Monday, 23 February 2015 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Holy Scriptures which mentioned to us about what is to come in the future. At the end of time, as all of us should be aware of, there will be a Last Judgment of all creation, where there will be one last separation of the good from the bad, the worthy from the unworthy, the faithful ones from the unfaithful ones, and the repentant from the unrepentant.

And the Lord also made it clear and simple for all to understand, what we all need to do in order to be counted among the righteous ones. It is not that difficult, but at the same time, it is also not that easy. What we need to do is simply to be there for those of our brethren around us who need our help and assistance. If we think for only ourselves and disregard the call for help from our brethren, then we are truly, really evil and wicked.

The key to achieve salvation is truly for us to open our hearts to love one another, and to see with our eyes and hear with our ears the plight and suffering of those who need our help. Salvation lies in those who have heard the words and teachings of the Lord, keep them in their hearts, and practiced them in their daily lives. Humans are selfish in nature, and they tend to always care about themselves first before even thinking about others. And it is this mindset and mentality, as well as the habit that we really need to change.

Our faith cannot be expressed merely with words and empty devotions, as I have often mentioned that a faith without action or deed is an empty and dead faith. It is just the same as if we do not have any faith at all. Our faith must be based on real deeds and actions, as works complement faith. Faith and works together made us justified and not just either of them only alone.

There are many people who thought that they are assured of salvation because they are faithful to the Lord, showing external devotions to the Lord and piety towards the people. But, in their hearts there was no God, for in their actions and deeds towards others, they showed not the faith they supposedly have, but instead they showed selfishness, greed, jealousy, hatred and many others that were unbecoming of the children of the Lord.

That was why, those people, whose prime examples were the Pharisees and the Scribes have received their just judgment, that is to be cast among the goats, the ones on the left of Christ, and to receive eternal damnation and punishment, not just for whatever wicked things they had done, but also by whatever things they have failed to do as expected of them by the Lord.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Polycarp, also known as St. Polycarpus, a Roman saint, bishop and martyr of the Church. He was the Bishop of Smyrna in today’s Western Turkey, one of the earliest centres of the Church and the faithful. He served the people of God faithfully and was a convert to the Faith himself. He served the people entrusted under his care with love and devotion, teaching them to be faithful to the Lord and to follow sound doctrine and teachings, so that they may truly be true disciples of Christ in not just words but also in deeds and actions.

St. Polycarp also did not hesitate to labour for and defend his flock, preaching to them and ministering to them whenever and wherever he was available to do so, despite the threat of persecution by the pagan government and officials of the Roman Empire. Eventually, St. Polycarp was captured, tortured, incarcerated before he was put to death for defending his faith bravely and courageously. Fire would not hurt him and thus, he was then martyred by another means, shedding his blood for the Lord and for the faithful.

Therefore, we should all be aware by the example of St. Polycarp and the other saints and martyrs, who had done so much hard work in their own different ways to help the works of God in this world. They did not remain idle or centred only on their own selves, and indeed, as we have seen, they did not even hesitate to lay down their lives and to suffer for the sake of their fellow men, their fellow brethren in faith.

As the Last Judgment story by Jesus should remind us, let us all take concrete steps to be true disciples of the Lord, that is by walking the faith we have, and therefore not just having an empty faith, but a living and real one, justified by our actions and deeds, helping those who have less or none, loving one another and forgiving one another our sins and faults, so that we truly practice what we believe in and which Jesus our Lord had taught us.

Let us never falter but continue to strengthen our faith, that when the time comes, our Lord will find us just, righteous and worthy of the eternal glory He had prepared for all those who have listened to Him and does His will. God be with us all. Amen.

Monday, 23 February 2015 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 25 : 31-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory with all His angels, He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be brought before Him, and as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, so will He do with them, placing the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left.”

“The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, blessed of My Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your house. I was naked, and you clothed Me. I was sick, and you visited Me. I was in prison, and you came to see Me.'”

“Then the good people will ask Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and give You food; thirsty, and give You something to drink; or a stranger, and welcome You; or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and go to see You?'”

“The King will answer, ‘Truly I say to you : whenever you did this to these little ones who are My brothers and sisters, you did it to Me.'”

“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Go, cursed people, out of My sight into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry, and you did not give Me anything to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not welcome Me into your house; I was naked, and you did not clothe Me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'”

“They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, thirsty, naked or a stranger, sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ The King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you : whatever you did not do for these little ones, you did not do it for Me.'”

“And these will go into eternal punishment, but the just to eternal life.”

Monday, 23 February 2015 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 15

The Law of the Lord is perfect; it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart find favour in Your sight, o Lord – my Redeemer, my Rock!

Monday, 23 February 2015 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Leviticus 19 : 1-2, 11-18

YHVH spoke to Moses and said, “Speak to the entire assembly of the people of Israel and say to them : Be holy for I, YHVH, your God, am holy. Do not steal or lie or deceive one another. Do not swear falsely by My Name so as to profane the Name of your God; I am YHVH.”

“Do not oppress your neighbour or rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse a deaf man nor put a stumbling block in the way of the blind; but you shall fear your God; I am YHVH.”

“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor nor bow to the great; you are to judge your neighbour fairly so as not to share in his guilt. Do not go about as a slanderer of your people and do not seek the death of your neighbour; I am YHVH.”

“Do not hate your brother in your heart; rebuke your neighbour frankly so as not to share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or nurture a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself; I am YHVH.”