Wednesday, 25 July 2018 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 20 : 20-28

At that time, the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favour. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here, You have my two sons. Grant, that they may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your kingdom.”

Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink My cup; but to sit at My right or at My left is not for Me to grant. That will be for those, for whom My Father has prepared it.”

The other then heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know, that the rulers of nations behave like tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you : whoever wants to be great in your community, let him minister to the community. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man, Who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”

Tuesday, 8 August 2017 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Numbers 12 : 1-13

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married and they said, "Has YHVH only spoken through Moses? Has He not also spoken through us?" And YHVH heard.

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than any man on the face of the earth. Yet suddenly YHVH said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, "Come out, all three of you, to the Tent of Meeting." The three of them came out.

YHVH came down in the pillar of cloud and, standing at the door of the Tent, called Aaron and Miriam. They both went out and He said, "Listen carefully to what I say, 'If there is a prophet among you, I reveal Myself to him in a vision and I speak to him in a dream. It is not so for My servant, Moses, My trusted steward in all My household.'"

"'To Him I speak face to face, openly, and not in riddles, and he sees the presence of YHVH. Why then did you not fear to speak against My servant, against Moses?'" YHVH became angry with them and He departed. The cloud moved away from above the Tent and Miriam was there white as snow with leprosy. Aaron turned towards Miriam and he saw that she was leprous.

And he said to Moses, "My lord, I beg you, do not charge us with this sin that we have foolishly committed. Let her not be like the stillborn whose flesh is half-eaten when it comes from its mother's womb."

Then Moses cried to YHVH, "Heal her, o God, I beg of You."

Sunday, 27 September 2015 : Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 5 : 1-6

So, now for what concerns the rich! Cry and weep for the misfortunes that are coming upon you. Your riches are rotting and your clothes eaten up by the moths. Your silver and gold have rusted and their rust grows into a witness against you. It will consume your flesh like fire, for having piled up riches in these the last days.

You deceived the workers who harvested your fields but now their wages cry out to the heavens. The reapers’ complaints have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You lived in luxury and pleasure in this world thus fattening yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have easily condemned and killed the innocent since they offered no resistance.

Sunday, 9 November 2014 : 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast of the whole Universal Church, and especially the Church of Rome, the heart of Christendom, as established by the Vicar of Christ, the Supreme leader of the entire Body of Christ, the Church, St. Peter the Apostle, who established his seat in the once Imperial capital of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome, and where he was martyred for his faith in God.

He is the very first Bishop of Rome, and the very first one to lead the growing faithful community there in the Imperial capital. St. Peter the Apostle is indeed also accredited with the establishment of several other important and key dioceses throughout the Empire, and indeed, the See of Antioch also had St. Peter as its first bishop and leader. However, it was in Rome, where St. Peter truly established his seat and served the people of God until he was martyred in the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero.

And when we talk about the Church, we know of the various hierarchy of structures and personnels that made up the whole universal Church, and the administrative divisions in it, which in fact mirrored closely the division of the civil administration of the Roman Empire. The name diocese, was taken from the name used to describe a provincial division of the late Roman Empire, and this is taken into the structure of the Church as a group of the faithful led by a bishop, with many priests and the laity both under his care and supervision.

Bishops are overseers and leaders of God’s people, and they also supervise and coordinate the actions and works of the priests, the holy servants of God. And the premier and the foremost of all bishops is the Bishop of Rome, who as the bishop of the very diocese where St. Peter the Apostle had established himself and martyred, is the successor of that holy saint and shepherd which our Lord Jesus Himself had entrusted with all of His faithful on earth.

St. Peter affirmed his faith in the Lord with his threefold declaration of faith, a reminder that he had once denied his Lord and God three times during the Passion. And Jesus forgave him, and entrusted him with the entire the Church, as His Vicar, by the words, “Feed My sheep.” The Bishops of Rome, the Popes, therefore inherit the same commandment which Jesus had given to Peter, to lead His entire Universal Church.

And as bishop, indeed, he has a cathedral too, the Bishop of Rome having the Cathedral of Rome as his seat. We have to take note that the Cathedral mentioned here does not refer to the largest or the most beautiful churches present in the diocese, but rather the place, the very church where the seat of the bishop is. And this seat is the bishop’s throne, or the Cathedra, where a Cathedral gets its name from.

For many of us, we may think that the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican is the Cathedral of the Pope and the principal church of Christendom. However, this was wrong. Indeed, the Basilica of St. Peter has a special importance, both as a Papal Basilica, of which there are only four in the whole world, and then because it itself is located on top of the Vatican necropolis, which was the very spot where St. Peter was martyred during the reign of the Emperor Nero.

The Basilica therefore housed the remains of St. Peter, and is also the regular residence of the Popes, and where he celebrates the majority of his liturgical functions in Rome. However, the Pope’s Cathedra as the Bishop of Rome is not located at the Basilica of St. Peter, but rather at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, located in Rome, and not in the Vatican City.

Basilica of St. John Lateran was the site of the original Lateran Basilica donated by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who was the first Christian Roman Emperor, and it became the official residence of the Popes, the adjacent Lateran Palace, and the Basilica became the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. The reason why the Popes no longer stay at the site, was because of the upheavals of two centuries ago, where worldly conflicts forced the Pope to abandon the Lateran for the safety of the Vatican, where he resided from then on.

As the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, the first and principal diocese of the Church, therefore it is also the Mother Church of the entire and whole Christendom, the very first and most important of all churches in the world, superseding even the Basilica of St. Peter, and noticed in its official name, the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran. It is the only Archbasilica in the world and was dedicated first to the Lord, who is the Saviour of the whole world, and then to both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.

Today, we celebrate the day of the dedication of that sacred and hallowed Cathedral, the heart of the entire Christendom as the seat of the Popes. Dedication of a church is a very important event, for it is the moment when the particular location is consecrated and blessed, as a sacred and worthy space, for all the faithful to celebrate together the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and death on the cross.

This is what the first reading today is all about, the vision of Ezekiel who saw the great and holy Temple of heaven, filled with divine glory and majesty, and he saw a torrent of water coming out from the Temple. This is what the hymn which we sung at Easter, Vidi Aquam, was taken from. ‘I saw water pouring out from the Temple…’ and what is this water? It is the holy water of our baptism, a reminder for us all to be holy and pure as we are at the moment of our baptism.

This is why we have the custom of signing ourselves with the sign of the Cross and the holy water when we enter the church. This is to remind us that we are coming into the holy place of God, which had been dedicated, consecrated and blessed for holy use of the Mass. Remember that Moses was asked to remove his sandals when he came to see the burning bush in the mountain of God? That is because the sandals represent all the vile and unworthy things of the world, which ought not to be present in the holy presence of God.

And therefore, similarly, when we come to the church, we should come with only a single intent, that is to be with our Lord, and to be fully present there, with all of our heart, soul and body completely present, ready to give thanks and praise to the Lord for His love, which we commemorate in the Holy Eucharist in the Mass. We should never even have the mind to do other things inappropriate for us to do when we are in the holy place and presence of God.

Therefore, it is absolutely saddening and disheartening if we see our own behaviours when we come for the Holy Mass, especially when those behaviour represent our disrespect to the Lord and His holiness, in His very temple no less! How many of us are guilty of talking and gossiping, as well as chatting things that are most of the time irrelevant to the celebration of the Holy Mass?

How many of us look to our gadgets and to our smartphones, to our mobile phones and others, instead of looking at the One whom we all should look towards, the Holy One who had given up Himself in death, so that we may not suffer the consequences of death, but gain life in His resurrection from the dead. How many of us therefore profaned His holiness and presence with our insolence and lack of respect for the Lord?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, our actions as I have just mentioned cannot be separated from our own internal disposition. Why is this so? If we look carefully, at the second reading today, taken from letter of St. Paul to the Church in Corinth, he also mentioned that our body is also a holy temple, that is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This echoes the same words of Jesus, who also taught that our bodies are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, and therefore they should be pure and devoid of all forms of sins and iniquities.

What did Jesus do in the Gospel reading, brothers and sisters? Precisely, He drove out all of the merchants and the money changers who set up their stalls in front, at the courtyard of the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God. The courtyard itself, even though it is not part of the main temple building, as a whole, still considered as an integral part of the Temple complex, and therefore, what the merchants and the money changers had done there, were abominable in God’s eyes.

What did the merchants do? They sold the animals to be sacrificed in the Temple to the people who wanted to offer those sacrifices, and they did so, by selling those animals at a high price, so that they gained much profits and benefits over the suffering of the people. The money changers did similarly, with charging the people for their money exchange services at exorbitant rates, gaining much more from those transactions.

What those people had done, had profaned the Temple of God, its holiness was marred by the wickedness of men. And our Lord who is a just God certainly did not take a kind look upon these wickedness, and that was why, Jesus our Lord literally went berserk in His wrath, because of the great evil committed by these in His holy Temple. He drove them out with whips and shouts, casting them out of His house and cursed them.

How is this relevant to us? Our bodies are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the place where our Lord Himself came to dwell in us, and we know this because we who are faithful to Him, He will sanctify us and make us pure and justified. But if we do things as what the merchants and the money changers had done, then we are all going to receive great punishment and condemnation for our fornication and corruption of the holiness of the Temple of our body with sin.

How is this so? If we act in ways such as to serve our own desires, acting selfishly, thinking only of ourselves, just as the merchants and the money changers overcharging the people to gain profits for themselves, or if we act in disrespect of others, disregarding the teachings and reminders of the Lord, just as we had often disrespected the holiness of the sacred space in the church, the holy place of God, then our due is to be condemned and to suffer for those sins we have committed.

Therefore, today, as we celebrate with the entire universal Church, the feast of the dedication of the great Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of all Christendom, the seat of authority and the site of the Cathedra of the Successors of St. Peter, let us be reminded of two very important things, that we must not leave today without.

First, we have to make sure that we respect the holy places and act appropriately in the places of divine worship. We have to truly be focused in the celebration of the Holy Mass, that we should dispose of any distractions or any attitudes incompatible with maintaining holiness in such solemn space, consecrated and dedicated to God. Let us remember that first and foremost, we have to come to celebrate the Holy Mass regularly, and when we do so, we have to be truly committed.

Then secondly, and even more important for us, is that we have to realise that all of us are also Temples of the Lord, Temple of the Holy Spirit. We have to keep this in mind, every single seconds of our lives. This is so that before we do every single act, or emit every single word from our mouth, we may think it through twice, or even more than twice, so that we can consider well before we act or say anything, that we may avoid ourselves from committing a sin before God.

May Almighty God, our Lord and Father, bless us all with faith and perseverance, that amidst this sinful and darkened world, we may become sources of light for the world to see, that all of us, the Temples of the Lord, may be consecrated in holiness, just as the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Mother Church of our Faith has been consecrated in holiness and love by the Lord, to be the anchor upon which the Church keeps its faith strongly, that all of us may also remain forever faithful, and keep the sanctity and holiness of the Temple of God that is our bodies, our hearts and our souls. God be with us all. Amen.


First Reading :

Psalm :

Second Reading :

Gospel Reading :

(Usus Antiquior) Dedication of the Archbasilica of our Saviour, Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Feast of St. Theodore, Martyr (II Classis) – Sunday, 9 November 2014 : Homily and Scripture Reflections

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate with the entire Universal Church, the feast of the dedication of the greatest church in Christendom, the very heart of our Faith, the very seat of the Successor of St. Peter in this world, that is the Basilica of St. John Lateran, also known by its official name of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in the Lateran.

The Basilica of St. John Lateran is where the Bishops of Rome, the Popes have their Cathedra at. Cathedra is the seat of the bishop, the seat of authority and his throne, representing the teaching authority which had been handed down to him by his predecessors, in an unbroken chain of Apostolic succession. And for the Pope, as the Bishop of Rome, this succession originated from none other than St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of Apostles, leader of the Universal Church and the Vicar of Christ.

Therefore today we celebrate both the authority of the Popes as the successors of St. Peter the Apostle, and more particularly, their seat of authority as the Bishop of Rome, the Cathedral of the Popes, the Cathedral of Rome itself, that is the Archbasilica of our Saviour, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is rightly often called, the Mother Church of the entire Christendom, because it is exactly the pivot and the centre, around which the entire Universal Church spins.

Today is the commemoration of the very date this Basilica was dedicated and consecrated to the Lord, a very important event which marked the moment when the building of the church was made holy and sacrosanct, blessed and dedicated to the Lord, to be a place of holy worship, worthy of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And in the Epistle today, we heard on how the Lord is willing to come down from heaven to dwell with us, and this He had done, through His Son Jesus Christ, the One who saved us all through His suffering and death on the cross. He is the tabernacle of God who came down from heaven, to dwell among us forever. What is a tabernacle? Surely we are all aware that the tabernacle is the holiest place in the Church, where the very Holy and Real Presence of God in the Eucharist is housed.

Therefore, Jesus Christ who came into the world, both the Son of Man and Son of God, both fully human and fully divine, is the Word of God made flesh, who took up the humanity and the flesh of mankind to manifest the perfect love of God in this world. Through Him, God has dwelled among men forever, and this He kept true, even until now and beyond, because He has given us His own Body and Blood through the Eucharist, and for us who receive them worthily, the Lord dwells in us, and we dwell in Him.

We have to realise therefore, today, as we celebrate this feast of the dedication of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, we should realise also that just as the holiness and sanctity of that sacred place was created by its dedication and there is a need to maintain that holiness, then we too must realise that as I have mentioned, that because the Lord has dwelled among us, we are also the tabernacles of God, that is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

We are all therefore also meant to be the Temples of God. As such, we have to maintain the purity and holiness of our lives, of our bodies and hearts, or else, the corruption of sin would come to pollute the purity of the Temple of our body and heart. If we allow this fornication and corruption to affect this holy Temple, then our lot will be condemnation and destruction by the Lord, who will destroy us for our sinfulness.

How do then we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? That means all of us should avoid any kinds of actions and attitudes that cause sin to develop and corrupt our hearts. We should keep ourselves clean and pure, by doing what is good in the sight of God, and abandoning all forms of fornications and evils from everything we do, and from everything we say.

Our Lord loves us, brothers and sisters in Christ, and He actively seeks all those who have sinned and have fallen into the darkness, like that of a shepherd looking for his lost sheep. The Gospel today clearly showed this to us, as Jesus showed His love and mercy for Zachaeus, the rich merchant and tax collector, who was seen by the Pharisees as a great sinner for his actions.

Yet it was his sincere desire and effort to seek the Lord, even to climb up a tall tree just so that he could see Him, that brought him into salvation. Jesus also praised him for his faith, and for his commitment to doing what is good and righteous, even to the point of declaring his love for the Lord publicly, and vowed to give to the poor, his love and care.

Therefore, the example of Zachaeus in the Gospel today can be an inspiration for us all, that it is never too late for us to begin a new life in Christ. Although we may have sinned greatly in the past, but with the help of the Lord and sincere effort from our side, we can attain a new holy, pure and committed life to God, and therefore create for ourselves, the holy Temple of God, that is our body, heart and soul.

Today we also celebrate the memory and feast of St. Theodore, a holy martyr of the faith, who was once a soldier in the Roman Army, at the time of the late Roman Empire. He was one of the faithful, and in the still pagan Roman Empire, and especially in the Roman Army, that was a difficult thing to do. He remained true to his faith, and when the Emperor at the time, who was very staunchly pagan and anti-Christian, ordered all those in the army to give idol offering to the pagan gods, St. Theodore refused to do so.

St. Theodore therefore was martyred for his faith, in the zealous and unbending devotion to God, like a true soldier of the Lord indeed. He was therefore the patron saints of warriors and crusaders, the holy warriors fighting in the Name of the Lord. Many who seek help against the forces of evil and darkness pray for the intercession of St. Theodore, the holy and brave martyr of God.

Therefore, on this holy and joyous occasion, let us all ask for the intercession of St. Theodore the martyr, and also all the saints of God, and most especially the Blessed Mother of our God, our Blessed Virgin Mary, to pray for us and intercede for our sake, that we may be strengthened against the forces of evil trying to corrupt us, our bodies, our minds, our hearts and souls, which are the Temples of the Lord’s Holy Presence.

Let us all always be mindful of our words, actions and deeds, that we think twice, thrice and even more, before we even think of committing any sin or any acts deplorable to God. Let us all follow the example of Zachaeus, to declare our love for the Lord and devote ourselves completely and entirely to Him without fear, and give the best of our effort to follow the Lord and walk in His ways.

May Almighty God guide us in this battle of life, so that just as He had sanctified the Basilica of St. John Lateran as the Mother Church of all of His Church and the whole of Christendom, He may also sanctify us as the Temples of His Presence within us, through the Most Holy Eucharist which we receive into ourselves. May God bless us for our faith, and keep us in His love always, forever and ever. Amen.


Epistle :

Gospel :

Saturday, 8 November 2014 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 16 : 9-15

At that time, Jesus said, “And so I tell you : use filthy money to make friends for yourselves, so that, when it fails, these people may welcome you into the eternal homes. Whoever can be trusted in little things can also be trusted in great ones; whoever is dishonest in slight matters will also be dishonest in greater ones.”

“So if you have been dishonest in handling filthy money, who would entrust you with true wealth? And if you have been dishonest with things that are not really yours, who will give you that wealth which is truly your own?”

“No servant can serve two masters. Either he does not like the one and is fond of the other, or he regards one highly and the other with contempt. You cannot give yourself both to God and to Money.”

The Pharisees who loved money, heard al this and sneered at Jesus. He said to them, “You do your best to be considered righteous by people. But God knows the heart, and what is highly esteemed by human beings is loathed by God.”


Homily and Scripture Reflection :

Wednesday, 1 October 2014 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, Patroness of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s readings, is truly all about children, as in the first reading, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, mentioned how we are like children to the Lord, whom the Lord will send His love, care and providence, and how the Lord will bring gladness to us, like that of a father who loves his children with all of his heart, protecting and providing for the wellbeing of the children.

And in the Gospel, as written by St. Matthew, showed us the bickering and competition among the Apostles and the disciples of Christ, on who would be considered the greatest among them, in the kingdom of heaven. And Jesus brought to Himself a child, whom He made into a model for the Apostles, chiding and rebuking their childish ways of fighting amongst themselves for meaningless purpose.

Rather, Jesus mentioned to His Apostles, that if they want to be found worthy of the kingdom of heaven, they must be like children in their faith. Not childish in their faith and in their way of life, but instead to be as innocent and pure in their faith in life as those possessed by the young children. Those who know children and how they are like would immediately know how pure they are, untainted by the ways, the concerns, and ultimately the corruptions that exist in the world.

And when a child believe in something, they really hold on to it very strongly, and they believe without a single grain of doubt, such purity it is within their hearts, before the corruption of the world and the darkness of the world taint them. And indeed, the Apostles and disciples of Christ who bickered and quarrelled over who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven exactly showed us what kind of corruption that the world and the darkness of evil can have on us.

Human desire, that is desire for fame, wealth, possessions, glory and many other things, as well as human pride, hubris, jealousy, arrogance, and greed, as well as many other negativity that exist in us are what had caused a great gap and indeed, a rift to develop between us and the Lord, our loving Father. Our Lord and God loves us dearly, as we clearly heard in the way He proclaimed it to the prophet Isaiah.

But that rift of our pride, of our greed, of the darkness that is in us separate us from the love and grace of God. And that is truly dangerous and harmful, for we have just two choices, either life and glory in God or death and eternal damnation in hell, away forever from God. If we choose to cling on to our disobedience and our way of violence and evil, the taints of darkness within our hearts, then we move dangerously closer and closer towards damnation awaits us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of a great and holy woman, a renowned saint, known as the Little Flower, and more appropriately, the Little Flower of Jesus in full. She is St. Therese of Lisieux, also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, a Discalced Carmelite religious nun, who devoted her entire life and work to the cause of the Lord and His people.

St. Therese of Lisieux was very renowned both during and after her life in her piety and her spirituality, and she was truly devoted and dedicated in complete faith to her Lord and God, and ever since her mother passed away very early in her life, she had been alone in the world, and in her loneliness as well in her constant sickness, she suffered greatly, in silence and in sorrow.

St. Therese of Lisieux encountered a divine experience as she grew older, and she experience a complete transformation of herself, where once she felt sorrow and suffering, the love and joy of Christ had entered her and made her anew. She entered the religious life following the example of her older sister before her. She took on the name of Therese in honour of St. Teresa of Avila, the founder and the great saint of the order of the Discalced Carmelites.

She persevered through the difficult life of a religious sister, despite her weakness and constant sickness, and even amidst the persecution and ridicule from her fellow sisters, who ridiculed her apparent lack of talent in doing the many things which the sisters committed themselves to do at that time. And eventually she discovered what she named as the ‘Little Way’, which is the way of surrendering all to God, and putting all our trust in God, just like that of a child.

In this, St. Therese Lisieux proposed the idea that in order for us to attain salvation, we who are mere men and sinners have great difficulties in our effort and our way to reach the Lord and His salvation. Instead, rather than boasting and fighting our way to become greater and mightier, as what the Apostles had done, she proposed that instead we should become smaller and little, and our Lord and loving Father will raise us up to Himself, just like a father who raises up his children.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, following the examples of St. Therese of Lisieux, through her amazing thoughts and wisdom, and as well as through what our Lord Jesus Christ had taught us Himself, let us all become ever more faithful to our Lord and devote ourselves ever more strongly to Him. Let our faith and our lives be pure and sincere, like that of little children, and cast away all pride, jealousy, hatred, desire and other negativity, the taints of darkness from our hearts.

May our loving God and Father continue to love us tenderly and provide for us, that all of us His children may come to a greater understanding and appreciation of the love He had shown to us, and may draw ever closer to His merciful and loving heart. God bless us all, forever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, 11 September 2014 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented with the readings from the Scriptures and the Holy Gospel, on the importance of love in our lives in this world. Without love, that is genuine love, we cannot survive in this world, and we will have no part in the inheritance of our Lord and God, who is Love. Love is the key to solve many problems in this world, as without love, hatred and violence reign free and supreme.

The essence of what we heard today is the nature of love, and how our love should be. Our love must be genuine and true, and it must be wholesome. It cannot be love that brings joy to some and yet causes pain to others. To us mankind, it is the latter kind of love that we often encounter, and we ought to know that this is no love.

Love is when we are able to free ourselves from deceit and evil within our hearts, and be able to look beyond the veil of darkness that surround us, which include the feeling of fear, hatred, jealousy and prejudice which prevent us from truly loving as we should have loved. Love is when we can love and care for everyone, no matter whether they return our love or whether they have loved us first.

Love must be unconditional, in that when we love we should not expect the love we give to be returned. And therefore, it is not right if we demand that the love we have given ought to be repaid with similar kind of love. This kind of love is not a perfect love as Jesus had taught us, but rather it is love with benefits, that is we are likely to continue to love as long as it benefits us, but we are then likely to stop that love and care once the condition becomes unfavourable for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is much violence and hatred in this world, and these are not easy to be overcome. There is much effort required if we are to overcome these sinister forces threatening to split mankind apart and pit brethren against their own brothers and their own sisters. Why is this so? This is because there are many temptations in the world, the idols of mankind.

If St. Paul in the first reading today, in his letter to the faithful in Corinth said that the faithful should not consume food that had been offered to the pagan idols, said such in a very devoted attempt to ensure that those whose sensitivities were affected by such action be not allowed to fall again into sin, then we too in our own behaviours in this world should avoid all the fornications of our body and soul to sin.

How so? It may seem that in today’s world, in most of the world the old pagan worship of idols with offerings of food and other forms of sacrifices are no longer prevalent, and thus this can be deceiving to many of us. We often do not realise that in the absence of those idols, other, new idols had risen up to take their place in corrupting mankind and bringing them further and further away from salvation in God.

Money, power, influence and others in this world are all these new idols. They are what many in the world toil for, work for, and in many instances even to fight with one another, even with those dear to them, so that they can be closer to these new ‘idols’ and get more of them in the world. And we all should know that they are the main cause of wars, conflicts, and violence prevalent throughout the world.

If mankind continue to worship these idols of money, power, influence and others out there in the world, then there will be no end to suffering for mankind, and the world will slide ever further into chaos and darkness. That is why we have so much anger and violence in the world, so much suffering and people in difficulties, and why so many people have their rights violated against by those with power.

And if we recall today, that this day we remembered thirteen years ago was a great tragedy that befell a nation, that is the United States of America when two large jets were hijacked by extremists and then flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. The resulting destruction caused thousands of deaths and many more injured and not just that, for the families of those who were lost, they still grieved even until today.

In this regrettable and horrible event, we can see clearly that above all the bickering and all the conspiracy theories, above all the disputes and the attacks which one side attack the other with, and above all of that, it is the innocent ones who suffer, both in the site of the event itself, where thousands lay dead, and in the aftermath, in the wars that followed which caused even more death on both sides in the conflict.

Mankind are often fighting over what they want, and they seek more and more in this life. We are by nature difficult to satisfy, and if we do not leash our desire, we risk having the attitude of doing anything in order to get at our goal. And hence, that is why we committed violence, show hatred to others, and not easily satisfied even though we have been given plenty.

This is because in many of us, if not most, we lack love in our hearts. This is not the love as the world knows it. Love as the world knows it is exactly the kind of love that care only for the benefit of the self, a selfish love, which when it had served its purpose, then it turns into hatred, evil and destruction. What we urgently need to have with us, is the kind of love that Jesus had taught us and shown us, an unconditional and true love.

This love is such that it is not a selfish one, but a genuine love for others. Love that asks for no returns or reciprocation, as Jesus mentioned. And this love also overcomes hate and prejudice. Jesus taught us that we should forgive one another, no matter what kind of pain we have received from another. This is a crucial key on how to break that continuous and self-sustaining cycle of violence and evil.

If we repay violence, anger and hatred with equal violence, anger and hatred, then we are merely perpetuating the cycle, and in fact we add even more negativity by committing evil on others ourselves. Rather, Jesus taught us to love, and therefore, through that love, instead of evil, the love that is pure and unconditional may begin to heal the broken souls and hearts of mankind filled with hatred and darkness.

Therefore, as we remember those who perished on this day thirteen years ago, let us all learn to love and forgive, and to pray for all those who are still committing acts of violence, anger and hatred throughout the world, that they too may learn of the love of Christ, be converted to His life and gain salvation in Him. God bless us all, and may He give us His love, that we too may love each other and Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strengths. Amen.

Sunday, 7 September 2014 : 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we come together to be with the Lord on this holy day of His, we are called together as the members of the Church of God to be responsible, loving and caring for one another, so that each one of us may help one another in our effort to seek our Lord and God, and so that all of us may be saved and be freed from the tyranny of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Scripture readings of this day called us to ponder and reflect on the attitude we adopt in this life, and in how we live our faith in this life. Mankind are by nature a social creature, and we often need others around us as we live and as we face the daily challenges and opportunities presented before us, and how we behave would certainly be greatly affected by who we interacted with and what we did together with others around us.

That is why today in the readings, the main theme that we heard is in fact on the nature of the Church, and on how the Church should work together to ensure the salvation of all of its members, that means all of us gathered here this day, and also many others who have fallen along the way. The Church here does not refer to just the buildings and the institution of the Church as we know it. The Church of God as a whole, is the assembly and the gathering of all the faithful ones in Christ, united to His Body, as a member of the same Body by which we are made one, and made righteous in the Blood of the Lamb of God.

That is why in the Church, the whole Church refers to the entire body of the faithful, all over the world, from the greatest to the least, from the Pope to the common layman, from the ordained ministers and the religious brothers and sisters to all common faithful ones like us, and from the youngest ones to the oldest, and both the newly baptised and those who had been long counted among the faithful.

Following the tradition and teachings established by Jesus as we read in the Gospel today, the Church indeed rightly should be concerned on the fate of the faithful and the salvation of their souls. Why is this so? This is because mankind are by nature disobedient, restless and easily manipulated, and we are also easily tempted by our own personal ego, pride and other emotions, which in many cases likely resulted in us drifting away further and further from God and into damnation.

That was why over the course of the past two millenia, since the establishment of the Church and the faith, countless peoples have tried to subvert the faith and to corrupt it to suit their own purposes. And worse still, they did so not just for themselves, but they also spread their false ideas and teachings to many others around them and thus condemning and risking not just themselves, but also many others who are around them and even those entrusted to their care.

Among these could be counted the ranks of princes, kings, lords, even priests, bishops and the top hierarchy of the Church at times, and also among the laity, the educated, the rich and the poor. What they have thought about, spoke about and taught about were incompatible to the faith and what Jesus had taught to His disciples. In time, the Church came up with varieties of words to describe their actions, that is anathema, heresy and many others.

Those who studied the history of the Church and the faith must have been surprised by the staggering number of times the punishment and measure known best as excommunication, had been used. And in fact, excommunication remains to be used this day to correct the behaviour and awaken the spirit of repentance of those whose ideas and teachings are in direct or indirect contradiction to the faith and to the teachings of the Church.

Many detractors of this measure had argued and even became violently opposed to the actions of the Church both in the past and in the present, so that they criticised the use of excommunications as a tool to remove opposition to the Church and to gain more influence for itself. And some even alleged that the Church used them to silence the voice of those who wanted for reform or change in the Church.

Yes, it is true indeed that sometimes, excommunication had been used inappropriately, but in most cases, they have been intended not to punish, but to awaken the spirit of repentance and genuine desire to seek forgiveness from the Lord, which is that desire to admit their errors and return to the full embrace of the loving God through His Church.

We have to first understand the history of how excommunication come about, using what we know from the Scriptures and from what we heard today in the readings, especially from what Jesus mentioned in the Gospel today. In the past, during the time of the people of Israel, after the Exodus, God gave them His laws, commandments and precepts through Moses.

In that Law, some dealt with how certain people should be treated. Those who were found to have the disease of leprosy were obliged to leave their houses and the community of the faithful, and they have to wander outside the community, in the barrens and the desert until they are healed or cured. And when this was so, they had to show themselves to the priests who would certify them to return once more to the society.

Indeed, it was inevitable that those who contracted leprosy at that time to be ostracised and intimidated against by the rest of the society. They were considered to be uncleaned and as leprosy can spread from one person to another, this helped the exclusion and the bad treatment of the leprosy patients, even after they had been cured from their afflictions. But God did not intend for this to happen.

And in a similar spirit, the Lord Jesus told us through His disciples precisely how to deal with those among us in the Church who had contracted the same ‘leprosy’. This leprosy no longer refers to the physical disease that affects the body, but in fact refers to the leprosy of the soul, that is the degeneration of the state of our faith and soul to the point that we become defiant and unwilling to listen and to obey the teachings of the Church and the fundamentals of our faith.

We have many peoples such as these, and what I am going to mention to you are not the only ones there are out there. The Gnostics of the second century after the birth of Christ mixed the teachings of the faith with the contemporary pagan religions, idols and philosophical pursuits that ended up as a syncretic movement and faith totally incompatible with our true faith.

Then came the Arians, the Donatists, the Monophysites and others who taught doctrines incompatible against the faith, and who tried to subvert the faithful to their cause, telling them lies and inaccurate statements about the faith, on the nature of Jesus our Lord Himself, so that the people who were confused were easy to lure into their corrupting hold. As such, many were led away from salvation in God and into damnation, despite the best efforts by those in the Church to resist and fight back against their corrupting influences.

Then we have many others like the the Albigensians or the Cathars, the Hussians, the Bogomils, Paulicians, Iconoclasts who taught numerous lies and confused theology to the faithful, ending up in corrupting the people in the same way, pulling them away from salvation in the Church into damnation and eternal suffering in hellfire. Those people were misguided by many who thought that their human wisdom were better than the teachings of the Lord preserved in the traditions of the Church and the faith.

Then lastly came the great heresy of the Protestant ‘reformation’, where many of the faithful came to take it on themselves to rebel against the authority of the Church and by willingly splitting themselves from the Church, a rebellion which continues even to this day. Yes, we have so many Protestant denominations, to the point that it may not be wrong to say that there are as many denominations, or splinter groups as there are heads.

People like King Henry VIII, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli and many other prominent persona of the Protestant ‘reformations’ like many others before them, Arian, Jan Hus, and others were truly the one mentioned by Jesus as the brethren who refused to listen to reason and chose to break away from the Church. They walked their own path, in open rebellion against God and the Church, leading and guiding many people into their rebellion and thus condemned countless souls to damnation.

The effects of their actions can still be felt today. Many remained separate from the Church and thus from the grace of God, and the lies perpetuated by those leaders mentioned earlier and their successors continued to poison their thoughts and that is why many remained with great contempt to the Church and all it represented.

The Church excommunicated them as well as many of the earlier members of the Church, who even included high ranking nobles and clergymen, and even kings, as they have erred in their path. However, as I have mentioned earlier, the purpose of this move was not to punish those afflicted, but rather to make them realise of the gravity of their errors, so that they may come to understand how their actions had caused grief wounds on the fabric of the Church and the faithful.

And thus, many of those who had been excommunicated had returned to the Church in penitence and seeking God’s forgiveness. A famous example would be that of the excommunication of Emperor Theodosius I of the Roman Empire, who was cut off from the communion of the Church by the famous St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, for the Emperor’s implicit and direct role in a massacre of the city of Thessalonica, where thousands of the faithful were ruthlessly murdered and the city ransacked.

The meaning of excommunication itself was to exclude the person afflicted from the Communion of the Church, and if this word sounds familiar, that is indeed what we receive in the Holy Communion, which is none other than the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Real Presence of the Most Holy Eucharist. All of us in the Church belongs to the Church, that is the Body of Christ precisely because all of us received the same Eucharist and thus are united to each other through our unity with the Lord.

And when a person is excommunicated, like that of the Emperor Theodosius and many others, they were severed from this unity and communion, and thus they were not able to receive the Eucharist, as they were also in a state of sin, and they were not able to exercise anything pertinent to the faith. Thus, that was why Jesus mentioned that those ought to be treated like a pagan or a publican, that means outside the Church, just like the lepers of old.

However, once again, the focus here is on mercy, and on the desire to see these people attaining forgiveness and justification, becoming once again a member of the Church and thus capable of attaining salvation once again. And to wrap up the story on the Emperor Theodosius, the Emperor went on to make a public display of humility and penance, wearing sackcloth to the Church and was once again welcomed into the Church by Bishop St. Ambrose.

That is, brothers and sisters in Christ, the purpose and intention of excommunication. Not as a punishment, but as a means through which the wayward ones and the staunchly rebellious among us may find our way back to God through the Church, through sincere repentance and penitence. Sadly, of course, many of those names and groups mentioned earlier never repented their sins and continued in their rebellions, some of which continued even today.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these readings of today, let us recall the words of God to the prophet Ezekiel, how the faithful are tasked with the guardianship of the faith of one another, which means that we should be ready to intervene whenever we see around us there are those who begin to veer away from the path of the Lord.

It is only then if the person persisted in their rebelliousness, then we should refer it to the Church as a whole, and if he or she continued to persist to disobey the Lord, only then they should be cast out of the assembly of the faithful, in what we know as the excommunication, hoping that the person may in that time that remains for him or her, found his or her way back to the Lord and repent.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore work together to maintain the unity and the faith in the Church. May Almighty God guide us in our endeavours and help us to keep this faith alive and well. Let us all renew our commitment to the Lord and awaken in one another the love we truly should have for God, casting away all impurities and unworthiness. Let us all not reject and condemn those who have sinned and erred, and those who had been excommunicated, for indeed, many saints too were once sinners and excommunicants, who returned to the Lord and be reconciled with the Church. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 25 August 2014 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are urged to be faithful and to be upright in all of our actions and dealings, so that we all truly may be called the children of God. This is what Jesus said, when He rebuked the Pharisees and the elders of the people, in what is known the seven woes of the Pharisees. It is because these people who had been entrusted with the care of the people of God have failed to do as they were expected to do.

Instead, the Pharisees, the scribes and the teachers of the Law abused their power and authority which had been given to them. They twisted the Law and its various applications to suit their own purposes and to give them advantages and goodness at the expense of others, namely those whom they have been entrusted with. Those leaders and elders grew fat and rich at the expense of their sheep and flock which suffered and groaned under their oppression.

This misuse and abuse of authority and power is what Jesus was truly angry about as He talked about the actions of the Pharisees and elders, whose hearts and minds were not on the Lord and things heavenly and holy, but in things and matters of the world, of worldly goods and temptations, as well as things corrupt and unworthy of the leaders of the faithful. In this, they have failed miserably to become role models for the faithful, and instead they brought many to their downfall and ruin with them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what Jesus was angry about was because those Pharisees and elders cared only for the substance and for the material rather than for the souls of the faithful, and rather than things necessary for the salvation of these souls. They asked people to swear by the treasure of the Temple and by the offering on the Altar, because they cared not for the holiness and for the Presence of God, but for the material wealth and goods around which they conduct their daily duties.

This is also the prelude to when Jesus cleared the Temple itself of all the corruptions and impurities which the Pharisees had allowed to grow and develop under their care. These corruptions were the merchants and money changers who were allowed to setup their stalls in the courtyard of the Temple, selling various animals for sacrifice, and also established money exchange services for those who came from other countries, including Jews who lived far away from Jerusalem.

These merchants were corrupt, and they charged the people much more than they should have. They earned much profit at the expense of the pilgrims and the common people who sincerely came to worship the Lord. The Pharisees and the elders of Israel did not take any action because they gained profits and income by their cooperations with those merchants and cheaters, and therefore they maintained the corruption of the Temple, for their own benefits.

Today we celebrate the feast of two great saints, whose life and examples would show us the wickedness and inappropriate nature of the actions of the Pharisees and the elders of Israel. The first is St. Louis, King of France, also known as King St. Louis IX, one of the greatest medieval kings and leaders of Christendom. The other saint is St. Joseph Calasanz, a Spanish priest of the late Renaissance and early Enlightenment eras.

St. Louis IX was a great king, and he reigned well and with justice. However, he did not just do well on the matters of the world, as he also cared greatly for the spiritual growth and development of his nation and his people. A very devoted servant of God, he implemented numerous changes and reforms in the laws of the land, that the people may lead a more righteous and just lives, in accordance with the will of God and according to the teachings of the Lord through the Church.

St. Louis IX also worked hard to bring the faith to all peoples, including to heretics, the Albigensians, also known as the Cathars, bringing to them a harsh judgment and brought them to see the light of truth in God. And in the end, out of the will to defend the faith and the faithful, as well as to bring glory to God, King St. Louis IX led a crusade of the faithful to liberate the Holy Land of God, but before he reached his destination, he died. Nevertheless, his actions remained a great inspiration to all of us.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a devoted Spanish priest, who dedicated his life in the service of the people of God, guiding, helping and loving them, and especially to the weakest and the poorest in the society, he gave them attention and care, and he helped established many schools and educational institutions run by the religious congregation he helped establish, the Piarists.

Even when he was called to move to Rome, the heart of Christendom, the works and dedication of St. Joseph Calasanz remained the same if not even greater than before. He helped victims of a flood, helped educate poor and young children, and he ministered faithfully to the people of God wherever he went to serve. He was truly exemplary, and together with St. Louis IX, he had indeed shown how we should live our faith life, pure and untainted by the greed and desires of this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples had shown clearly the contrasts we need to be aware of, and we ought to take these seriously, as we should not follow the examples of the Pharisees and the elders who were corrupt and were concerned about only how to bring the best for themselves and cared only for their prosperity and glory, while the saints whose lives we celebrate today, truly exemplified the virtues of the Lord and gave us the examples of how we should live our own lives.

May we all be able to rid ourselves of our selfishness and human desires, as the Pharisees had demonstrated, that these are great obstacles for us to reach the Lord. May Almighty God guide us and bless us on our way, that we may truly be able to follow in His footsteps and grow to be better and more dedicated people whom He loves dearly. God be with us all. Amen.