Sunday, 13 November 2022 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of the Poor (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we heard the words of the Lord through the passages of the Sacred Scriptures telling us that there are plenty for all of us as Christians to do and prepare, for the coming of the end of days or the last days will be swift and unexpected by anyone, and we certainly do not want to end up being judged on the wrong side, with those who have been deemed unworthy and due to be damned for eternity. This Sunday we heard these reminders just as we approach the end of this current liturgical year, and just as the flow of time continues on, we are reminded of the eventual end of our earthly existence, as we are all going to have to account for our earthly experiences, actions and all that we say and do before the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard of the prophet Malachi speaking the words of the Lord to the people of God, regarding of the coming of the Messiah and also the coming of the end times, the time of judgment. In that short passage, the message for us all is very clear, that those who live righteously and in accordance with God’s will shall be blessed and be found worthy of God and His eternal dominion, to live and exist with Him in eternal happiness and bliss, while all those who live wickedly and refused to obey God’s will shall face the just punishment and consequences due to their wickedness and evil actions, and will be judged as unworthy and cast out into eternal darkness and damnation, all just for their lack of faith and wickedness.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel of St. Luke the words of the Lord to His disciples, followers and all the people, before the Temple of God in Jerusalem, proclaiming the coming of the time of strife and evil for all the people of God, as they all will endure the hardships, challenges, trials and many would have to suffer many losses and even losses of life and deaths, to be endured in the midst of the persecutions and destructions that would come for the faithful people of God. At a glance, the Lord was speaking of the time of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and the fall of that city to the Romans, which would happen just less than forty years after the Lord has spoken about all those things.

In the years leading to that event, caused by the rebellion of fanatical Jews against the Romans, the faithful Christians, the people of God also suffered because of repressions from the Jewish authorities and also from the local governors and the Roman overlords alike. There were great tumults and revolts, destructions and sufferings, which culminated in the great Jewish Revolt, which led to the deaths of many thousands upon thousands of people, from both sides in the conflict, and ultimately, the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of that city and the Temple of God itself, and the Jewish people scattered away from their homeland. Amidst all those strife and destruction, it was indeed easy for anyone to claim that the time of the end of the world, the coming of the final judgment was imminent.

What the Lord made known to His disciples and followers was that, in the end of time, at a time that He alone knows, He will come again to judge all the people, all the living and the dead, from the past, the present, and also the future, of all time. No one can foresee or know when the exact timing of this moment that the Lord has spoken of. And He also rightly warned against all those false prophets and all the false messengers and preachers who would try to subvert the message of God’s truth for their own selfish ideas and desires, as the history of the Church and mankind had shown us in these past two millennia. There had been many occasions where people claimed that the calamities and events happening in the world heralded the end of times and the Last Judgment, and some of them even claimed to be the Messiah returned in glory, all of whom proved to be false.

Hence, what we are reminded this Sunday is that, while we have to be vigilant and ever ready for the Lord’s coming, we also should not easily give in to those who promote false ideas and teachings contrary to the truth that the Lord alone has taught to us and revealed to us through His Church, and which had been preserved by the Church with the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the past two millennia as the deposit of our Christian faith and truth. That is why we have to live our lives worthily of the Lord and do whatever we can to obey the Lord and His commandments, a sentiment that is echoed by what we heard in our second reading today from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city and area of Thessalonica.

St. Paul spoke of how all of those who preached the word of God and the leaders of the Church all laboured tirelessly for the sake of God and His people, and doing whatever they could to serve the needs of the people, in doing what they could to do the will of God and to glorify Him by their every actions. He told the people that it is what is expected of all Christians to do, to be active in doing their part in whatever ministry, vocation or calling that each one of them had been called into, and all of them should do whatever they can to do what the Lord had commanded them all to do, and not be idle in their lives. That is because being idle is not what our calling as Christians is all about, and we cannot be ignorant of what the Lord Himself has taught and revealed to us, in how we should commit ourselves to the Lord and His Law and commandments.

What is God’s Law? As the Lord Himself had told us, that in essence the whole entirety of the Law can be summarised in two main commandments, that is first of all of our obligation and mission to love the Lord our God, as the only God with all of our strength and might, with all of our abilities and focus, our whole effort and attention, and then at the same time, we should also love our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow mankind, in whatever way we can and in whatever capacity we are in. And yes, it is our Christian calling to love, loving God and loving our brethren, be it our family members, our parents, our siblings and our children, and also our extended family and relatives, or our friends and acquaintances, and even strangers and even more so, those who hated us and persecuted us.

We do not have to look far for example, brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord Jesus Himself, our Saviour, has shown us the perfect example, of how He reached out to us with most generous and enduring love, despite our lack of interest in Him, and despite our stubbornness and constant rebellions against Him, and also despite our easily succumbing nature, as we fell again and again into temptations and chose sin over obedience to God. He loves us all nonetheless, and reached out even to the worst of sinners, journeying with them and caring for them, calling on them to embrace God’s love and mercy, to sin no more and follow Him. He healed their sickness and wounds, and cast out evil spirits and demons from them. He patiently showed His love even to those who persecuted Him.

He endured the worst and most painful sufferings for our sake, enduring bitter rejections and persecutions, humiliations and torture, having His flesh torn from His Precious Body and Precious Blood spilled over as He endured each wound with patience, and took His Cross upon His shoulder with love, love for each and every one of us. And yes, that includes even those who have persecuted and condemned Him to death, those Pharisees, teachers of the Law, elders and chief priests who were opposed to Him and persecuted Him and His disciples. From His Cross, the Lord Himself prayed on their behalf before the Father, asking Him to forgive them their sins and not to hold what they did against them. Truly I am sure we can see just how beloved we are by God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if God has loved us all so much, that He willingly do all that for us, even to die for our sake, that we may be saved and spared our fate of destruction and damnation, then should we not be stubborn anymore and should emulate His love in our own actions and way of life as well. We should learn to fill ourselves up with more of God’s love, embracing Him with devotion and love, thanking Him for His patience and ever generous love, and also His compassion and mercy in forgiving us our sins. We should also love one another, and learn to forgive one another our mistakes and faults to each other, just as the Lord has forgiven us even the greatest of our sins if we sincerely seek to repent and be forgiven from them. Can we do this, brothers and sisters? Certainly we can. The question is whether we want to do it or not.

Now, on this thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time and the second last Sunday of this current liturgical year, we also commemorate the World Day of the Poor as instituted a few years ago by our currently reigning Pope, Pope Francis. On this day, we are reminded of the poor in our midst, and we are called as Christians to remember our call to love and charity, that each one of us may be more generous in loving those who are poor, caring for them and reaching out for those who have no means to provide for themselves. And not only that, being poor in fact is not just being poor in material wealth and possessions only, as there are also other kinds of poverty that we may not be aware of, and yet are also important for us as Christians to reach out to these people suffering from other forms of poverty.

What am I referring to? The poverty for love and care, as there are those who have adequate or even plenty of material possessions, and yet are lacking in love and care. There are those who are ostracised and rejected for various reasons, and it is to all these that we are called to reach out to as well. There are even those who are poor, because they have no love in them, or have little in the means of empathy, care and compassion for others. As Christians, it is our calling and mission, that each one of us, in our respective areas and capacities, show God’s love embodied in our actions, words and deeds, and through our interactions, so that we may hopefully touch the heart and reveal God’s truth and love to those who are still poor in faith, and love for God and their fellow brethren.

Let us all therefore remember to do our best, in whatever we say and do, to reach out to our less fortunate brethren, those who are poor, be it in material, or love or faith or whatever it is that they are poor in. Let us share with them and help them in whatever way we can. Let us journey together with them and show them that they are truly part of our communities, especially those who are also members of our Church. It is indeed often sad to see how many Christians were so aloof and ignorant of the plight of their fellow Christians. Some of them were even those who manipulated and gained from the sufferings of others, and their fellow brothers and sisters. This is not what we should be doing as Christians, and as those whom God had called and chosen from this world to be His own children, people and flock.

Let us all discern how we can be better Christians, to be more committed and loving disciples of our Lord, so that in all the things we say and do, we may continue to show more of our Lord’s love, and be ever more generous in reaching out to the less fortunate around us, be more selfless in our way of life and turning away from sin and all the temptations to sin. May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He empower us all to be good and true disciples, faithful and committed witnesses to His truth and love at all times. Let us help one another, especially the poor among us, to come ever closer to God. Amen.

Sunday, 13 November 2022 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of the Poor (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 21 : 5-19

At that time, while some people were talking about the Temple, remarking that it was adorned with fine stonework and rich gifts, Jesus said to them, “The days will come when there shall not be left one stone upon another of all that you now admire; all will be torn down.”

And they asked Him, “Master, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” Jesus then said, “Take care not to be deceived, for many will come claiming My title and saying, ‘I am He, the Messiah; the time is at hand!’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and troubled times, do not be frightened; for all these things must happen first, even though the end is not so soon.”

And Jesus said, “Nations will fight each other and kingdom will oppose kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and plagues; in many places strange and terrifying signs from heaven will be seen. Before all these things happen, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you; you will be delivered to the synagogues and put in prison, and for my sake you will be brought before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”

“So keep this in mind : do not worry in advance about what to say, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. But even though, because of My Name, you will be hated by everyone, not a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance you will save your souls.”

Sunday, 13 November 2022 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of the Poor (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Thessalonians 3 : 7-12

You know how you ought to follow our example : we worked while we were with you. Day and night we laboured and toiled so as not to be a burden to any of you. We had the right to act otherwise, but we wanted to give you an example.

Besides, while we were with you, we said clearly : If anyone is not willing to work, neither should that one eat. However we heard that some among you live in idleness – busybodies, doing no work. In the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord we command these people to work and earn their own living.

Sunday, 13 November 2022 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of the Poor (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 97 : 5-6, 7-8, 9

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea resound and everything in it, the world and all its peoples. Let rivers clap their hands, hills and mountains sing with joy.

Before the Lord, for He comes to rule the earth. He will judge the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Sunday, 13 November 2022 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of the Poor (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Malachi 3 : 19-20a

The day already comes, flaming as a furnace. On that day all the proud and evildoers will be burnt like straw in the fire. They will be left without branches or roots. On the other hand the sun of justice will shine upon you who respect My Name and bring health in its rays.

Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are approaching the end of the current liturgical year, as usual, this Sunday’s readings are on the theme of the upcoming end of times, the Apocalypse and time of the Final Judgment of the whole creation. All of us heard of these reminders from the readings of today’s Scriptures so that we may discern carefully how we are to live our lives from now on and strive to be more faithful and genuine in following the Lord as Christians, those who believe in Him.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Book of the prophet Daniel the revelation of God to Daniel how the end of times will come, and St. Michael the Archangel, the great Prince of Heavenly Host and leader of the Angels of God was also mentioned. Echoing what would later on be revealed further in the Book of Revelations by St. John the Apostle, we heard how trials and tribulations will come for those who are faithful to God, and how they, all of us will suffer because of our faith and commitment to God.

Yet, at the same time, the Lord reassured all of us that He will not leave us all alone without any help or protection, for He will send unto us the great Heavenly Host, His Angels, led by St. Michael the Archangel himself, to guide and protect us. God will not abandon us to total destruction and annihilation, and while we may suffer persecution and oppression, enduring hardships and trials, but in the end, we will be triumphant together with God.

That is the sentiment presented to us by the Gospel passage today taken from the Gospel of St. Mark, as we heard how God will send His Angels to gather all His faithful ones from all over the world, and will provide for them on the end of days, when the Son of Man comes again in His glory, as He Himself has promised. Christ, the Son of Man, will come again at the end of time, the time of the Final Judgment, to destroy sin and evil, winning a final triumph against them while gathering all the faithful, the living and the dead into the eternal glory and joy of the kingdom of God.

All of these messages and reminders, as well as what we know from the Book of Revelations are evidence for us to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and not to be distracted by the temptations to sin and to follow the path of evil in this world. And we have also heard that the coming of this time of reckoning, of the Final Judgment and the end of times is something that will be most unpredictable and unknown to us, as no one but the Lord Himself knows the exact time of His second coming into this world.

This means that we must not be complacent in living our lives, thinking that we have the time to repent and change our ways. Certainly none of us want to be caught unprepared, when the time comes, and even more so, closer to us, we know that all of us will die one day, and do we want to wait until death claims us before we repent and change our sinful ways? Some are fortunate enough to have the opportunity and time for conversion and change, but many others did not and will not have that privilege.

As we listened to these words of the Scriptures presented to us at the end of each liturgical year cycle, we are all constantly being reminded of the fragile nature of our human existence and lives, and how close we can be to either Heaven or Hell, just by our choice of actions in life. And this month of November, as we dedicate it to the holy souls in Purgatory, we are constantly being reminded of what will happen to us after death. Those in Purgatory are still the lucky ones, as they will all eventually go to Heaven. However, what if we end up in Hell instead?

Then, we may be wondering based on what we heard in our second reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which the author highlighted in today’s segment in particular, of how the Lord Jesus Christ, frequently presented as the High Priest to all mankind in that Epistle, has already offered the perfect and everlasting sacrifice that surpassed any other sacrifices of animals of the old times. His own Sacrifice was His own Most Precious Body and Blood which He offered Himself from the Cross at Calvary.

Indeed, the Lord has already made that Sacrifice once and for all, which is the same Sacrifice that we celebrate at every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the same Sacrifice at Calvary. And every time we receive the Eucharist, we receive the very same Most Precious Body and Blood that the Lord has given us from the Cross, that He has willingly done for us, to provide for us and to free and redeem us from our innumerable sins, faults and trespasses. And we have received salvation through our faith in Him.

However, if that makes us think that we have been saved and then we can do whatever we want in our lives, in indulging ourselves in worldly desires and sinful things, then we will have no part in the Lord’s promise and inheritance. And that is because as St. James mentioned in his Epistle, that faith without good works is the same as dead. This is the opinion shared by the other Apostles and the Lord Himself, as faith alone without us living genuinely according to that faith we have in God is meaningless and empty.

That is why many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were often criticised by the Lord for their lack of real and genuine faith, as they were outwardly faithful and pious, and yet they did not have true love for the Lord. Many of them showed their piety in action to gain more fame and prestige for themselves, and to satisfy their own ego and pride. As such, they had not been truly faithful to the Lord and ended up doing things that in fact brought about obstacles and challenges to the Lord and His mission.

In the same way therefore, all of us are called to follow the Lord faithfully not just in mere words and formality only, but also through genuine actions and deeds, through real and growing love that we have for Him, and not just that, but also for our fellow brothers and sisters whom the Lord also loves as much as He loves each and every one of us. And we must also distance ourselves from sin and wicked things in life, striving our best to turn away from those unworthy things that have often kept many away from the Lord and His salvation.

Today, we also celebrate the World Day of the Poor, in which all of us are reminded of the poor and all those who are suffering from neglect and lack of care in our various communities. The poor are all around us, and often we may not realise that there are poverty present in our midst, even ironically from those who are close to us. Why is that so? That is because we are often too self-centred and often think only about ourselves without much regards to others around us.

Then, we often hear this, that if God is so kind and loving, then why would He have allowed people to be poor and to suffer from poverty? Should He not have cared for everyone and all those people so that they would not have to suffer? This is where we must understand that poverty and suffering in this world happen because of the abuse of our free will and freedom of actions, in which we misused the opportunities and time given to us to advance our own selfish desires and ambitions, and as a result, caused suffering on others, whether directly or indirectly, and whether unintended or deliberate.

Poverty is often caused by the culture of exploitation and the unbridled desires of man who sought more of what they already had aplenty. And when man acted in this manner, that ended up causing those who already have plenty to amass even more of what they already had, while those who were poor became even poorer. Note however that I am not saying that God is against the rich and powerful or that those who are rich, powerful, famous and privileged are evil and wicked. That is not the case.

As a matter of fact, in many countries, there are many cases even of those who are poor who oppressed and made life difficult, exploiting those who are poorer, weaker and less capable than they are. Again, they did this for many reasons, but all these are reminders for all of us that all of us have to be grateful with the blessings that we have received and be generous if we have extra and are given the opportunity to help others who are not as fortunate as us. Let us remember that everything we have are gifts and blessings from God, and not something that we should hoard or boast about.

And let us also be reminded of the Beatitudes, or the Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord Jesus spoke of those who are poor in spirit and how blessed they are. All of us are called to be poor in spirit, and that means for us to abandon our pride and arrogance, all of our stubbornness and greed, all the things that prevented us from seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness for our many sins. Let us all be humble before the Lord, allowing the Lord to guide us in our path through life, and let us allow the Lord to fill our hearts with love and generosity, so that we may be more generous in giving and loving others, especially those who are poorer and less fortunate than us.

Therefore, through our genuine deeds and actions, our generosity in love and care for our fellow brothers and sisters, let us all live our lives as Christians to the best of our abilities so that all of us may be worthy of the Lord and when He comes again at the end of time, all of us will not be found wanting and lacking in true faith. May God, our loving Lord and Master, continue to bless us and love us all, especially the poor in our midst, and may He help them through our generous hands and deeds. Amen.

Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 13 : 24-32

Later on in those days, after that disastrous time, the sun will grow dark, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall out of the sky, and the whole universe will be shaken. Then people will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And He will send the Angels to gather His chosen people from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky.

Learn a lesson from the fig tree : as soon as its branches become tender and it begins to sprout leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the time is near, even at the door. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all this has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

But, regarding that day and that hour, no one knows when it will come, not even the Angels, not even the Son, but only the Father.

Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 10 : 11-14, 18

So, whereas every priest stands, daily, by the Altar, offering, repeatedly, the same sacrifices, that can never take away sins, Christ has offered, for all times, a single sacrifice for sins, and has taken His seat at the right hand of God, waiting, until God puts His enemies as a footstool under His feet.

By a single sacrifice He has brought those who are sanctified to what is perfect forever. So, if sins are forgiven, there is no longer need of any sacrifice for sin.

Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 15 : 5 and 8, 9-10, 11

O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.

I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured.

For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

Sunday, 14 November 2021 : Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fifth World Day of the Poor (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Daniel 12 : 1-3

At that time, Michael will rise, the Great Commander who defends your people. It shall be a time of anguish as never before, since the nations first existed until this very day. Then, all those, whose names are written in the book, will be saved.

Many of those who sleep in the Region of the Dust will awake, some to everlasting life but others to eternal horror and shame. Those who acquired knowledge will shine, like the brilliance of the firmament; those who taught people to be just will shine, like the stars, for all eternity.