious ways, and this was how our salvation came to be, not through great miracles and wonders by a mighty and conquering God, but through a simple yet devout woman who embraced her role and answered positively to the Lord’s call.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these words from the Scriptures and recalled how the Lord had performed His great and wonderful deeds through those two great and holy women, Mary, Mother of God and Mother of us all, and St. Elizabeth, the Mother of St. John the Baptist, all of us are reminded that each and every one of us also share in their grace and the love which God has shown both of them. All of us are also beloved children, the sons and daughters of God by adoption through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Therefore, all of us, having been made sharers in our Lord’s plan of salvation and the New Covenant that He has established with us, the Church that He has established in this world as the tangible and real Communion of all those who are faithful to Him, all of us have also received the same assurance of salvation and eternal life, and we should emulate both Mary and Elizabeth in their response and faith.

Each and every one of us have been blessed and provided by the Lord with a variety of gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities, unique to each one of us and our various circumstances. Therefore, all of us are called and sent out to do God’s will in our various capacities and opportunities, and we should do whatever we can to glorify God in all things, and in our every actions and works, in even the smallest and least significant of the things we do. We should live our lives with zeal and commitment, entrusting ourselves to the Lord and doing whatever we can to carry out His will and to follow Him as best as we are able to. We should not be idle or ignorant of what we can contribute to the good works of the Church, but do our best always, at all times to serve the Lord and to inspire each other by our own lives and actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us emulate the faith that Mary and Elizabeth had in the Lord and let us do what we can to make good use of the blessings and opportunities provided for us so that we may help to lead more and more souls back towards the Lord and that we may proclaim God and His Good News among more people and in more places, that we do not waste these opportunities provided for us. Each one of us can serve our role and parts as members of God’s Church and as an integral part of the work of the Church’s mission in evangelising the world. Each one of us should help others to fulfil their parts and roles in loving God and loving one another, that the Lord’s works become ever more tangible in this world, and more and more may come to experience God’s great love and glory.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may He empower all of us to walk ever more faithfully in His ways, providing us the courage and strength to do His will, and the perseverance and commitment to endure the challenges and trials that may come our way. May the Lord give us the Spirit to walk ever more faithfully like Mary and Elizabeth had done, so that we may be more and more like them and our holy predecessors in how we live our lives, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 39-56

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women, and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my Saviour! He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed.”

“The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name! From age to age His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.”

“He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid. YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me. You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation.

Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.

Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Zephaniah 3 : 14-18

Cry out with joy, o daughter of Zion; rejoice, o people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! YHVH has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. YHVH, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.

On that day they will say to Jerusalem : Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for YHVH your God is within you, YHVH, saving Warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for He has revived His love. For you He will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the Feast.

I will drive away the evil I warned you about, and you will no longer be ashamed.

Alternative reading

Romans 12 : 9-16b

Let love be sincere. Hate what is evil and hold to whatever is good. Love one another and be considerate. Outdo one another in mutual respect. Be zealous in fulfilling your duties. Be fervent in the Spirit and serve God.

Have hope and be cheerful. Be patient in trials and pray constantly. Share with other Christians in need. With those passing by, be ready to receive them. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not wish evil on anyone. Rejoice with those who are joyful, and weep with those who weep.

Live in peace with one another. Do not dream of extraordinary things.

Wednesday, 24 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church marks the occasion of the Feast of Mary Help of Christians and also the Feast of Our Lady of Sheshan in China. On this day in particular therefore we remember all the faithful people of God all around the world who have been facing persecutions and oppressions, hardships and trials in remaining true to their faith in the Lord, in all that they have to endure as those who have embraced the salvation and the hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we ought to support one another such that we will not easily fall into despair and losing faith in God, and then falling into the wrong path in life. We must remind ourselves that none of us are ever alone in our journey and struggle of faith as Christians, because the Lord is ever always by our side, and He will never abandon us no matter what. We also have our fellow Christian brothers and sisters, some of whom may even have suffered more than us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard the conclusion of the narrative of St. Paul the Apostle and his farewell to the faithful people of God in Ephesus, which we have heard for the past few weekdays. At that time, St. Paul and also many other missionaries had been facing a lot of successes as well as obstacles in their missionary and evangelisation efforts, as the early Church of God grew rapidly and gained many members and followers, and continued to spread further and further despite the many obstacles, trials and hardships that they had to endure, facing rejection and refusal from many among the authorities. Both the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, as well as local governors and authorities, and others who were opposed to the Christian faith, made it difficult for the Christian missionaries to carry out their work.

St. Paul the Apostle had laboured hard to establish the reach and the foundations of the Church in many places he had visited together with the other disciples and missionaries, and faced trouble from some of the Jewish authorities in the places he visited, and he was accused falsely of crimes and things that he did not commit, and was on his way to Jerusalem to face those allegations and accusations. St. Paul could very well have chosen to flee and to stay away from those who sought to oppose and crush him, but he chose to follow the Lord, Who called on him to trust in Him and to follow where He was leading him to go to. The Lord told St. Paul that he would be His witness and missionary in Rome, at the capital and very heart of the Roman Empire, to proclaim the Good News of God and where he would also face sufferings and martyrdom, for the greater glory of God.

Thus, St. Paul reassured all the faithful in Ephesus and others who knew of his story and works, the challenges that he had faced and encountered, that being a faithful disciple of the Lord, while it may indeed be difficult and challenging for them, but the Lord would guide them and protect them throughout their path and way. Those who placed their faith and trust in the Lord would never be disappointed, and everything that they did and carried out in their lives will be blessed by God, and God will remember and know everything that they had done for His sake, and everything that even perhaps we do not know or did not realise. God has provided for us everything, even not sparing from us His own most beloved Son, Who had come down into our midst, in the flesh, showing unto all of us, the full and perfect manifestation of His ever enduring love and kindness.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, praying to His heavenly Father asking Him to bless and guide His disciples and followers, and to be with them all throughout their journey. The Lord Himself also promised them all the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who indeed came to descend upon the world, upon the disciples and the Church, empowering all of them and strengthening them, giving them the courage and hope to proclaim the Good News of God. That was how the Church continued to grow rapidly and remained firm despite the many challenges and trials that it and many of the faithful had faced throughout time and history. The many inspiring examples of those who have suffered and remained firmly faithful to the Lord inspired many others who were therefore encouraged to keep steady in their faith as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise that sufferings, hardships and persecutions of the Church still continue even right up to this day. There are still areas and places where being Christians is a difficult situation and condition, and not just that, but they even were actively persecuted and some even faced death threats and not few were martyred for being followers of Christ. One of such places is the region of Mainland China, which had endured for over seven decades of constant government intervention into their faith, belief and Church governance, and there had been a lot of hardships and challenges faced by the faithful people of God in that place, as they were torn between obedience to the Universal Church and its laws, with the ever increasing control from the officially Communist government that was hostile against the true expressions of the Christian faith.

That is why today, we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, as we remember our brothers and sisters who are currently suffering and enduring hardships in China, who had to face difficulties and challenges in living their Christian lives and in being true to the full expression of their Christian faith. We pray for all of them and reminding ourselves that we are all part of the same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. All of us are part of this indivisible and united Church, that is truly Universal in nature, and that is why it is important that we should support and pray for our brethren in trouble whenever we can. We should remember those who are less fortunate than us, those who did not have it easy like us who may be having better days and moments in living our lives as Christians and in expressing ourselves in our faith.

Let us also remember all the others all around the world who are also perhaps facing hardships and challenges, difficulties and other things in life for being Christians, that is for believing in the Lord and His truth. Let us all support one another as parts and members of the one united Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. May the Lord continue to bless us all and guide us, and be with us all His Church, at all times. May He empower all of us to remain firm in our faith, despite the many trials, challenges and hardships facing us, so that our lives and actions, everything we say and do will always reflect our Christian faith and beliefs, that many others may also be inspired to follow after us in following God’s path as well. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 11b-19

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “Holy Father, keep those You have given Me in Your Name, so that they may be one, as we also are. When I was with them, I kept them safe in Your Name; and not one was lost, except the one who was already lost, and in this, the Scripture was fulfilled. And now I come to You; in the world I speak these things, so that those whom You gave Me, might have joy – all My joy within themselves.”

“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world, I do not ask You to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.”

“I have sent them into the world as You sent Me into the world; and for their sake, I go to the sacrifice by which I am consecrated, so that they too may be consecrated in truth.”