Friday, 6 February 2015 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is Elijah,” and others, “He is a Prophet like the prophets of times past.”

When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!” For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl have it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Friday, 6 February 2015 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 26 : 1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fail; though war break out against me, I will still be confident.

For He will keep me safe in His shelter in times of misfortune; He will hide me beneath His roof, and set me high upon a rock.

I seek Your face, o Lord. Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my Protector, do not reject me.

Friday, 6 February 2015 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 13 : 1-8

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to offer hospitality; you know that some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember prisoners as if you were with them in chains, and the same for those who are suffering. Remember that you also have a body.

Marriage must be respectful by all and husband and wife faithful to each other. God will punish the immoral and the adulterous. Do not depend on money. Be content with having enough for today for God has said : ‘I will never forsake you or abandon you,’ and we shall confidently answer : ‘The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?’

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Consider their end and imitate their faith. Christ Jesus is the same today as yesterday and forever.

Thursday, 5 February 2015 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the mission which Christ entrusted to His disciples, sending them two by two ahead of Him, in order to minister to the people of God and preach the Good News by words, deeds and actions. They were to be the extension of His hands’ works and to be the messengers of His words of truth.

Jesus came into the world with a clear message to all of us, that God welcomes all to His embrace and forgiveness. His mercy should never be too far for us to reach. He wants to make it available to all of us. And that was why He gave Himself as the Bridge that crosses the chasm between us and God our Lord and Father. Through Him, He brought us all into closer contact with our loving Father and make the truth about God known to all.

Many feared to seek the Lord because they feared His wrath and anger at their sinfulness and wickedness. But they failed to realise that while God was angry at them for their sins, He continues to love them without fail and without cease, no matter how sinful we are. It is that sin which separated us from His mercy and love, and thus a great barrier which all of us need to overcome.

And worse that many people even refused to accept the Lord who came to them, knocking at the doors of the hearts of many. They refused to receive the Lord for various reasons, but all of them stemmed from the same origin, that is our pride and our stubbornness. Yes, the same pride and stubbornness which had caused Satan to fall from grace into damnation, that same obstacle which will bring about our downfall too if we do nothing about it.

How many of us remain stubborn and unwilling to receive such rich graces of the Lord, which He poured freely upon us? He even became a willing sacrifice for all of our sake, by becoming the Lamb of sacrifice, laying down His own Body and shedding His own Blood to be the Redemption and Salvation for us all. He gave us His Body and His Blood freely, if we just would believe in Him and make Him as our Lord and Saviour.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Agatha, a holy virgin, a faithful servant and a glorious martyr of the Faith. St. Agatha was a very devoted servant of God, and since her early youth she had given herself completely to the service of God, dedicating her purity and virginity to the Lord as an offering of herself. But she was pursued and disturbed apparently by a Roman centurion, a pagan army leader of the Roman Empire.

At that time, to be a follower of Christ would mean certain death and suffering, at a time of great difficulty known as the Decian persecution, when the Roman Emperor Decius commanded a great persecution of the Church and the faithful. Many of the faithful were tortured, imprisoned, scourged and met painful death defending their Faith and by remaining true to God and His salvation which He had revealed to us through Jesus His Son.

St. Agatha also endured many torture and scourgings, in the imitation of the Lord Jesus who also endured such horrendous torture and difficulties, rejection and humiliation so that by His suffering and death, He might liberate us all from death itself and bring us into life eternal. And indeed, St. Agatha with the many other martyrs of the Faith lost their earthly lives but gained in heaven a great new and everlasting life.

We too, brothers and sisters in Christ, can share in the same glory and bliss that the saints and martyrs had received. Let us all therefore cast far away all of our pride and vanity, all of our stubbornness and reluctance to seek the Lord, so that we may truly, with full humility, seek the loving heart of our God and find His mercy, that we may be made whole once again, and receive the fullness of His reward. God bless us all. Amen.