Wednesday, 16 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hedwig, Religious and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious and Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the matter of having genuine faith in God and to give judgment with the right intention in mind, so that as Christians we are truly filled with love, first of course for God and then secondly for our fellow brothers and sisters, and not to love ourselves above these as what many of us have often done.

It is our nature that we are selfish and self-loving, as the desires in our hearts and the ego and pride within us made us to seek our own satisfaction and the sense of fulfilment. And that is why we seek for all these worldly pleasures and comfort, desiring to be pleased and filled with all sorts of joy for our own benefits. And this often led us into causing, either intentionally or unintentionally, the sufferings of others.

That was what St. Paul spoke of as he wrote in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome. He spoke of those who put their own interests ahead of their obligation to serve God faithfully and justly, in their responsibility to be just and righteous in all of their actions. And this is related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today as well, as we heard of the Lord rebuking the Pharisees for their inappropriate actions especially considering their very important position as the custodians of the Law and as teachers of the faith.

Many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law took great pride in their privileged and highly respected status in the community, and they often looked down on those whom they deemed to be less worthy and more sinful than they were, such as the tax collectors and prostitutes, disabled and people with evil spirits and diseases in particular, seeing those people as being cursed by God and therefore were unworthy.

They judged others because they saw themselves as superior and in doing so they wanted to prove just how good they were in comparison to those whom they despised and had judged against. And this was why the Lord was unhappy with them because they failed to realise just how they themselves were sinners too. They should not act as if they were superior or better for in reality, they actually were equally sinful and unworthy.

The Lord wants us all to know that all of us are equally beloved by Him, and we should not be prejudiced or be biased in our attitudes and opinions towards others, but instead treat one another with love and genuine compassion from our hearts. For if God Himself has loved us so wonderfully and blessed us so greatly with His mercy and love no matter how great our sins had been, then how can we not love one another in the same way?

Today all of us are called to be humble and to get rid of our pride and ego, all the obstacles that often come in our way, in our faith journey and life. Unless we get rid off ourselves all these obstacles and wickedness in us, it may be difficult for us to be true disciples of Our Lord, as in the end, we will end up loving ourselves and being concerned about ourselves more than we love God and our fellow brethren as we should have.

That is why, on this day perhaps we should spend some time to reflect on the life of two saints whose lives can be inspiration for us how we should carry on living our lives from now on with genuine faith, love and devotion towards God. They are St. Hedwig of Silesia and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. St. Hedwig of Silesia was the Duchess of Silesia and later of Poland who was known for her great piety and devotion to God, her charitable acts and faithful life, while St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was renowned as the one who helped to make the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to be as popular as it is today.

St. Hedwig of Silesia was a pious and dedicated wife, who had to endure many struggles in the noble courts and numerous plots against her family, both from external and internal sources. She was remembered for her many charitable actions and generosity to the poor and those who were suffering throughout the realm of her husband. Her personal piety and great humility in life were well known. She remained faithful and true to her faith, and after she was widowed, she entered into a monastery and devoted the rest of her life as a religious dedicated entirely to God.

Meanwhile, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was known for her visions of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, through which she received the revelation about the Lord and His love through His Most Sacred Heart, by which eventually the ever popular Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus came to be. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was also known for her great piety and dedication to God throughout her life, despite of the many difficulties and challenges she herself had to face.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have here the example of two pious and holy women of God who devoted their lives to the Lord and have become inspiration for many others to follow. Are we then able to follow their examples as well and dedicate ourselves to God from now on with renewed zeal, faith and love? Let us all turn away from our sinful ways in our past and embrace from now on a renewed holiness in God, living our lives filled with love for God and for our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord.

May the Lord continue to bless us all and guide us in our journey, and may He continue to be with us through our journeys in life, that through the intercessions of St. Hedwig of Silesia and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, we may be brought closer to God’s ever present love and compassionate mercy. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Scripture passages we have heard a very important reminder for us to put our focus and attention on the Lord, our God alone. We must not be distracted by other things in life and follow the foolishness of the people of the past who worshipped and focused their attentions on the created and lesser things of this world than to focus themselves to the One Who created and is the source of all things.

In our first reading today, at the beginning of his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome, St. Paul spoke up against all those who have refused to listen to the words of God and rejected the salvation which He has brought into this world through Jesus Christ, His own begotten Son. And he made this to strengthen the faith of the faithful, both Jews and Gentiles alike, amidst a community which was immersed in pagan worship and lifestyle.

St. Paul was reminding the people that for all the glamour and glories of the world, for all the displays of wealth and worldly pleasures that often accompanied pagan worship and celebrations, all of those were mere illusions and cannot be compared to the truth and glory of Christ, the one and only True God. Those people were distracted from the truth because they would not allow God to enter into their hearts and they were too full of the many temptations of worldliness.

And a parallel to this was also mentioned in the Gospel passage today, in the encounter we heard of between the Lord Jesus and a Pharisee who wondered why Jesus did not wash His hands in the prescribed manner according to the Law when the Pharisee invited Him over for a dinner. The Lord then rebuked the Pharisee for his attention to the wrong details, focusing on the external applications of the Law while failing to understand the true intent and purpose of the Law.

Essentially, the Pharisee and the pagans mentioned by St. Paul all shared the same fault, and that is they focused on the wrong focus in life. They became distracted and fell into the worship and focus on worldly things and idols, the worship of the created beings and things rather than the focus and emphasis on the Creator of all things. The Pharisee might indeed believe in God, but his preoccupation and emphasis on the petty details on the observance of the Law made him to idolise that rather than to focus on the true worship of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the Scripture passages and discussed all these things we have just talked about, we can see that we are all called to find our direction in life and to refocus our attention on God and not on other, worldly things that often distract us in life. We may think that unlike the pagans mentioned by St. Paul, we are Christians and we believe in God and His truth, that we have no idols with us and neither do we worship them.

But we must not forget that whatever it is that can distract us from God can in fact be an idol to us, just as the Pharisee’s example ought to show us. The Pharisee idolised the way that the Law ought to be observed according to the customs of the Pharisees, and in doing so, he was distracted and diverted his attention from truly loving God and from truly having genuine faith in Him. That was why he and many other Pharisees did not and he failed to have faith in the Lord Jesus in the first place.

Let us ask ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ. How many of us have forgotten about God or ignored Him when we are so preoccupied with our livelihood that we ended up spending lots and lots of time trying to advance our careers, gaining more wealth, glory, fame and all sorts of things that we often desire in life. All of these things are the ‘idols’ of our worldly life that we must be aware of and that we must be careful with lest they distract us and drag us away from the path towards God and His saving grace.

On this day, perhaps, we should look upon the example of one particular saint, a holy woman and religious remembered for her great faith and dedication to God, in how we should also live our lives from now on with faith. St. Teresa of Avila, also known as St. Teresa of Jesus was a Spanish religious sister and member of the Carmelite Order, who together with St. John of the Cross were instrumental in the reform of the Carmelite Order, eventually founding the Discalced Carmelites.

St. Teresa of Avila was concerned with the deterioration and lack of discipline and faith in the Carmelite Order she was in, and therefore together with St. John of the Cross and others, they worked hard for the purification of the intention and the original call of the Order, embracing once again what the founders of the Carmelite Order had intended, living in strict discipline of faith and reemphasising the focus and commitment towards God.

St. Teresa of Avila also wrote extensively on many aspects of the faith, which still continued to inspire many of the faithful through the ages and centuries after her time. That was why Pope Benedict XVI declared her to be one of the Doctors of the Church for her dedication and contributions. We can see the strong and genuine faith in St. Teresa of Avila, her commitment and love for God which each and every one of us should have as well. We should follow in her footsteps and walk in the path she had walked before us in faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore deepen our relationship and faith in God, committing ourselves more and more in each and every passing days, resisting the many temptations present in this world and focusing on God and Him alone. Let us all spend more time and effort in building a living and good relationship with our loving God from now on. May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us, and may through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila, we are brought ever closer to God. Amen.

Monday, 14 October 2019 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the faith that we must have in God and we must not doubt Him any longer, no matter what. We must trust in Him and we must not allow temptations to distract us and to pull us away from Him as what happened to the Israelites of the time of the Lord Jesus as mentioned in our Gospel passage today.

In that occasion, the Lord spoke before the people making references to both the Queen of the South as well as the prophet Jonah. And the context of this occasion was that the people especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked the Lord to perform miracles and signs before them that they might believe in Him and follow Him. Yet, the fact is that the Lord had done numerous miracles before their eyes before they asked Him, and they refused to believe.

In fact, plenty of times when they asked the Lord to show them something miraculous was meant to test Him and to find evidences against Him, as they continued to refuse to listen to Him and closed their hearts and minds against Him. They did not have faith in the Lord and they allowed pride and worldly greed and desires to overcome their rationale and wisdom, and as a result, they refused to believe even though they have seen and witnessed the wonders of God many times.

St. Paul in our first reading passage today, at the beginning of his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Rome spoke firmly and courageously of the Lord Jesus Christ, the one Whom he was serving as an Apostle, and laid before the faithful in simple and straightforward terms, who the Lord Jesus truly is, the One Whom God had promised to His people as the Saviour of the whole world and by Whose hands, mankind were to be saved.

As a significant proportion of the earliest Christians were members of the Jewish communities scattered throughout the Mediterranean including in Rome, St. Paul alluded to the Lord Jesus being the One Who fulfilled the many prophecies of the prophets of God, the One promised to bring mankind into eternal life and salvation, and by the supreme act of love on the Cross of His sacrifice, Christ brought salvation into the world.

And that was the sign of Jonah as alluded by the Lord Himself in the Gospel passage today. The Lord would descend into the depths of hell until the third day of His resurrection, just as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the great whale. And just as Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh to remind them of their wickedness that led them to repent from their sins, the Lord Jesus came into this world to call us to repent from our sins.

Through all of these, and what we have heard in the Scripture passages today, we really need to reflect deeply on our own lives and actions thus far. Have we been truly faithful to God all these while or were our faith more of the superficial kind, or just of a formality and paying lip service to God and the Church? We need to discern what we have to do from now on in our lives as faithful Christians, that is as those who truly believe in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today perhaps we should also look at the inspiring examples shown by this day’s saint, namely Pope St. Callixtus I, one of the early leaders of the Church who endured much difficulties and challenges from even his youth, as it was told that he lived formerly as a slave during his early years. When he was eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter and leader of the Church, he lived through a difficult time of persecution of the Christian faithful.

There were challenges from both outside and from within the Church at the time, as disagreements in the Church leadership actually caused bitter division and election of a rival Pope, St. Hippolytus of Rome. And during those years, persecution of Christians would end up causing the arrest and eventual suffering and martyrdom of Pope St. Callixtus I and many other Christians of his time. Nonetheless, they lived their lives with great faith and dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore from now on renew our conviction and commitment to live as better Christians, to be more faithful in all things and to love God as well as our fellow brothers and sisters around us with ever greater love and faith. May God through the intercession of His faithful saints, especially Pope St. Callixtus I, continue to bless us in our daily lives. Amen.

Sunday, 13 October 2019 : Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we reflect back on what we have just heard being proclaimed in the Scriptures, we can see that there is a unifying theme for this Sunday’s set of readings and it is the importance of being grateful and to give thanks to God for all the wonderful blessings that He has given us all. Many times we have failed to appreciate and to thank the One Who has made everything possible for us according to His will.

We may think that giving thanks or showing appreciation to someone is something that is easily done and without the need of much effort. But through what the Scriptures are reminding us today, we are called to look deep into our own lives and realise just how difficult it is really, at times, to acknowledge, appreciate and to thank someone for the good deeds that has been done or given to us.

Let us first look at our first reading today taken from the Book of Kings, in which we heard the story of the healing of Naaman the Syrian by the prophet Elisha. Naaman was the greatest general of the King of Aram, a sworn enemy of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel because Aram had waged numerous wars for decades and centuries in contest of the lands of the northern kingdom. But this Naaman then suffered from leprosy.

We may not think that leprosy is something that is serious, but at that time, leprosy was not just a disease that can harm the body physically, but also afflict the person in mental, spiritual and in many other ways. For once, leprosy is a very highly visible affliction as it causes a visible discolouration of the skin and it affects particularly the limbs and the extremities, making it even more easily apparent.

And as leprosy can be transmitted from one person to another, although not highly contagious unlike some other diseases, the people of Naaman and Elisha’s time despised and feared leprosy a lot as a disease and even more so as a curse. For a person suffering from leprosy was often considered to be cursed by God for being sinful and for other wickedness that he or she had committed in life.

To see just how severe the affliction of leprosy was to the community, we just have to look at the numerous laws, rules and regulations listed down particularly in the Book of Leviticus where plenty of rules applied to those suffering from leprosy, those who came into contact with the lepers and even the matter of how to destroy objects and things that have come into contact with a leper. Essentially, we can see just how serious leprosy was to the community and this served its purpose right there and then when the Israelite community travelled and lived in very close quarters as they journeyed through the desert during the Exodus.

The lepers were forced to live outside the community as outcasts, and they were not allowed to return to the community until they were thoroughly clean and free from all signs of still having leprosy in their body. That was how it was even up to the time of the Lord Jesus, when He encountered the ten lepers in the wilderness as recounted in our Gospel passage today. Those ten lepers were outcasts and could not return to the community until their leprosy were healed and they proved this to the priests.

Therefore, it was in this context that Naaman the Syrian came all the way to Israel to seek healing as the name of the prophet Elisha as even though the rules regarding leprosy might have been different in his homeland, nonetheless it must have been a humiliating and difficult experience to suffer from such a disease. Thus Naaman came to Israel seeking Elisha hoping that he could be cured from his afflictions. But Naaman initially was not happy that Elisha asked him to go and bathe seven times in the River Jordan, for he thought that the prophet would have done something more amazing than such a mundane activity, and that he could have done the same in one of the rivers of his own home country.

But in the end, Naaman relented when his servant pointed out to him that he should probably better listen to the words of the prophet and do as he was asked to do in order to be healed. True enough, Naaman was healed completely right after he did all that the prophet Elisha had asked him to do. And as we heard in our Gospel passage today, Naaman wanted to thank Elisha for what he had done and insisted to give many gifts to the prophet, but Elisha rejected this offer.

In this, we can see how pride and ego often stand in the way for us to be able to appreciate what God has done for us, especially in reaching out to us and in trying to heal us from our afflictions and relieve us from our many troubles. Naaman was proud and arrogant, thinking badly at first how he could have been healed in a much better and more dramatic manner, only to realise that this attitude made him stubborn and therefore fail to recognise God’s generous offer of love and mercy.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the ten lepers who were healed by the Lord even though initially they were unaware that they were already healed by the time the Lord was with them. But among the ten, only one of them returned to the Lord and thanked Him, while the other nine lepers, probably overjoyed and too distracted by their sudden reversal of fortune, forgot completely about the Lord and did not return to thank Him.

This here is a reminder for us that, not only that we could be stubborn and refuse to accept or acknowledge something good given to us by another, but we also often forget to give appreciation, acknowledgement or thanksgiving when they are due because we are too distracted and too preoccupied with whatever it is that we are doing that we end up treating God in such an ungrateful manner. And yet, if you noticed, the Lord did not retract His healing grace from the other nine even though they did not thank Him.

Now, there are two very important things here we have to take note of, brothers and sisters in Christ. First and most important of these is that, all of us, in case we do not realise it, are also suffering from ‘leprosy’ too. And why is this so? That is because all of us, no matter how healthy we are in our physical bodies, all of us are sick inside because of sin. All of us are sinners without any exception, each and every one of us have sinned, and sin is the ‘leprosy of the soul’.

And even far more dangerous than the physical and bodily leprosy mentioned, the spiritual ‘leprosy’ that is sin cannot be healed save by the grace of God’s forgiveness alone. But as shown by the example of Naaman’s initial stubbornness and the ignorance of the nine lepers healed by Jesus, we mankind are often too stubborn and proud in refusing to admit that we have been wrong and that we have sinned.

And that is why we end up not realising just how serious our sins and our conditions are, often until it is too late for us. And God has always been generous in extending His mercy and in being compassionate towards us regardless of our rebelliousness and constant attempts in disobeying Him. Then, secondly, the second important thing I mentioned is that God’s mercy is for everyone. He extends His merciful love to all and He is not biased for or against anyone.

This may not be easily observed in today’s Scripture readings, but the fact that two person mentioned prominently in them, namely Naaman the Syrian and the Samaritan leper who returned to give thanks to the Lord Jesus, were both foreigners and were often considered as pagans and looked down upon by the Jews made it truly significant. The fact that they gave thanks to God the blessings and wonders they have received put to shame the rest of those who considered themselves as God’s chosen people and superior to the pagans.

This is a reminder for us not to ever look down on anyone or think that others do not deserve God’s love and attention as much as we do, for God truly loves every single one of His children, all of us without exception. The Lord wants all of us to be healed from this terrible affliction of sin, the ‘leprosy of our souls’. Let us all have that necessary humility in us to acknowledge first of all how we are really in need of God’s healing grace, to be forgiven from our sins. And then let us all also humbly acknowledge how great God’s love for us had been that He still cared for us all these while despite all of our waywardness and stubbornness.

May the Lord continue to guide us all through these journeys we have in our respective lives. May He continue to bless us in our every good works and endeavours as He has always done, and may He strengthen in us the courage and resolve to dedicate our lives to His cause and for His greater glory from now on. Let us also be ever thankful for His ever great love for each and every one of us, and for His ever great patience for us all, His beloved but wayward ones. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 12 October 2019 : 27th 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 listened to the words of the Scripture that remind us all about what it means for us to be Christians, and that is to believe in the Lord, our loving God with all of our hearts and with all of our strengths, to the very best of our abilities, listening to Him and knowing His will for each and every one of us that we may always walk faithfully in His presence.

In that occasion, the Lord wanted His people to know that even though difficult moments would come in their way and that they would have to endure many sufferings and challenges for the sake of remaining true to Him and faithful in our ways, but He shall always be with us, and He will guide us through those challenging moments through to the very end. He will not abandon us or leave us in the darkness.

That is the theme of what the Lord revealed to His people through His prophet Joel, as we heard in continuation from yesterday’s first reading passage taken from an earlier part of the Book of Joel. While in that portion the Lord forewarned His people of the coming trials and times when they would suffer, now God revealed that after suffering will come the time of rejoicing and relief, as suffering and sorrow give way to true joy and happiness in God.

And this is what each and every one of us Christians must realise as it will be easy for us to go astray when we encounter suffering in life, and when we face obstacles in our journey of faith. Unless we have that trust and faith in God, it will be easy for us to sway away from God and His path, and we end up putting our trust and faith in other things that we often depend on such as money, wealth and material goods as well as other forms of pleasures and satisfaction.

What the Lord Jesus asked His disciples and the people to do in our Gospel passage today, “Hear the Word of God and keep it as well” is something that is easier said than done. Indeed, many of us can hear the word of God and find the word in our many actions throughout life, in our obedience to the laws and rules of the Church and so on. However, how many of us can confidently say that we truly have kept His word well as we should have done?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our lives we will definitely end up having to make choices in our respective lives. And we have been given the free will as well as the wisdom to make a conscious choice to choose between the path leading towards the salvation in God and the path that eventually leads down to the damnation in hell for eternity. But while many of us may focus on the end journey in sight, it is a reality that when the path and the journey is tough, we will be tempted many times to give up and turn away from God.

We must discern on this matter carefully in our hearts and minds. And we must not let the many temptations present all around us to affect us and prevent us from reaching out towards God’s salvation and grace. Let us have greater faith in God and put our trust in Him wholeheartedly. We must neither be without faith and neither should we go forward blindly without good and proper recollection and direction of our path in life.

Once again, I want us to remember that the Lord has always been by our side all these while, and just as He reassured His people in our reading passage from the Book of Joel, that good times in Him will come and if we endure those sufferings and challenges we faced with grace and faith, in the end God will bless us all with His promised inheritance. He will keep His promise in the end because He is ever faithful to the Covenant which He has made with all of us.

The path leading towards God may seem to be challenging and difficult, and the journey may seem to be arduous and painful, but we must not lose hope as in the end the rewards for our faith and dedication to God will be truly worthwhile. On the other hand, the alternative path, that is the path of worldliness and sin, championed by Satan and all those wishing for our destruction may seem to be good and easier, but we must not let ourselves to be deceived.

Let us all discern carefully our path in life and make the conscious effort to serve the Lord wholeheartedly from now on. Let us all seek Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on, and let us do our very best to love Him and to follow Him in our daily living. May God bless each and every one of us in our every good actions and endeavours for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Friday, 11 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called through what we have just heard from the passages taken from the Sacred Scriptures, to turn towards God with all of our hearts and minds, and to open them to allow God to enter into our beings, that He may transform us and heal us from our many afflictions, namely the afflictions of our sins and wickedness by which we have been found wanting by God.

In the first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Joel, we heard of terrible premonitions and words of caution from God to His people, asking them to be prepared to face trials and tribulations that would for them, in the context of how the prophet Joel lived during the middle years of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Therefore, the premonition spoke of the then upcoming times of upheavals and sufferings when the people of both the kingdoms would be conquered and humiliated by the Assyrians and the Babylonians many years after.

God was in fact reminding His people not to be complacent in their lives and in their faith and commitment to live holy and virtuous lives in the presence of God and men alike. At that time, the people had lapsed from their faith and fell into the many temptations surrounding them, following the evil ways of the world and resorting to the worship of the pagan gods and idols, offering sacrifices to those idols rather than offering true sacrifice to their one and only True God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then we heard from our Gospel passage of the heated exchange between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who accused Him of colluding with the power of the evil prince of demons, Beelzebub in His many miracles and healing works among the people, and in the casting out of the evil spirits from those who had been possessed by those demons. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had seen all those miracles but they refused to believe.

And why is that so? That is because the devil himself and all of his wicked allies were busy at work in trying to destroy us, in tempting us to sin and to refuse God’s generous offer of love and mercy. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were afraid that they would lose their much valued influence and status among the community and the people. They therefore saw the Lord Jesus as a great threat and rival to them. In truth, the pride and ego, the greed and desires in their heart blinded them.

God wanted them all to see the truth, but as long as those people allowed their ego, pride, desire, jealousy and all sorts of temptations to develop in their hearts, they will not be able to see the truth of God and accept Him wholeheartedly as they should have. When He spoke of the coming of the time of persecution through the prophet Joel, He was warning us all, His people, that if we want to be faithful to Him and walk in His path, then we must be prepared to face challenges, opposition, ridicule, humiliation and persecution as the Lord Himself had faced.

The devil is always out and about working to destroy us by dragging us into sin, in tempting us to walk astray on the wrong path. And we cannot face him alone or by our own strength and power. It is only through God and His providence that we can withstand and overcome the devil and all of his wicked forces of evil. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of obstacles and challenges awaiting for us in our journey of faith in life.

But we must not be disheartened, for God is truly with all of us, and He will always guide us in our path. He has guided one of His own devout servant, a holy man and leader of the Universal Church, as Pope St. John XXIII in his journey of faith in his life. Pope St. John XXIII was remembered as the ‘Good Pope’, ever dedicated to the Lord throughout his life and ministry. He is a great inspiration for each and every one of us in how we should be faithful in our own lives as well.

Pope St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in a poor farmer’s family in Bergamo in northern Italy, and an opportunity in having education sponsored by his uncle eventually led to him embracing the call and vocation to priesthood, after which he served in his region of Bergamo. Having experienced the struggles of the people during the difficult years of the early twentieth century and inspired by the love which his bishop showed during those tumultuous times, the young Father Roncalli grew ever stronger in his own love and devotion to God.

He was appointed as an Archbishop and as the Papal Delegate to Bulgaria and later on to Turkey and eventually France, working as a diplomat for many years in managing the relationship both between the nations and the Holy See, and also in the relationships between the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox faithful, who were then often bitterly divided against each other. Archbishop Roncalli faced a lot of challenges and difficulties, sufferings and pains, in his ministry, in facing those who were distrustful of the Church and the faith.

Eventually, as he became the Patriarch of Venice and eventually elected as the Successor of St. Peter as Pope, Pope St. John XXIII carried on his life and mission with the fullness of faith in God, dedicating his years of life in bringing the love of God to His people. He initiated the Second Vatican Council to bring the Church together through difficult and challenging times, and also helped to broker peace among the superpowers of the world during a time of great tension in the height of the Cold War.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect on our own lives and think how we can serve the Lord with greater love, commitment and fidelity from now on. Let us all therefore seek to be ever more faithful, loving God each and every days of our life, putting our trust in Him just as Pope St. John XXIII had been. Let us all draw ever closer to Him from now on. Amen.

Thursday, 10 October 2019 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God through the Scriptures speaking to us about the love which God has lavished on us all because He is indeed our loving Father and Creator, despite our constant disobedience and refusal to follow His ways, our waywardness and sins that have separated us from the fullness of His love and grace.

In the book of the prophet Malachi, part of which we have heard in our first reading today, we heard of the insolent and rude comments made by the people who were angry at God and were frustrated because they have observed His laws and commandments, and yet they still suffered all sorts of injustices, pain and sufferings in the world. And this is in the context of how the Israelites living at the time of the prophet Malachi, a few hundred years before the birth of Christ, had to endure being conquered and ruled over by many powerful nations.

And throughout those years of subjugation, they certainly cannot avoid looking back at the time of the glorious kingdom of Israel in the past, especially during the days of kings David and Solomon, from a time when the Israelites still had great dignity and being respected by the other nations. Instead, they had to endure exile and destruction under the Babylonians, ruled by the Medians and the Persians, and then under the reign of the Greek kings of Alexander the Great and his successors.

But God reassured them through Malachi that He was always with them and He would guide them through those difficult and challenging moments. God would not abandon His people to the darkness and as He Himself proclaimed through Malachi, that He would write the name of those who have been faithful to Him and they would receive the fullness of His grace and promised glorious inheritance in the end.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus Himself spoke of God’s love for us like that of the love a father has for his children. He was comparing it to how even wicked and sinful people know how to take care of those whom they love and the Lord would therefore take care of His beloved ones in a far greater way and with much greater love and compassion for sure. God has always loved us all, all these while and it will never change.

Rather, it is our own stubbornness and refusal to see and admit this truth that had caused us to be separated from Him and to be blind to God’s ever generous love. We hardened our hearts and closed off our minds to God Who is always constantly trying to reach out to us and embrace us with love. We become distracted by the many temptations present in this world and as our attention became divided, we turned away from God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to reconnect ourselves with God and understand more just how much He cares for us, and just how much He has blessed us with all these while? God still loves us even when we have walked away from Him, betrayed and abandoned Him, always hoping that we will come back to Him and seek to be forgiven from our sins. But in order to do this, we have to first be humble and let go of the ego and pride in our hearts.

Yes, the ego and pride within us are the greatest obstacles that prevent us from being able to love God unconditionally and wholeheartedly and leading us to various temptations that distract us from the true and genuine love in the relationship we ought to have with God. Today we are called to rediscover and rejuvenate that love we have for God, and be more faithful with each and every passing moments of our lives.

May the Lord continue to be our guide through life, and may He continue to bless us and love us despite the sins and wickedness we have committed. May He guide us to discover salvation and true joy that can be found in Him alone. Amen.