Wednesday, 22 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, together as the whole Universal Church. This date is exactly one week after the important Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and we can see that the two events commemorated by the Church are truly related to each other.

In the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we commemorate Mary’s glorious Assumption into heaven, by the will and power of her Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In the Assumption, we remember Mary, who was conceived without the taints of sin, original sin or any other forms of sin, to be a worthy vessel to bear the New Covenant and God Himself in her womb.

And if Mary bore the Lord Jesus within her, she is the Ark of the New Covenant and the Ark of God. And because God is so holy and powerful, nothing impure or sinful could have been in the vessel He has chosen specially for this purpose. That was why Mary was conceived without sin and remained so, according to the teachings of the Church, throughout her life.

Now, Mary has therefore been assumed to heaven, to enjoy the glory prepared for her by her own Son, the King of kings and Lord of all lords. And as the mother of the King, she indeed is a Queen, following the custom and precedents of the ancient kingdom of Israel and Judah. For example, David, the famous King of Israel, had his mother sit at his side as the Queen Mother of the kingdom.

The position of the Queen Mother was tied to the kingship of the son of the Queen Mother, such that even if the Queen Mother was just a commoner and not born of royal bloodline, but she is nonetheless regarded as a Queen and a royal in all of its rights, privileges and powers. Mary therefore enjoy the same position and privilege for her Son, Jesus Christ, is the one True King of all.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s feast of the Queenship of Mary commemorates this glory which Mary, as the mother of our God and King has attained, crowned by her own Son, to be honoured above all other creation. She is the first and finest of all those who were created, and her shining example and glory become inspiration for each and every one of us mankind.

First of all, the glory which Mary received is a premonition and revelation of what we all shall receive in the end, if we choose to remain true to our faith and be faithful to Our God. We are children of the King, having been adopted by the virtue of our baptism, becoming God’s own sons and daughters. Therefore, we too shall merit the crown of glory promised by the Lord to all who are faithful to Him.

And then, having Mary as Queen, the ever beloved and blessed Queen Mother of heaven, she is always ever by the side of her Son, beside His Throne in heaven. She is therefore the greatest and most blessed among all the saints and holy men and women of God. No one else has the same honour and glory, and the same privileged position which Mary has, as her Son’s closest confidant.

We must remember what happened during the time when the Lord Jesus performed His very first miracle in Cana, during a wedding ceremony when the couple ran out of wine. Knowing that the couple were in a great trouble, Mary came up to her Son and asked Him to step in and help them. And even though He initially evaded her request by stating that it was not yet His time, He did listen to her plea, made for the sake of the wedding couple, and performed the miraculous deeds nonetheless.

This is what each and every one of us should keep in mind, as we turn towards God through His mother, Mary. Mary indeed is the way that God has blessed us with, to be our help and intercessor before Him. Through Mary, Queen of Angels, Queen of All Saints, and Queen of Heaven, we have received bountiful graces from God, Who listens to His mother, and therefore, turns towards us with love and compassion.

Let us all therefore renew our commitment to live in greater faith, to dedicate ourselves ever more wholeheartedly to the Lord, by imitating Mary, His beloved mother, that in all the things we say and do, we will follow the obedience and the great faith which Mary has shown to us. Let us all ask her to intercede for us all sinners, now and always, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God against the king of Tyre, which He delivered through the prophet Ezekiel. The city of Tyre was famous since the ancient times, thousands of years ago, as a rich and powerful city, to be exact an island city populated by the Phoenicians, a seafaring and merchant-based people, who colonised many trade centres throughout the Mediterranean.

The city of Tyre, its people and king were all fabulously wealthy, and they had all the resources and worldly materials that people at that time desired. In addition, the city’s strategic and highly defensible position, being an island protected by the sea around it, and with a powerful navy easily supported by its immense wealth, the city of Tyre became a very proud city, ambitious and haughty. It was the epitome and symbol of worldly power, pride and greed.

This is related to what the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel passage today, which is a continuation of what we heard in yesterday’s Gospel about a young, rich man who came to the Lord asking how he could attain eternal life. The Lord Jesus asked him whether he had done and obeyed the commandments and laws of God, and he responded that he did.

But when the Lord asked him to sell everything he had and follow Him, the young man immediately hesitated and left in great sorrow, as he could not bear to part with his immense wealth and material possessions. Then the Lord in today’s Gospel passage explained how it is very difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, by using the comparison to a camel, pointing out how it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

What the Lord Jesus had told us in the Scripture passage, is however, not a condemnation or rejection of the rich. The Lord our God loves every single one of us, whether we are rich or poor, strong or weak, or by whatever parameter it is that we often measure ourselves against each other with. What the Lord intended to tell was that, the wealth and riches of the world are themselves not the issue, but it was how we mankind often misuse these, or in how we live our lives according to these things.

What I mean is that, many of us are often so preoccupied with these worldly and material goods, that we end up being overcome by greed and desire, and we end up doing things that are wicked and unjust, and against God’s laws and commandments, in order for us to gain more of these tempting things and worldly attachments. And this is the great obstacle that lies on our path towards God’s salvation and grace.

Many of us are unable to resist the temptations brought by all these worldly and material allures of our flesh and mind. We are surrounded by so many of these temptations, and the world only makes it worse by continually bombarding us with materialistic advertisements, actions, and persuasions among many others. That is why, as Christians, all of us are called to make our stand, to resist the temptations that will come our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Pius X, holy Pope and Successor of St. Peter, who was the Supreme Pontiff approximately a century ago. He was remembered for his great holiness and piety, and for his great dedication towards the betterment of many of the faithful. He was born into a poor family in northern Italy, and chose to follow the calling to be a priest, eventually rising to be a bishop and later on the Patriarch of Venice.

But even though Pope St. Pius X rose in prestige and worldly power, he remained humble and true to his commitment to the Church and the faith. He worked hard and spent his time ministering to his flock, living austerely and devoting himself to a life of prayer and service to God. Pope St. Pius X was always concerned for those who have been entrusted to him, and later on as Pope, he was remembered for extending the reception of Holy Communion to people of younger ages, and for the reform of the Church music.

All of these were meant to get the faithful to be more involved in the Church, and by the repositioning of the Gregorian Chant as the primary form of worship music in the Church, he helped to reestablish and strengthen the sense of the sacred in the divine worship, and strengthened the Holy Mass as the centre and heart of our Christian faith. And Pope St. Pius X was also always striving for peace among the countries of the world, at that time enduring rising tensions. He died a broken man when the first World War broke out.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to imitate the zeal and courage which Pope St. Pius X has shown throughout his life, as well as his humility and desire to serve the Lord with all of his heart and with all of his might. Are we able to do all these? Let us all throw away all of our pride and arrogance, and learn to be humble in life.

Going back to the story of the mighty city of Tyre at the start of our reflection today, that city would be conquered and thrown down by Alexander the Great, destroyed and razed to the ground. It would never again regain its greatness and power, and would eventually be forgotten and overlooked by subsequent generations. This happened to all other great powers who boasted their might and power.

All of these remind us that in God alone we are able to put our complete trust and not in worldly things, all sorts of wealth, power, prestige, fame or glories, all of which are temporary and can be destroyed at any time. Let us all therefore from now on, renew our commitment to live faithfully, to spend our time and effort to draw closer to God with each and every passing day. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 20 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us heard from the Scriptures, first beginning with the words and actions of the prophet Ezekiel, who was sent by God to the people of Israel in exile in Babylon, as a sign and warning for them. He showed them through what the Lord had told him to do, how the Israelites have profaned the Holy Temple of God, abandoned His Covenant and disobeyed His Laws, and how this would lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel alike.

The Lord has made His Covenant with Israel, promising to bless them and to love them, to protect them and to make them grow into a great nation, but with the agreement that the Israelites would obey the laws and commandments that He has placed before them, which He revealed to them through His servant Moses, and then reminded them many times through His many prophets and messengers.

Yet, the people fell into temptation and refused to obey the laws and commandments which they were supposed to keep. They were swayed by worldly pleasures, of money, of prestige, of power, of human praise, the pleasures of the body and the flesh, that they ended up falling for the traps set by the devil in their midst. They abandoned God and worshipped the pagan idols of their neighbours and followed them in their wicked deeds and lives.

In this event, we see how a people that gave in to the temptations of the world could not remain faithful to the Lord, for they were not able to give their all to God, as their attention and focus were divided and occupied by the worldly desires in their hearts. And that is how, in our Gospel passage today, we also heard of the young man who wanted to follow the Lord and having a great wealth.

In that occasion, the young man said to the Lord that he wanted to know how he could follow Him, stating that he has already followed the laws and commandments as Moses have revealed it to Israel. The young man has obeyed the laws and commandments, and yet, when the Lord asked him to leave behind everything and follow Him wholeheartedly, the young man hesitated and left in sorrow.

Through this interaction between the Lord Jesus and the young, rich man, we can see clearly how our attachments to worldly things such as money, wealth, possessions, glory and fame can prevent us from reaching out to the Lord. These are obstacles that come between us and God, and have become stumbling blocks that make us falter and fall in our journey towards God and His salvation. We must get rid of these obstacles before us.

Today, we celebrate together the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a renowned abbot and religious, a holy and devout servant of God. St. Bernard of Clairvaux founded the Cistercian order following his reform of the Benedictine monastic rules and order. He was remembered for his pious life, and his commitment in combatting heresies and falsehoods rampant in the Church and among the faithful at the time.

There were certain people within the Church who wanted to use the faith to advance their own selfish desires, and that was partly why those heretical teachings and aberrant beliefs proliferated. St. Bernard of Clairvaux dedicated his whole life to the Church, and many souls have been rescued from the precipice of downfall to hell because of his dedication and work.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live our lives filled with commitment and dedication from now on, to love the Lord with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, and with all of our strength and might, that we may ever strive to be worthy of God? And let us strive to stay true to the Covenant which He has made with us all. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 19 August 2018 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we continue for the third week, the discourse of the Body and Blood of Christ, which in the Gospel passage today, was mentioned by the Lord Jesus Himself, as the food and drink which He would give His people. The Jews, especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were both skeptical and even furious at such a revelation. To them, a Man such as Jesus could not have given Himself for them to eat and drink.

Why is that so? First of all, we have to understand clearly that the Jews understood what they heard from the Lord, from a completely worldly and materialistic perspective. They thought that it was completely disgusting that the Lord Jesus, as someone Who they thought as a Prophet and Holy Man of God, could have said something so unimaginable, as to say that He would give them His own flesh and blood.

But little did they realise that the Lord Jesus was not mincing His words, saying the very truth of what He would do. And this is also the very core and centre of our Christian faith, as we believe in God Who has willingly offered Himself, sacrificed Himself and allowed Himself to be lifted up high on the Cross at Calvary, so that by that offering of Himself, a perfect offering, He may become the worthy absolution for all of our sins.

In the first reading today, taken from the book of Proverbs, we heard about the gift of Wisdom to those who have none, and how Wisdom, personified as a woman, called upon the senseless and all those without wisdom and understanding to share and partake in the food and drink she has prepared. This is a premonition of what the Lord would ultimately reveal, that is the gift of His own true Wisdom, by the giving and sharing of Himself, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

In the first place, all of us do not have true wisdom in us, unless it came to us from the Lord. God alone knows everything, and He alone has all knowledge, of what is to come for us. He revealed to us all that for all that we have achieved in this world, all the glory and power we have gathered and attained, all of these are nothing without God. For we have to remember, first and foremost, that our lives came from God, and this life we owe it to the Lord alone.

Unfortunately, because of our disobedience, which led us to sin, have sundered us from this source of life. That is why, although once we have been intended to enjoy forever the wonders of the world in perfect bliss and joy, but due to sin, we have been cast out of Eden, and ended up suffering in this world. And we are made to suffer this mortal existence, having to meet with death at the end of our lives.

Because of our sins, we have been made unworthy of God’s grace and love, and we have been made unworthy of God’s holy Presence, as due to our sins, we have been defiled and corrupted. Nothing wicked and evil can stand before God and do not perish, and therefore, death and damnation are our just punishment and consequence for our failure to obey His will. But as we can see, God does not intend this to be our fate.

Instead, God loves each and every one of us so much that He Who has created us out of nothing, wants all of us to be reconciled and reunited with Him. God knows that without Him, all of us will eventually wither and perish, and separated from Him, we will suffer eternal anguish, pain and despair. That is what hell is, brothers and sisters in Christ, the state of existence, where those who have willingly and consciously rejected God, and therefore suffer for eternity the effects of their decision.

Although we mankind have been disobedient and rebellious in our actions, from time to time, day after day, but God is always patient, and He always remembers His love, the same love He has for us ever since the beginning of time. So great is His love, that He has given us the perfect means through which we may gain this reconciliation and reunion with God, and that is through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

It is by the perfect and selfless giving of Himself, the perfect offering of His own Body and Blood, on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary, that He has given us the one and only means to be saved from our fated destruction and damnation in hell. He revealed this for the first time to the people in the beginning of His ministry, by what He told them in our Gospel passage today, of Him being the Bread of Life, the Source of our salvation.

But the people and the disciples would not come understand the true meaning of these words until after the Lord has already brought everything to its full and perfect completion. It was only later on that they would realise, through the Holy Spirit, that the Lord has truly done everything He could to save us mankind, even to the point of laying down His life on the cross, and giving us the best gift of all, the Most Holy Eucharist, the proof of His perfect love for us.

And the Eucharist is the centre and heart of all of our faith and belief in God. Why is that so? That is because we believe that, in the Eucharist, which is celebrated at every occasions of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the Real Presence of the Lord, truly present in His Most Precious Body and Blood. He is truly present in the flesh, both fully Man and fully Divine as He is.

The bread and the wine offered at the Mass has been transformed completely into the substance, essence and reality of the Lord, Master and God of all. That means, although what we see is still the bread and the wine in appearance, but truthfully and we truly believe, as the core tenet of our Christian faith, that we have received nothing less than Our Lord Himself, present in Body and Blood.

Yet, there are many among us Christians who through our actions or through the way we live our faith, we have not shown appreciation, understanding and the urge as well as desire for the Lord truly present in His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We have not shown the proper respect or reverence in welcoming Him into our lives. Remember, brothers and sisters, that God Himself has given His own Flesh for us to eat, and His own Blood for us to drink, that by partaking them, we may come to share in both His humanity and divinity.

That means, all of us are dwellings of the Lord, and our bodies, minds, hearts and souls are the Temples of God’s Holy Presence. Yet, many of us treat our body, mind, heart and soul as if without care, corrupting them with sins and wickedness through our actions. How can we then be worthy of God, Who comes to us directly and dwelling in us through His Most Precious Body and Blood?

Let us all reflect on this, and think of how we can correct our attitude and actions, that we may come to be truly faithful to God, and show sincerely, our faith and belief in God, Who is truly present in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist. Let us turn to Him wholeheartedly, He Who has given us Himself that by sharing in His death, we may die to our sins, and share in His glorious resurrection as well.

The Lord has revealed this wonderful truth to us, showing us His great and boundless love. Are we able to love Him in the same manner, giving Him all of our attention, focus and our love? Let us all adore Him in the Most Holy Eucharist, His Real Presence among us on earth, and appreciate the fact that He has chosen to come into us, unworthy sinners, that we may be transformed by His Presence, and through the Holy Spirit He has sent us, we may all find true Wisdom, and turn therefore away from the false temptations of the world, and find our true treasure, that is God, and God alone.

May God bless us all, and may He empower each and every one of us, through the most wonderful spiritual sustenance we have received, the Bread of Life, that while once we were sinners doomed to die and perish, we now have the sure hope and assurance of eternal life with our loving God. Amen.

Saturday, 18 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by the Lord through His words passed through Ezekiel, His prophet, that all of us shall be judged justly and rightfully by the Lord in the end, by none other than our own actions and by our own words and deeds. If a person is righteous and just in his or her actions, then the Lord will bless the person for all the good things he has done.

God will not take into account of someone’s relatives’ actions in deciding the fate of that person. Everyone are responsible for their own individual actions, and in the end of the day, it is our refusal to obey the Lord, our rebelliousness, and our succumbing to the temptations of the world that become the sources of our condemnation, and what had dragged many among us into the fires of hell.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus severely rebuked His disciples for scolding the people who were bringing young children to Him. He told them that unless they had the same faith and act in the manner of the little children, they would have no part in the kingdom of God. Essentially, the Lord is calling all of us to be pure and true in our faith, just as the children are pure and blameless.

If we have seen children in how they act and do things, they are still very impressionable and teachable, as they are essentially blank slate awaiting to receive guidance and examples that they will grow to follow in life. When they believe in something, they will hold on to what they believe without any reservation, for they have not been corrupted by the many temptations and concerns in life.

This is ought to be contrasted with our own faith and how we carry out our Christian living. Many of us lived our lives and followed the Christian faith because we have ulterior motives in doing so, in desiring something or reward out of our faith and how we lived our lives. We even expect that God will do work for us and give us His blessings, and this attitude is prevalent among many of us Christians.

But, brothers and sisters in Christ, is this true faith? Is this what the Lord wants us to have in us? Certainly it is not. The Lord wants us to love Him just as He has loved us, and this requires us to have a pure faith and pure intention in living our lives. There are many temptations in life that can threaten this objective, and which many of us have fallen into, the traps that the devil has set up in our path.

Many of us fell into the temptations of pride and greed. We are too proud and think of ourselves, selfishly and arrogantly, thinking that the world revolves around us. That is why even within the Church and among us Christians, we often hear so many unfortunate stories and tales of people bickering and disagreeing with each other, sometimes even violently in Church, just because they cannot let go of their pride, ambition and desires of the world that pushed them to act in such a way.

But then, linking it back to our first reading passage today, from the prophet Ezekiel, we should be reminded that our every actions will have consequences and repercussions. For our righteousness and obedience to the Lord’s will we shall be praised and glorified, while for our refusal to obey, by our pride and arrogance, and all the wicked things we have done in life, we shall be found wanting and unworthy by God.

Now, are we willing to make the commitment to live our lives from now on, with greater effort to resist the temptations found in this world? Let us all learn from little children, in how they believe in something with a pure and true intention, without any ulterior motives or considerations that can prevent them from truly believing with all of their hearts, minds and souls.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, so that we may come ever closer to Him and be transformed in our actions and deeds, so that when once we acted in ways that sought only our own self-preservation and glory, we will from now on, seek only the greater glory of God and the well-being of our fellow brethren in the Lord. May God bless us all, and all of our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 17 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Scriptures, we listened first of all to the word of God concerning His people, pointing out their sins and wickedness through Ezekiel, the prophet of God in the exile land of Babylon. They have not been faithful and they have abandoned their God, and they have not obeyed the commandments and laws of God.

As a result, they have broken the sacred Covenant which they have made with their God. A Covenant is a sacred and solemn promise which is made between two parties, where both parties are bound by the same promise to be faithful to the Covenant, the terms and conditions that bound them to that very Covenant. In this manner, the people of God had promised to be faithful to God and to be obedient to Him, while God had promised that He would continue to love His people.

The Israelites disobeyed God’s laws and commandments, as what the prophet Ezekiel presented to the people from God’s own words, comparing their attitudes with the attitude of young maiden and woman who had been taken care of by her adoptive father, who represents God, and yet, despite the love that he has shown to her, she has defiled herself and made herself a prostitute among the nations.

But God, as He is ever loving and filled with mercy, continues to love us, as He has never abandoned us and He is always ever loving, even to the greatest of sinners. He continued to care for and to provide for His beloved ones, hoping that one day they may come to realise their mistakes and asking for forgiveness. At that moment, He will reconcile them again and reunite them with Himself, to enjoy His eternal grace and love.

In today’s Gospel passage, we heard about the Lord’s rebuke to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law with regards to marriage. The latter asked the Lord, trying to test Him with the question, whether divorce is something that is allowed according to the Law. To them, according to the laws of Moses, divorce is allowed as long as the two parties involved settled it with an agreement.

But the Lord Jesus rebuked them because using that practice and argument, it reduced the sanctity of marriage into a mere transactional relationship between two people. Marriage is not just merely a formality but it is in fact a blessed union, which God Himself has made, and is a sacrament in the context of our Church, as the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. All of these are founded upon the sanctity of marriage whereupon two people are joined together by God into one, inseparable unity.

And this unity is also stressed in relation to the strong unity between God and His people, which earlier has been mentioned as a Covenant. And thus, today, all of us are called to reflect on the mistakes made by the Israelites in the past, in how they have not been obedient to the Covenant which they made with God. Have we ourselves lived our lives in accordance with God’s ways?

In today’s Gospel, at the ending of the passage, we heard of the Lord speaking to the people, about what each of His people’s respective obligations and callings are. This is called our vocations in life, and there are indeed many different paths to which we are called by God. Some are called to a married life as mentioned, but there are also those called to a life of celibacy and perpetual virginity, and those who are called to be priests of the Lord.

Each of these pathways and vocations are not less worthy or good than the other, and all of them are ultimately about how we can be holy and devout in the way we carry on with our respective lives and vocations. God has called us all to be holy just as He is holy, and to be righteous just as He is righteous, and be faithful to the Covenant He has made with us all, just as He is always faithful to that Covenant.

May the Lord be on our side always, that He will continue to strengthen us in our faith, encouraging us all to remain committed to the Covenant that God has made with us through His Son, Jesus Christ, by His loving sacrifice on the cross. May all of us strive to remain committed and true in our dedication and faith, that by our every actions and deeds, we will bring greater glory to God. Amen.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, first of all, what He had told His people in exile in Babylon through the prophet Ezekiel, of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and Judah as a consequence of their abandonment of God’s laws and commandments. And then in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable which Our Lord Jesus told to His disciples and to the people, of a wicked servant who owed a great debt to his master.

In that first reading, what we heard in God’s words and commands to His prophet Ezekiel, happened at the time when the remaining people of God in the southern kingdom of Judah was facing increasing pressure from the Babylonians, who was the superpower of the time. The Babylonians ruled over most of the region and had subjugated most of the peoples and nations around them, including the kingdom of Judah.

This was the premonition of what would happen next, when the people of Judah and their king, Zedekiah, rebelled against the Babylonians, who immediately sent a punitive force that destroyed Judah, besieged Jerusalem and eventually destroyed the city and the Temple of God, leaving nothing valuable behind, and bringing most of the people to the land of Babylon as exiles.

The people of God in Judah has made a Covenant with God since the time of their ancestors, and God has repeatedly forgiven them their sins and constant disobedience, as they broke the laws and the Covenant again and again. God has entrusted them with the governance over the lands promised to them and their ancestors, and forgave them their debts of sin, but they acted wickedly and persecuted the prophets sent to them to guide them back to the truth.

This is related to what we have heard today in our Gospel passage, when the Lord Jesus told the people about a servant who was to be punished by his master, because of his massive debt of ten thousand pieces of gold, a huge amount of money at that time. But the servant begged the master to be merciful, and to give him more time to be able to pay off his debt, as he had his family to take care of.

The master saw his servant’s plight and had pity on him. He forgave the servant and even wrote off all of his debts. It was a great favour and care showed by the master towards his servant. Yet, that same servant, undoubtedly very joyful and pleased at his experience of being forgiven by his master, went to one of those fellow servants who owed him a small amount of money, and threatened him to pay off his debt immediately.

Despite the other servant’s pleas, begging for the servant to give him more time to pay off the debt, and unlike the master’s action, the forgiven servant refused to let the other servant go and was very harsh of him, demanding that the small debt be paid completely. The other servants saw the exchange between them and reported the incident to the master, who became very angry with the forgiven servant and threw him into prison, demanding that he paid every single coin he owed.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted to make it clear to each and every one of us, that we mankind, represented by the servants in that parable, are so beloved by God, the master in the parable, Who has willingly forgiven each one of us our sins, no matter how great they are, should we be willing to reach out to Him, and sincerely come to Him, begging for forgiveness and mercy.

Sin is our debt to God, and is the fruit of our disobedience against His will, His laws and commandments. And yet, God readily forgives us our sins, should we be sincere in our desire to repent. The Lord Jesus Himself came into this world, to bring forth this point about God’s great love for each one of us sinners. He Himself willingly took up our sins and gathering them on Himself, dying on the cross for our sake.

And that is why, just as our Lord and Master has forgiven us our sins, then we too are expected to do the same with our fellow brothers and sisters. We should not be like the wicked servant who has been forgiven by his master for such a massive debt, and yet could not forgive his fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt. This means that as true and genuine Christians, we must be true in our actions, in how we live our lives according to our faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, the first Christian king of Hungary. He was highly regarded as a model king and ruler, and as a devout Christian. He was widely acknowledged as the founder of the state of Hungary, and helped greatly in establishing the Christian Church and faith throughout his dominion.

Yet, despite his position, wealth and power, St. Stephen ruled with temperance, good judgment, and exhibited great generosity and humility throughout his reign. He truly cared for his people and did his best to improve their livelihood and cared for them. He did not abuse his power or oppress his people using his power and influence. Instead, he used the authority that God gave him with responsibility and tempered with love and compassion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples shown to us by St. Stephen of Hungary should be our inspiration and model, for which we ought to follow suit, in how we live our own lives, dedicating ourselves to God wholeheartedly and with genuine intention. Let us be exemplary in our Christian way of living, and be role models for each other in faith, from now on, that many more people may come to righteousness in God, through us. May God bless us all. Amen.