Posts

Homilies

Homily: February 3, 2023, Friday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Amen! I remember very vividly seeing this Bible verse written across the outer wall of a Pentecostal church in the neighbouring town of my village. I was a child then and did not fully understand it. Now I am an adult. This verse is now firmly written in my heart and mind, I can’t claim to understand its full effects, but I know this is the truth about Jesus. He is the same then, now, and forever. He has not changed and never will. In contrast, we are the ones who have changed, and will continue to change, in our thoughts, views, values, beliefs and behaviour. Our emotions also change. And that affects many relationships. Think about your relationships with your parents, children, spouses, friends – have they changed in the way they treat you, love you, connect with you? Have you changed? For better or for worse? We change because we are not consistent. We change because we grow. We change because we are not yet the full version

Homily: February 1, 2023, Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

 “A prophet is not without honour except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” This is so true. I experienced the same. The most challenging place for me to preach is my home parish. In that small parish of 194 families, more than 30 families are my cousins and uncles. There are also my childhood friends from the same village, who knew me very well when we were all kids. And of course, my six siblings, who are always eager to find a discussion point from my homilies to tease me. I can understand, because it is difficult for them to take anything I say seriously since all they remember of me were naughty times and childish years. Everything about me now, gets filtered through their memories of my past. Only my late papa, he was the only one from home who appreciated my homilies and encouraged me, because he had always chosen to see the deeper beauty of me, and everyone else. If we follow the lives of the Old Testament prophets, it can be heart-wrenching. Most

Homily: January 31, 2023, Tuesday of the fourth week in Ordinary time. (St. John Bosco)

 “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.” Very likely, every person would have felt alone and experienced loneliness at some point in life, especially when going through struggles and challenges. Spiritually too, we may experience the same. When we struggle with temptations and fall into sin, we might feel we are the only one who fail so often and keep confessing the same sins. The truth is, everyone struggles the same. We are not alone. As the first reading states, “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”. Who are these witnesses? They are our early faith fathers like Abraham, Issac, Jacob, the Judges, David, Samuel, the prophets, the apostles, early Christian martyrs, and latter day saints. These are people who had gone through what we are going through, maybe more intensely, more painfully. They may be holy, but they were also humans, t

Homily: January 30, 2023, Monday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

“Then they began to beg him to leave their district.” Why?? Jesus just did an amazing miracle, he cast out a multitude of demons in possession of a man and sent them all into nearby pigs. Jesus released the man from his horrible bondage so that he can live a free and fulfilling life. Isn’t that a wonderful thing Jesus did? Wouldn’t they feel secure and safe with Jesus around, so no one will be afraid of demons again? Why would they want to beg Jesus to leave them? Once I was biking with a friend towards Minburn. As we got near, we can already smell a pork refinery. My friend asked me, “Father, do you know what smell is this?” I said, “Yes, it is the smell of pork.” He replied, “Yes, this is the smell of money.” If you reared pigs, you would know what that smell is like. It is a very bad smell. To people from Middle Eastern cultures, including Jews, pigs are considered contaminated and unclean.  But to the rest of the world, it is a popular meat to eat. People may not like real pigs, bu

Homily: January 29, 2023, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. During the vacations of my seminary days in Rome, I used to go to Germany to work. I remember when I started my first day at this restaurant, my employer told me what he expected from me as his staff. He told me his rules. He told me, “First, here we follow German time, not Indian time. 9 a.m. is 9 a.m. not 9.05 or 10. Second, during working hours I may get angry or upset with you but in the evening when I shut the kitchen exhauster fan down, I will shut down my anger too.” He continued to tell me the rest of his rules, one by one. And during the course of my work, he added on more rules. I did my best to follow all his instructions and worked according to his expectations. For every vacation in those four years of study, I would go and work with him. Thereafter we became friends, and up till now, we kept up our friendship. Yes, every organization, institution, workplace and even family, will have their set of

Homily: January 24, 2023, Tuesday of the Third week in Ordinary Time.

 Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." I have three older sisters, followed by my older brother, then me, the fifth child, after which I have two more sisters. All of us went to the same schools from kindergarten till High school. We even had the same teachers at each level. My older sisters were the best students in school, in their academics, conduct and other areas. So when my brother and I entered school, every teacher of each level expected us to produce the same standard of study and behaviour as our sisters. But we disappointed them. We were the opposite. Like what the teachers thought, I too sometimes wonder if we were from the same parents. 😉 Isn’t that what we all expect? That the people from the same family, with the same background, history, upbringing and lifestyle should have the same belief and behaviour, values and preferences, possibly even the same profession. It is logical and it is ideal. Jesus, t

Homily: January 23, 2023, Monday of the Third week in Ordinary Time.

 “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” This is applicable to any kingdom, any organisation, any group, and of course, it applies to church, the kingdom of God here on earth as well. We see decline and weakening of organisations where divisions exist. Is the church, the kingdom of God here on earth divided or united? In this so-called modern society, it is not difficult to see many divisive opinions and views. Many people strongly advocate abortion, same-sex marriage, and other behaviour which the church has explicitly identified as unacceptable. Yet these people claim to be catholic. They justify their arguments based on their own ideologies and political principles, not on the church’s teachings. And there are church leaderships who keep silent regarding these issues for fear of losing popularity. Yes, God forgives but we cannot take God’s mercy for granted and live like ther

Homily:January 17, 2023, Tuesday of the second week in Ordinary time

 “We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfilment of hope until the end.” When I read this phrase in the first reading, another phrase in the gospels came to mind: ‘The one who perseveres to the end will be saved’.  It is very easy to lose hope in this world which is so result oriented and often unforgiving of failures. There were many times in my life when I thought I will be a total failure, when I missed the mark.  In schools and workplaces, we see students and workers being labelled as losers or failures in life if they could not meet certain expectations or tasks. Nobody wants to invest their time and money on these people. Nobody cares that they are valuable in God’s eyes. Is this how it will be in the Kingdom of God? If we apply the same practical logic and rationalise with the same lens of this world, the life of Jesus and His public ministry would look like a miserable failure. As Mother Angelica commented, “Even after healing and performin

Homily: January 16, 2023 Monday of the second week in Ordinary time

 “In the days when he was in the Flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.” Even Jesus, the beloved Son of God, prayed hard and fervently while He lived among us in this world. I know of a parishioner who is from one of our refugee communities. I have seen him many, many times kneeling in church, praying deeply and reverently and at length. He always has with him little prayer books that he uses. His deep reverence and focus really inspire me and make me curious too. Finally, I had to ask him about his praying. Each time he prays, he will say the rosary, meditate on the stations of the cross, pray novenas to saints. And his prayer list includes me, all his siblings, his cousins and friends. Wow! Blessed is every person in his prayer list, because he is a reliable prayer warrior interceding for them always. I am blessed. In every one of our communities, I know of at lea

Homily: January 10, 2023, Tuesday of the first week in Ordinary Time.

In today’s first reading, St. Paul is writing to the Hebrews to tell them about the dignity with which God created the first man, “You crowned him with glory and honour, subjecting all things under his feet.” This was our original state. We were subject to God only, and all else, the whole of creation, were subject to us. But with one fall, a single sin, we lost our glorious state, and became subject to many other things, even to nature and its forces.  In today’s world, we are still enslaved. The greatest slave master is the social media. Many children are addicted to it and can’t live without their gadgets. Through easy access to social media and its influences, these children are also exposed to drugs, alcohol, pornography, promiscuity and other illegal and immoral activities easily. Many adults too are vulnerable to these. Who introduced gadgets and social media to the children? Their parents, the adults. Slavery is passed down from one generation to another. It all began with the

Homily: Monday, January 9, 2023, The Baptism of the Lord

 “He saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”.  Before this baptism event, Jesus’ life is known as the ‘hidden life’. The Bible has no record of what happened after ‘the finding Jesus in the temple’ when He was twelve. When I finally come face to face with Jesus, I would really want to ask Jesus, “What did you do during your hidden life?” After this baptism, Jesus began what we know as his public ministry. From His short dialogue with John the Baptist, it seems that His baptism at River Jordan is significant and crucial to launch Him into His mission. He must go through it, even though we all know He does not need it for repentance, He has no sin. So, why is it important for Jesus to go through it? Because this is when the Heavenly Father anoints Jesus for His ministry and publicly reveals His divine identity as the Son of God to the Israelites. It is announcing to t

Homily: January 8, 2023, The Epiphany of the Lord

 The Christmas season is not over yet. Today we recall and reflect on the mysterious visit of the magi from the East. The story of the three kings, who travelled from afar to visit and pay homage to poor baby Jesus in the silence of the night is a familiar story to many, including people who do not believe in God or Jesus, made popular through the songs and images used during Christmas. To the secular world, the story is probably just a legend, a folktale, a fictional account. To us believers, we know it is a real event, but do we know what is the meaning and significance of this strange visitation? Who are these magi, or wise men, or kings? How did they know so surely about the birth of the king of the Jews? Why were they so confident about following the star? Every event leading up to and following from Christmas day seems magical. From the unexpected annunciation of Angel Gabriel of a long-expected promise, the unlikely birth of John the Baptist to a barren and elderly Elizabeth, th

Homily: Friday, January 6, 2023, Christmas Weekday

 “I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Every morning I spend at least 5 minutes to put on my boots and tighten the sleeves, and hope that I do not have to remove them anywhere throughout the day. Sometimes when I do visiting, I will have to take off my shoes and leave them outside the house, then I go through the 5 minute routine when I wear them again. Imagine on some days, I visit more than 2 houses. When I get together with my siblings’ families, I would often help my little nieces and nephews to put on their shoes. It is quite a joyful experience, a moment of bonding when the kids just let me fit their little feet into their little shoes. I enjoy that very much. I am not their parent, but they accept my service and trust that I will do it right for them. Putting on and taking off shoes can be such a significant act that John the Baptist used it in his reference to Jesus’ divine status. In the Jewish culture, the slave or servant is the one who removes the

Homily: January 3, 2023, Tuesday, Christmas Weekday.

 “If you Consider that God is righteous, you also know that everyone who act in righteousness is begotten by him.”  The church on earth is mourning the loss of her beloved shepherd Pope Benedict XVI. The church in heaven is rejoicing to welcome his soul into the saintly community of apostles. Born Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict the XVI was a righteous man like St. Joseph. He was a man for jjustice, he stood firmly for what is right and defended the truth fearlessly. He was steadfast in upholding the doctrine of the church and never allowed anyone to water down the teachings. Many within church opposed him, but he stood his ground. Even in interreligious dialogues, he was never shy in proclaiming Jesus is the truth for the world, regardless of religion. He fought against secularism, relativism, and the culture of death. In his speech at World Youth Day, Sydney 2008, he said, "Relativism, by indiscriminately giving value to practically everything, has made 'experience' all-

Homily: December 27, 2022, Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist

“We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.” Today’s first reading ended with these words. To St. John the Evangelist, his joy would never be complete if he didn’t write down all that he had seen, heard and learnt from Jesus. Imagine him heaving a deep sigh of relief and satisfaction when he was done writing these texts. What is the one thing that would complete our joy? What gives us joy in the first place? St. John the Evangelist is my patron saint. My baptism name is John. I have always wished I could be like St. John, the beloved Apostle of Jesus, to love the Lord and Mother Mary with the same devotion and affection.  He was the only disciple who was at the foot of the cross and stayed with Jesus in His dying. He was the one appointed with the responsibility to care for Mary. Other than Peter, John was the other disciple who ran to the empty tomb after Jesus was resurrected. He was the only apostle who lived long into old age. However, it was not a life of comfort. He wit

Homily: December 26,2022, Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr.

From the first reading, we heard Stephen declare, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But his persecutors ‘cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.’ If we could visualize the scene, we would imagine Stephen looking radiant with joy as he anticipated his death, while his persecutors looking tormented and fearful as they prepared to kill. We know why Stephen was joyful as he looked up to heaven, because he could see where his future would be. We also know why his persecutors were afraid as they closed their ears to Stephen’s words, because they did not want to hear the truth. It tormented their conscience and pierced through the darkness in their hearts. I am sure we ourselves may have experienced the same, when our wrong doings were being highlighted, when our shame were being revealed or when our hurts were being exposed, we might also cry out, “stop! I don’t want to hear it! I don’t want to know i

Homily: December 21, 2022, Wednesday of the forth week in Advent

 Today’s first reading is from Song of Songs. This book in the Bible is also known as the Song of Solomon, or the Canticle of Canticles. It is a romantic poetry expressing the intense and intimate love of a young couple entering marital union. Why would the Bible include such a romantic book? There is not even a mention of ‘God’. Anyone who has fallen in love before would be able to appreciate the celebration of romance in this book. But it may feel odd to imagine God’s love for His people is as romantic as a couple’s love, yet it is true. God yearns to be with His people more intensely than a loving couple for each other. God’s love for us is very special, emotional and romantic. God loves deep and intense. He yearns to be close to us, so much so that He literally came into our world to live among us and at His death, continue to give of Himself, His body and blood, to dwell in our hearts. Day and night He looks at us, reaches out to us and waits for us to invite Him into our lives. T

Homily: December 20, 2022, Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent.

As a priest, I also follow the daily reflections of other good preachers, to learn their insights and to be inspired and nurtured spiritually. There is one daily reflection which I follow closely, that of Archbishop William Cardinal Goh, the Archbishop of Singapore. His reflections always touch me so deeply and open my mind to new perspectives. I admire his courage to correct the church lovingly, his deep trust in God, and his passion for evangelization and dedication for his ministry, at the same time he is also very humble. Last night as I was preparing the homily for today, i was thinking about my struggles and challenges trying to minister and lead this parish. I always felt that my weaknesses are too great and my strengths too mild to do a good job here. My own faith and self confidence have been tested intensely. Then reading Archbishop Goh's reflection for today's scripture texts inspired me and even answered my doubts and questions concerning my ministry here. I think i

Homily: December, 13, 2022, Tuesday of the third week in Advent (Memorial of St. Lucy)

 “Thus says the LORD: Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted, to the tyrannical city! She hears no voice, accepts no correction.” Our Lord is giving a stern warning to those who are against Him, those who are arrogant. Most of us would have at least been through a rebellious phase or have met or lived with someone who is arrogant.  Arrogant people do not listen to others, think highly of themselves, and expect others to listen to them and agree with them. Some of us may still be in such a situation and we ourselves have our arrogant moments too. No one can deny, such characters are difficult to deal with, work with or live together. Thus God warns us against being arrogant and rebellious especially towards His teachings and commands. By being full of ourselves and living as if we do not need God, by being overly self-confident and thinking we are the master of our own life, we will one day fall deep into helplessness and loneliness.  Arrogance is destructive to others and to self. Tr

Homily: December 12, 2022, Feast of the our lady of Guadalupe

 Today’s Gospel reading states that “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah.” Mary has just been told about Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy and has just received in her womb the immaculate conception of the long-awaited Saviour of the world. Young and pregnant, she set out in haste to see Elizabeth. Yesterday, during our family faith formation program, the parents and high schoolers learnt about Our Lady of Guadalupe and the students did a fun activity. They had to balance an egg on a spoon and walk. They had to compete to see who can walk the fastest without dropping the egg. It was fun to watch how they tried hard to take care of the egg while trying to run. Some failed, some succeeded. The lesson from that activity was to have a feel of how Mary possibly felt in her haste to visit Elizabeth and carrying the precious baby Jesus in her womb. Mary brought Jesus to Elizabeth and her household. In the same way she continues to bring Jesus to us, to the

Homily: December 8, 2022, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 ‘The Lord God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”’ This is the first question God asked man after he committed sin. God surely knew what happened. He gave Adam and Eve all freedom to do as they please, requesting only one restriction, yet they failed Him. He should be upset, He is justified to be furious, He has every right to question and reprimand them, instead he asked, “where are you?” Through this we can see that although God disapproves of sin, His bigger concern is when we hide from Him and persist in darkness. He calls us our from hiding, into His light. Human beings are the crown of God’s creation.  He yearns for us to be in His light, in His presence, always. And all through history, God does not change His position, He does not run away, He remains always available, reachable and near. We are the ones turning away and increasing the distance from God. Fulton Sheen rightly said, “Ever since the days of Adam man has been hiding from God and saying ‘God is hard t

Homily: December 6, 2022, Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent.

“Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever." This was one of my favorite Bible phrases for some time in the past, and then it was forgotten. While preparing for this homily, it again touched and inspired me. Do you also have a favorite verse or phrase from the Bible? Is there a book of the Bible which you like to read over, and over again? Has any word or phrase in the Bible helped you in life and gave you hope? Did you memorize any verse from the Bible to deepen your faith? Do you feel God speaking to you through the Bible? My last question to you, do you even read the Bible? The Bible, the word of God, contains the truths of this life and the life eternal.  It is an interesting book, in a profound way. God’s word was written by more than 40 different authors, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, over a period of thirteen centuries.  From a secular point of view, the Bible is a massive compilation of historical, theological, philosophica

Homily: December 5, 2022, Monday of the Second Week of Advent

“Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”  Every prophesy in the Bible has both an immediate fulfilment and an eschatological or apocalyptic fulfilment. The immediate fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy in this first reading took place when the Israelites were released from their exile and returned to Zion, their promised land. Their years of sadness had found gladness.  And the eschatological fulfilment of this same text will take place at the end of time when we who accepted salvation from the Lord, will enter the new Zion, and return to our heavenly home. Our life of restlessness will find true joy. The Israelites were full of joy too, at the end of their exile. But it did not last long. They took for granted their freedom and began to sin against God, disobeying and rejecting His commandments. We have all experienced joyful moments in life as well, finding the