(Easter Sunday) Sunday, 27 March 2016 : Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Week, Easter Octave (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 10 : 34a, 37-43

Peter then spoke to them, “No doubt you have heard of the event that occured throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus the Nazarean with Holy Spirit and power.

He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with Him; we are witnesses of all that He did throughout the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem itself. Yet they put Him to death by hanging Him on a wooden cross.

But God raised Him to life on the third day and let Him manifest Himself, not to all the people, but to the witnesses that were chosen beforehand by God – to us who ate and drank with Him after His resurrection from death. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to bear witness that He is the One appointed by God to judge the living and the dead.

All the prophets say of Him, that everyone who believes in Him has forgiveness of sins through His Name.

Monday, 21 April 2014 : Monday within Easter Octave (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are now celebrating the great joy of Easter, which is so great that it overflows throughout the entirety of the fifty days of the Easter season, and particularly this week, which is the Easter Octave, which runs between the Easter Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter, which is the Divine Mercy Sunday.

At this time of great joy, the Scriptures reminded us that we have to remain faithful and joyful servants of the Lord, but not just that, as we also have to be the faithful servants of our Lord, in being truthful and upright in our testimony and  as true witnesses of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and abandoning and casting away all forms of falsehoods which the devil tries to plant in the hearts of men.

When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, he spoke the truth with great courage to the people who ridiculed the apostles for being drunk after they spoke in tongues filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter testimonied and witnessed for the Lord before the thousands of people gathered in Jerusalem, and the power of the Spirit gave great courage to this man once riddled with fear and uncertainty.

The testimony of Peter was true and firm, and it showed to the people how mistaken they had been in their beliefs about Christ and on what the leaders and the elders of the people had tried to falsely portray the Christ as. The words of Peter and the angels of the Lord that appeared to the holy women rang true and shed light over the darkness of evil that veiled this world.

Why did the elders of the people try to deceive the people by lying to them about the resurrection of the Lord? And this even though the fact was that they were the ones most knowledgeable about the Scriptures and therefore should have been the ones who knew most about what the Lord will do through His Son the Messiah?

That is because of sins in the hearts of men. Even the supposedly most holy and learnt of the people of God could be corrupted by these sins, which blocked the light and salvation of God, as sins, especially that of pride, clouded the hearts and judgments of men, preventing them from taking part in the Lord’s plan of salvation and instead did their best to undermine the Lord’s good works through Jesus.

The elders and the chief priests feared that if Jesus was allowed to have His way, and if what He has done and shown the people is true, then their influence and power within the society and with the people of God will be undermined and destroyed. That is why they hated Jesus and always tried to be in His way as He performed His many good works, and even to the end, they mocked Him on the way to Calvary, on the cross, and even tried to undermine the good news of His glorious resurrection.

Such indeed, was the danger of the human pride and sins that inhabit our hearts. They can derail us from our path to God and close our senses from the ability to sense and understand the love that God has for us, which He had shown in perfection through His Son Jesus, in His life, His suffering and death, and ultimately, His resurrection from the dead.

Let us in this Easter season, as we celebrate the joy of life, a new life in the Risen Lord, also help one another to witness for the truth about the Lord and about our genuine and dedicated faith in Him. Let us preach the Good News of the Risen Lord and Saviour to all mankind, praising Him before all creations that more and more will come to believe and accept Jesus Christ as God, as Peter had once done with the great courage of the Holy Spirit.

May this Easter be a great, wonderful and blessed one for all of us. Let us rejoice and be glad in our Risen Lord. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 21 April 2014 : Monday within Easter Octave (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 2 : 14, 22-33

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and, with a loud voice, addressed them, “Fellow Jews and all foreigners now staying in Jerusalem, listen to what I have to say. Fellow Israelites, listen to what I am going to tell you about Jesus of Nazareth.”

“God accredited Him and through Him did powerful deeds and wonders and signs in your midst, as you well know. You delivered Him to sinners to be crucified and killed, and in this way the purpose of God from all times was fulfilled. But God raised Him to life and released Him from the pain of death, because it was impossible for Him to be held in the power of death.”

“David spoke of Him when he said : ‘I saw the Lord before me at all times; He is by my side, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; my body too will live in hope. Because You will not forsake me in the abode of the dead, nor allow Your Holy One to experience corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life, and Your presence will fill me with joy.'”

“Friends, I do not need to prove that the patriarch David died and was buried; his tomb is with us to this day. But he knew that God had sworn to him that One of his descendants would sit upon his throne and, as he was a prophet, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah. So he said that He would not be left in the region of the dead, nor would His Body experience corruption.”

“This Messiah is Jesus and we are all witnesses that God raised Him to life. He has been exalted at God’s right side and the Father has entrusted the Holy Spirit to Him; this Spirit He has just poured upon us as you now see and hear.”

 

Sunday, 20 April 2014 : Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 10 : 34a, 37-43

Peter then spoke to them, “No doubt you have heard of the event that occurred throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus the Nazarean with Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with Him.”

“We are witnesses of all that He did throughout the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem itself. Yet they put Him to death by hanging Him on a wooden cross. But God raised Him to life on the third day and let Him manifest Himself, not to all the people, but to the witnesses that were chosen beforehand by God – to us who ate and drank with Him after His resurrection from death.”

“And He commanded us to preach to the people and to bear witness that He is the One appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. All the prophets say of Him, that everyone who believes in Him has forgiveness of sins through His Name.”

Saturday, 25 January 2014 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-18

Then He told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned. Signs like these will accompany those who have believed :

“In My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Tuesday, 3 December 2013 : 1st Week of Advent, Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Patron of Missions, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White (Priests)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate mission, the work of the servants of God, following what the Lord has commissioned His disciples to do. The Lord has commanded His disciples to spread all over the earth, and spread the Good News, the Good News of Jesus, which come with the Lord Himself as He came incarnate into Man.

The disciples went around many places, telling many people about the Saviour who had come to save them all. The Lord commissioned them to make disciples of all the nations, and baptise them, to mark them in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, the Most holy God. Only those who have been marked with such sign of baptism will belong to God and be saved.

The disciples of the Lord laboured hard for the conversion and therefore the salvation of many, sharing with them the words and the revelations that they had received from the Lord as witnesses of the Good News. The disciples worked hard and served the people of God without cease and without fear, and they even went through great suffering, persecution, and rejection, eventually suffering death, in the defense of their faith.

Their works did not end there, since the disciples of the Lord appointed their successors, chosen from the people of God, the bishops and the priests, and the countless others who have helped to spread the Good News to the people over many millenia. They persevered for the Lord, accepted in some places but rejected in others. Tortured for their faith but did not recant, and remained faithful even to the end, as the Apostles had done themselves.

These are the realities about the missionaries, who continued the mission given to them by the Lord. They persevered through similar difficulties and challenges as the Apostles and the other disciples of Christ had faced in the past. Even today, thousands and tens of thousands of missionaries spread around the globe toil daily for the salvation of souls.

These missionaries spread the Good News and become its witnesses, by serving the poor, spending time with the lonely and the unloved, as well as reaching out to those who had yet to receive the word of God, and knock at the hearts of those who had turned away from the Lord. Their task is not an easy one, and yet they persevered through, out of their love for the Lord and His people.

Today, we ought to pray for them and give thanks to God for these wonderful missionaries, for the gift of their courage and persistence in the service of God. We celebrate today the feast of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missions and missionaries. He was once a great missionary himself, travelling to many countries especially in East and Southeast Asia regions, establishing the foundation for many future missionaries that would follow him.

St. Francis Xavier was the co-founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, today the largest religious congregation in the world, he founded it with St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. He was once a man who dedicated his life to pleasures of the world and other debaucheries, and yet, after an encounter with St. Ignatius, he found his life’s meaning in Jesus, seeking to serve Him with zeal.

St. Francis Xavier is particularly interested in spreading the word of God and the news of salvation to far off lands, and to the lands of pagans. At that time, the new discoveries of the wider world beyond the world the people had once known, opened massive opportunity for evangelisation and conversion of many to the true faith. Many people and cultures whom the faith had not touched before, then had the opportunity through the wider exploration of the world. Following along these explorations were the missionaries, many of them Jesuits, including St. Francis Xavier himself.

St. Francis Xavier went as a missionary, firstly to India, where he accomplished much in establishing the works of God in that land, converting many to the faith in God. Then he went on to spread the Good News to many lands, all over the Far East, establishing communities of the faithful and sending missionaries to these lands. He himself led the effort as a vanguard for the faith.

St. Francis Xavier followed in the footsteps of the Apostles and laboured through rejections and even storms at sea to spread the Good News to many souls which he laboured to save. St. Francis Xavier persevered through all of them and went on undeterred to save even more souls. He travelled far to Malacca, to the islands of the Moluccas, to Macau, and even to Japan. He did not get as much success as the works he had done in India, because of oppositions from local rulers, but nevertheless he continued his works.

It was St. Francis Xavier’s dream to be able to preach and spread the Good News in China. But before he managed to do that, he passed away along the way. He had indeed passed before us, but until today, his spirit, the spirit of zealous and courageous missionary, never died, and continues to burn in the many missionaries that followed after St. Francis Xavier.

Therefore, brethren, today, let us commemorate our missionaries, past and present. Do not forget to pray for them, that they will continue to persevere in the mission they had embarked on. Let us pray that God will continue to guide them, watch over them, and empower them. And finally, we too, brothers and sisters in Christ, we too are called to be missionaries. The mission that Jesus had given to His disciples also applies to us.

We do not have to make difficult journeys and hard works in the way the missionaries had done. We can do things even as simple as making our own homes, our own families, and our own societies, the people around us, to make. God the centre of our own lives, and through our own actions, words, and deeds, we too can be missionaries, the living witnesses of the faith in God.

May the Lord continue to bless us, empower us, and strengthen us with a burning zeal, in order to continue to proclaim Him in the world, to be witnesses of God’s Good News to the world. Amen.

Saturday, 28 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and Saints Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Mass of our Lady)

Beloved brother and sisters in Christ, today we continue to listen to the reality of the Lord’s mission in this world, that is to be betrayed by His beloved, to be forsaken, rejected, and finally to suffer death although He is innocent, that through His death, all may gain eternal life in Him.

The Lord had come to be the Saviour of all, the One who bring forth the light of God into the darkened world, and into the darkened hearts of men. Through His coming and saving works, He had brought the hopelessness of mankind in the face of death and sin, into a new dawn of hope, the hope in He who died for all that they may live.

Dear brethren, as the Lord Himself had said, He came into the world to ransom His people, to deliver them from the fate they were to suffer for eternity, all for following the devil and listening to his lies instead of the truths of God. He ransomed all of us, from the hands of the devil, our slavemaster, not through gold, silver, or any form of material possessions and money, but through His own Most Precious Blood, the Blood of the Lamb.

That Blood is blood that saves and purifies, and which washes us clean from the filth of our sins and faults, making us perfect again in the eyes of God. That once we who were unworthy of God and His kingdom, now be made worthy and ready to be accepted again. The Blood shed from the innocent and purest lamb of all, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

He did not resist at all when the chief priests and the Pharisees captured Him and tortured Him. He was indeed like a lamb being led to the slaughter, never complaining and in complete obedience to the will of God, the Father of all. Jesus is our Paschal Lamb, the One who offered Himself as the perfect and acceptable sacrifice to the throne of God.

That He was willing to suffer in place of us for the punishments intended to us, to bear that cross for our sake, and to bear all the humiliations imaginable, just that we may have hope and be saved, should have awakened us from our slumber, from our ignorance, yes, ignorance from the love of God most kind and forgiving,

Without Him, there can be no hope, and without His suffering, all of us will suffer, suffer from the consequences of our sins and of our wayward ways, away from the Lord our God. It is in the suffering of Christ that He shared our sufferings and bore it upon Himself, that we are freed from the weight of that yoke, the yoke of sin. And in His glorious resurrection, He lifted us all up from our old ways, from our old slavery to death, into a new life that He guaranteed through His own resurrection, as One who had conquered death.

Today, we celebrate the feast of several saints, first of which is St. Wenceslas or Wenceslaus, one of the first kings of Bohemia in the early Medieval era Germany, one of the first converts to the faith in that nation, which just a generation before was the nation of pagans and barbarians who ransacked many of Christendom’s countries. Even at the time of St. Wenceslaus, there were still strong pagan elements in the country, opposed to him and his rule as a Christian ruler.

Nevertheless, St. Wenceslaus remained faithful and committed to the cause of the Lord, and was known to be a good and caring ruler, who cared especially for the poor and the oppressed among his people, and worked hard to help spread the faith in the country where he ruled. This of course resulted in opposition to build up from the pagan elements in the society and among the nobles.

St. Wenceslaus was martyred for the faith, when he was murdered on his way to the church by his brother and his noble supporters. While his brother was a Christian himself, but many of the nobles who supported him were not, and they resented St. Wenceslaus’ attempts to bring the faith to them. Therefore, in the defense of his faith, St. Wenceslaus had given his life, and his blood, for the sake of the Lord, for the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of his people.

St. Lawrence Ruiz or Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions are the other saints whom we commemorate on this day, also as martyrs of the faith, shedding their blood for the sake of the Lord. St. Lawrence Ruiz is the first saint of the Philippines, who was martyred with several others in Japan. He was born in the Philippines during the early seventeenth century, when Spain owned the Philippines. He lived a relatively normal life until he was falsely accused of a crime, which prompted him to hide in exile, which happened to be in a ship bound for Japan.

St. Lawrence Ruiz arrived in Japan at a time of very great difficulty for any of the faithful of the Lord. Although just decades before Japan was truly a ripe ground for evangelisation, which saw hundreds of thousands converted into the faith, during the time of St. Lawrence Ruiz in Japan, the new Tokugawa shogunate government had changed their policy against Christians from tolerance and warmth into an open and vicious persecution.

Christians everywhere in Japan were threatened to abandon their faith or lose their lives through harsh torture and pain. Many recanted their faith following these threats, but equally many persevered in their faith and ended up being martyred, through various methods like crucifixion, beheading, and burning, many of them cruel and painful in nature.

St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions were also captured and subjected to these torturous methods, and were asked to abandon their faith in God. They resisted and remained staunch in their undying faith to God. They forsake their earthly life in order to obtain the life in heaven, which is eternal, from the Lord.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, after listening to the life stories of these courageous and faithful martyrs of the Lord, who did not shy from even risking their lives for the true faith, and recalling the very sacrifice Jesus had endured on the cross for our salvation, let us then, brethren, be proactive in our faith, no longer sitting down and let what God has given us go to waste, and instead, let us bravely take up our crosses, as the martyrs and saints had done, and go to proclaim to the whole world, the salvation of our Lord, offered to all those who believe in Him.

May the Lord continue to empower and strengthen us, in our mind, body, and speech, that we will be able to be strong and courageous bearers of His holy Gospels, the bearer of the Good News of salvation, inspired by the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, St. Wenceslaus, St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the Lord who told His disciples on their mission and how they should perform it. We also listened to how the Lord was merciful to His people, even after they have transgressed against Him and disobeyed His commandments, causing great disappointments to Him who has loved us so much.

He wanted His disciples to be the true messengers of the Gospel, to be the bearers of the Lord’s message to the world, by their ministry among them, to the people who have yet to receive the Good News of the Lord. Therefore, as Christ had asked of His disciples as their mission before He departed from this world, the same too is expected of us today, we, who are the present day disciples and followers of Christ.

Into His disciples, Christ had given the same authority He possessed, the power that He has over evils and diseases, the teaching authority and the revelation of the Word of God and the Law. That is the same power and authority that had been passed down to our Church leaders, the bishops and the priests, to heal those who are hurt, and to help all of us on our way towards the Lord in salvation.

Armed with these gifts and endowment, the Lord sent them forth into the world, to the people of God, especially those who still lived in the depths of their sins. They were sent in pairs and went from place to place, visiting each of them and telling them on the Good News of salvation. They were to live humbly and act humbly, as the servants of God, that they would remain pure in their intentions, and would not veer away from their mission.

Yes, indeed, that is because mankind is inherently weak, especially against the temptations of the world. In our vulnerability lies a great risk, that we will misuse what we have been given, and use them for wickedness instead of using them for things that we are supposed to do, as the servants and children of God. That was what many of us today had done, and even among our priests and bishops, the shepherds appointed over us.

We either neglect the mission God had entrusted us with, and instead following the ways of the world, we live in wickedness and darkness, and we often drag even others with us into darkness. And the leaders of the faithful had also sometimes went wayward and caused much harm and divisions within the Church in various ways. This neglect and abandonment of the works that we ought to do, cause disruption and come against the plan that God has for each of us.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are urged to get rid of the worldly distractions in our lives and in our mission as the bringer of the Good News to mankind. We are urged to forgo things that may steer us away from our true purpose in life, that is to love one another and to love the Lord our God. It is very easy for us to lose our purpose, if we put out focus in the wrong things, such as money, possessions, and in worldly desires.

As I have often mentioned, that money, wealth, and material goods are not in themselves bad or evil. It is a fuel for evil or for good depending on how we utilise them, the way that we use them. We can use them for love and charity, as well as for selfishness and evil. It is in our hands that they can become tool for good or for bad. However, indeed, mankind often use them disproportionately for negative purposes, because the temptation of the devil is indeed very great.

Therefore, brethren, it is important for us to avoid falling into the same trap of the devil, that we do not become ensnared with the false promises of pleasure and money, that we end up cursed and damned because we failed to look away from the temporary pleasures the devil has offered. What we need is prayer, a good and vibrant prayer life that we have a strong faith, that whatever the devil offers us, we will be able to resist.

It is also important for us to love, and to serve our community, especially to our brethren in need, that we reinforce in ourselves the love God has given us. And not only that, in doing so, we also obey the commands of Jesus our Lord, who had sent His disciples to serve all the children of God, giving to them their love, care, and attention.

Let us all be faithful, loving, and committed to the Lord, that we can truly carry out His will and the mission He had entrusted us all with, to love sincerely, and to resist all the approaches of Satan, using whatever graces we have given with, especially in material possessions, wisely and carefully, for the good and benefits of one another. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 20 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the need of loving God with all our hearts, that we place Him foremost before all other things, loving Him with all our might. For He had come into the world to ransom us from evil. He had given of Himself to all of us, as an example we all also ought to follow. That we have to love Him just as He had loved us, and love our brethren, without exception, in the same way.

For Christ had called us to be good, and to do good for everyone’s sake. He had taught us how to love, the same love He had shown us when He hung on that cross on Calvary. To Him had been granted authority and power, and He healed all from their afflictions, physically and spiritually. These people were among those who were mentioned in the Gospel today, particularly Mary Magdalene, whom He had liberated from the possession of Satan. Many of His disciples and Apostles also were once great sinners, even murderers and tax collectors.

He had called them from the darkness, that they would have a new life in Him, and through Him, just as He calls all of us to follow Him. This means to leave our old sinful and conceited selves behind, and do what the Lord had asked us to do. We ought to leave things that corrupt ourselves behind, and put on a new clothes of purity, as it had been on the day we were baptised, when we took up a new life, a clean and pure slate of life.

In the first reading today, St. Paul mentioned an important element of sin, that is possessions, meaning material possessions, in the form of visible and invisible wealth, in money and all its manifestation. It is first important to note, brethren, that money and possessions themselves are not innately evil. It is how they are gained and how they are utilised that can potentially bring about great evil.

Money can be used for good and noble purposes, as well as for evil and wicked purposes. It can be something that bring about blessings and life, and in the same way, also something that bring about destruction and suffering. That is why we must be careful on how we approach and utilise our money and our possessions. Remember always, that money and wealth are themselves not intrinsically evil, that it is we who can make that difference between good and evil from what we have.

For example, with the same money or wealth, we can choose, whether we spend it lavishly on the latest fashion items and gadgets that we do not really need. It is a really bad habit for some of us, considering the recent developments of the smartphone technology, that every time a new smartphone model comes out, we are always first to queue and get our hands on it. Remember again, smartphones can be very useful for good purposes, but it is how we use them and think of them, that differentiate between good and evil.

As in the earlier mentioned case, the money can be better used for other purposes, not only for charity, but even for ourselves, for our education, welfare, and improvement, basically, for many different things that we could not do, if we had spent all the money on these unnecessary excessiveness. Judge wisely therefore, brethren, what we are to do with our possessions, for they are God’s blessing to us. Let us not misuse these gifts that had been granted to us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of martyrs of Korea, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and their companions. They were among the first Christians of Korea, convert from their native religions into the faith of the Lord. Korea at that time was tightly closed against any form of external influences, especially Christianity, and the practice of the faith was strictly forbidden by the state.

Christians were harshly persecuted and forced to renounce their ‘alien’ faith and abandon the practices seen by the Korean government to be barbaric in nature. Many Christians were imprisoned and tortured and not few lost their lives for the faith. They are the ones we are commemorating today, the martyr saints of Korea, especially St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first martyr saint of Korea, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang.

They stayed faithful to the Lord despite immense pressure by the authorities forcing them to abandon their faith, and preferred suffering for the Lord even until they met their death, staying true to the Lord to the end. They gave their life, so that more and more people would be inspired by their example, and stay faithful to the Lord and did not apostasize, despite the pressure or the temptations offered to them to abandon the Lord for worldly incentives.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, after listening to the word of God, and the advice on how we need to make sure that we use the blessings granted to us for the right cause, and especially after witnessing the life story of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and the other martyr saints of Korea, let us be motivated, brethren, to do what is good in the eyes of the Lord.

May the Lord protect us and continue to bless us to be strong, to be the true witnesses of the Gospel, as the martyr saints of Korea had done. God be with us always. Amen.

Sunday, 25 August 2013 : 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Lay Apostolate Sunday (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listen to the warning and reminder from Jesus Christ our Lord, to be ever ready and ever alert on the coming of the kingdom of God, that is the time when God will finally make His move to end all the tyranny of sin and evil, and break the power of Satan for eternity, for a final time. That is the time when Christ comes as a conquering and victorious king, who will reward all who had followed Him faithfully and even suffer for His sake, and also punish those who had opposed Him and barred His way.

Following the Lord is not enough with just being with Him, and being idle. That was exactly what Jesus was referring to, when He mentioned the rebuke of the many, who cannot enter the kingdom of God, because they were unworthy, and because they were unprepared for the coming of the kingdom of God. They are caught asleep when the Lord comes again to claim His people for His own, and the Lord rebukes them and rejects them, denying them the reward He reserves only for those He deems to be worthy.

God is our Father and our Saviour, and He loves all of us very much, without condition. He truly cares for all of us, just like a father loves and cares for his own son, for his own children. He gives His love freely for everyone without exception, to the point that He even gave Himself in flesh and blood, His own Body, through the ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ suffered on the cross, in His most loving Passion. He endured rejection, mockery, and suffering out of His love for us, that we will not die, die an eternal death in damnation, but may attain life eternal with Him for all ages.

Therefore, out of His great and unconditional love and compassion for us, He who gave us His life through His flesh and blood, wants us to be righteous, upright and worthy of Him. That is why, He corrects us, punishes us, and rebukes us when we make mistakes in our life, and when we go astray from the path to salvation, when the devil begin to take over our hearts. It is to ensure that we remain in Him and not fall into the temptations of Satan.

It may seem to many of us, that the devil seems to be very friendly to us, and yes, brethren, he will always present his smiling face to us, deceiving us into believing his lies and his alluring tactics. Remember, brethren, that the devil was once Lucifer, the greatest, brightest, and mightiest of all the angels of heaven. It is therefore easy for him to show his ‘bright’ and less sinister side to us, in order to deceive us into sin and disobedience against God, just as he had done with Adam and Eve, our ancestors.

We must always remember, that he is also Satan, the devil, the deceiver, the evil snake, and the great enemy of God and all that is good. We must be careful lest we be tempted and fall into his traps. The devil envies the Lord and all mankind, and he will certainly do his best, and use all the resources at his disposal, in order to make us fall. He had done that to our forefathers, and he will certainly do the same again to all of us.

God had given us His help and assistance to us, through His prophets, His messengers, and His own Son in the end. He gave us much assistance, and gave us His Law through Moses, first to His people Israel, and then to us. the core of that Law is the Ten Commandments, which was made clear by our Lord Jesus, as the commandments of love, the love for God and the love for our fellow men. The purpose of these laws? They are meant to be our guide, and our focus, that we will not be easily swayed by the sweet promises of the devil. Yes, brethren, sweet on the outside but bitter within indeed!

The devil placed many obstacles in our path towards the Lord, and that is why, following the Lord our God will not be easy, and it will not be like a walk in the park. Following our Lord will kean a constant, daily struggle, struggle against evil and all the temptations that threaten to divert us from salvation in God. Yes, as Jesus Himself had said, that following Him means to take up our own crosses and follow Him in carrying His cross to Calvary, yes, to our own Calvary.

To follow the Lord indeed means to die to ourselves, and to die to our sins. It is to die to our old lives with Christ’s own death. We die in this way through our own baptism, when we were welcomed and entered into the Church of God, as one family of the faithful ones. Through that ‘death’ we have also been risen up together with Christ, who had triumphed and conquered death, evil, and broke all the powers of Satan through His glorious Resurrection.

Once again, I will reiterate the great difficulty of following the Lord and to remain obedient to Him, His will, and His love, as the devil uses all the resources in his disposal to prevent us from being saved, to suffer and accompany him for eternity in damnation. He deceives and betrays all who believe in him, but he is sweet and smart in his ways, that we will see him as friend and someone good, but truly, nothing good can come of working with the devil. It is a choice we need to make, between the seemingly tough and challenging path of the Lord, but one that leads to eternal life, or the other path that seems to be easy and enjoyable, but is a path to damnation.

Today, brethren, we celebrate Lay Apostolate Sunday, and the purpose of this celebration is indeed to remain us, indeed all of us who belong to the laity, and also the priests alike, must all be apostles to one another, and ultimately be the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, just as the Apostles of the Lord, who gave their all for the sake of God, and spread the Word of God to the four corners of the world, and even gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel, we too should follow in their footsteps.

Christ had repeatedly warned them and therefore, all of us, that the path that He leads is not easy, and challenges are sure to be plentiful. The world itself will hate us, but we cannot fight back hatred with hate, brothers and sisters. We must reach out to them, reach out with our own love, the love God had given to all of us. That is the meaning of Lay Apostolate, that even all of us who do not belong to the priesthood, that is the laity, all of us, have an important part to play in our Church, in our faith. How? Precisely by making sure that we obey God and His commandments, that is love. Yes, love!

The gate to heaven is narrow, brethren, and that is why it is a narrow way. But with love, and with God’s love behind us, nothing is impossible. Yes, what is impossible for man is possible for God. For from men’s perspective, we had been far too dirty and unworthy of the perfection of heaven to have even the slightest hope of redemption, and yet, through Christ, the manifestation of Divine light, we have been promised salvation, as long as we remain faithful to Him and keep true to His path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today resolve, and indeed, vow to do our best, for the Church of God, for our brethren in need. Show them our great love, care, and compassion. Extend our hands towards them, and accept them into our embrace. The door is narrow, but to all of us who love, and who obey the Word of God, it is not narrow, brethren, but it is wide open for us! And do not forget to pray and support our priests, because just as we have much tasks to do ahead of us, to secure our salvation and the salvation of others in Christ through our actions and deeds, our priests have even greater responsibility. Continue to pray for them, support them in any way we can, while we continue to play our own part and contribute to the work of salvation, the good works of our Lord, made evident in this world, through us, His children and His apostles. God be with us, and bless us all always. Amen.