Wednesday, 3 May 2017 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
1 Corinthians 15 : 1-8

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then He appeared to James and after that to all the Apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day from the Scripture readings all of us have heard about how the Church of God was persecuted by those who oppose it and refused to believe in the truth of Christ. We heard how St. Stephen the Deacon and Protomartyr, the first martyr of the Church, died defending his faith, after standing up for the Lord and proclaiming the fullness of His truth before the Jewish leaders.

The Jewish leaders, the elders and the chief priests refused to listen to the truth, they covered their ears, refusing to listen to the truth, as true and painfully real as it was to them, which St. Stephen had delivered to them. They hardened their hearts and closed the doors of their minds, rejecting the truth to continue living in the denial of the truth. That was why they persecuted the Lord, and then the disciples and followers of the Lord afterwards.

And what was this truth that St. Stephen had so boldly and courageously proclaimed? If we paid close attention to his testimony, it is about the Lord and His great love for each and every one of us, which had been manifested through the coming of the One Who is the Saviour of the whole world and of all mankind, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

In the Gospel today, we heard the Lord Jesus Himself, telling the people who doubted Him and wanted Him to show them a miraculous sign from heaven, that He is the real and true miracle beyond any other miracles, far greater than all the miraculous deeds He had performed before the people in various places, greater than all the healing and the opening of the eyes of the blind, the making of deaf and mute people to be able to hear and speak again, and the healing of the paralytic and lepers.

It was by giving Himself as the Bread of Life for all those who have received Him and accepted His truth that the Lord had revealed Himself wonderfully before all people. He brought forth a new life for those who have accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour, and through the giving of His Body and Blood, He has reunited us all with Himself, reconciling us with the One Who gave us life.

It was for this truth and for this Lord, that St. Stephen had stood up for his faith for, as he refused to remain idle and silent while the chief priests and the elders tried hard to deny the truth of Jesus, and also about His resurrection from the dead. St. Stephen spoke up for the Lord, in front of the people, so that all those who have ears and listened, might be touched in their hearts and be converted to the Lord, even though there were perhaps many others who remained stubborn.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Athanasius, a renowned and holy saint, who lived through a particularly difficult time for the Church. As one of the most prominent of the leaders of the Church at his time, leading the Church in Alexandria in Egypt, he had to deal with the enormous impact of the heresy caused by one Arius, the one who brought about the Arian heresy.

Arius was a popular preacher who swayed many people to follow his false teachings and therefore into heresy. There were many of the faithful, priests and even bishops who believed in Arius’ teachings, claiming that Jesus our Lord, was not God and Man as the Church had taught, but only merely Man, a created Being instead of the Creator. This false teachings had misled many of the faithful into the wrong path.

And St. Athanasius was determined to root out the heresy from among his flock, persevering against opposition and challenges that he had to encounter as he went about preaching the truth against the heresies that Arius had preached. St. Athanasius remained firm in his convictions to guide his flock, the people of God entrusted to his care, into the right path, and therefore, even though there were priests and bishops who opposed him, slandered him and accused him wrongly with false accusations, St. Athanasius never stopped his hard work.

In total, St. Athanasius had to endure five exiles from his See, because of all the oppositions he encountered. And every time, his enemies and all those who refused to listen to the truth St. Athanasius preached came about with new reason to accuse him of wrongdoing, resulting in great difficulties that the holy saint had to endure. Yet, St. Athanasius never gave up, and continued to do great deeds among the people, converting countless souls to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we all follow in the footsteps of St. Athanasius? Shall we walk in the path of his faith, his commitment and devotion to serve the Lord? There will indeed be challenges, opposition and difficulties, as once encountered by St. Stephen the Martyr, St. Athanasius himself, and many other holy saints and martyrs of the Church. But they all placed their trust in God, and never gave up, for if they had given up, many souls would have been lost to hell.

Let us all renew therefore our own conviction in faith, our commitment and devotion to the Lord and His ways. May the Lord bless us and strengthen our faith, so that we may continue to grow closer to Him, and remain true and faithful to Him as St. Stephen, St. Athanasius and the other holy men and women of God had done. May God be with us all, in our lives, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 6 : 30-35

At that time, the Jews said to Jesus, “Show us miraculous signs, that we may see and believe You. What sign do You perform? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert; as Scripture says : They were given bread from heaven to eat.”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven. My Father gives you the true Bread from heaven. The Bread God gives is the One Who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.” And they said to Him, “Give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me shall never be thirsty.”

Tuesday, 2 May 2017 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 30 : 3cd-4, 6ab and 7b and 8a, 17 and 21ab

Be a Rock of refuge for me, a Fortress for my safety. For You are my Rock and my Stronghold, lead me for Your Name’s sake.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit; but I put all my trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in Your love, for You have seen my affliction.

Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me in Your love. In the shelter of Your presence You hide them from human wiles; You keep them in Your dwelling.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Acts 7 : 51 – Acts 8 : 1a

Stephen said to the Council, “But you are a stubborn people, you hardened your hearts and closed your ears. You have always resisted the Holy Spirit just as your fathers did. Was there a prophet whom your ancestors did not persecute? They killed those who announced the coming of the Just One Whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the Law through the Angels but did not fulfil it.”

When the Council heard the reproach Stephen made against them, they were enraged and they gnashed their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared : “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.”

But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying : “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Then he knelt down and said in a loud voice : “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he died. Saul was there, approving his murder. This was the beginning of a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem.

Monday, 1 May 2017 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, remembering the foster-father of our Lord, St. Joseph who was a carpenter of the village of Nazareth. He was just a mere carpenter, a profession which was not highly respected at that time, considered a menial labour and job for the poor people, and yet, he was an upright and just man, who obeyed God in all of His commandments.

He worked hard to meet the daily needs for himself, and later on, also for his family, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As the breadwinner and head of the family, he must have laboured hard to sustain and provide for the whole family. The job as a carpenter was surely not an easy one, as carpenters even today can attest to. The job was tough and consumed many hours, and yet the pay was minimal.

Yet, St. Joseph remained true to his work and to his calling, which he had been called to, to be the foster-father of the Lord and the protector of the entire Holy Family. He remained true to the mission he had been entrusted with, and he was ever faithful, protecting Mary as she was heavily pregnant, while they were going down from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. He guided her through from inn to inn, and dwelling to dwelling, even though all of them rejected them because they were all already full.

And when king Herod wanted to kill the newborn Baby Jesus, the Angel of God instructed St. Joseph to bring both Him and Mary to the land of Egypt, so that He might be hidden away from those who would want to cause Him harm, like Herod and the other enemies of the Lord. What does that mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that livelihood must have been hard for St. Joseph and for his family, as that meant, St. Joseph would have to live in exile in Egypt for the time when Jesus was there, and not being able to return to Nazareth meant that he must have laboured hard in the foreign land trying to make ends meet for his family.

But St. Joseph never complained, and he remained true to his calling. He accompanied the Holy Family and led it through times of joy and through times of difficulty. He was there for the young Jesus as He was growing up in body and stature. It was likely that he taught Jesus the skills required to survive in life, and likely taught him carpentry skills. St. Joseph worked hard throughout his life, and he is an inspiration to all of us who also work, and who also worry about our daily living, on how we are to make ends meet for ourselves and for our families.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the life and the works of St. Joseph, let us all spend some time to ask ourselves this question. What is work and our career for us? What is the significance of what we are doing in our daily work, in our workplace, in all the busy things and schedules we filled our lives with? Is there meaning to all the things that we are doing in life?

Many of us instinctively will say that we are working in order to gain more money and wealth, to make sure that we are able to sustain our lives, providing for our daily needs. However, do we all realise that we can be easily distracted from what we ought to do in life, and we end up having the wrong focus in our work and in our daily efforts? It is because of our greed and desire, which caused us to lose focus on what working in life truly means.

Let us reflect, brothers and sisters, on all the time when we have become too busy in our lives, too busy trying to aim for promotion in our career, looking for more opportunities to gain renown, fame, recognition and praise from others around us, and in the process, we end up neglecting our families, our relatives and those whom we love, just because we have been too busy with our work, but with the wrong focus.

And we know how some people, if not many of them, in their pursuit for money, for power, for influence and other things, sought illegal and unjust means in order to attain and obtain whatever it is that they desired. This resulted in the corruption of the hearts and minds, as we fall into sin because of our unbridled and uncontrolled desire. This is what we all must avoid doing, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us all model ourselves after the good worker and the faithful servant of God, St. Joseph, the carpenter, the just and upright man, a hardworking person, and the foster-father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was exemplary in his life and actions, in how he committed himself to his work, and in how he has obeyed the Lord in all of his life’s deeds. In the same manner therefore, we too should do the same in our own respective lives.

Let us all inspire one another, and help one another in reaching out to God and to His salvation. May the Lord help us all in all of our endeavours, and may He bless all of our works, so that not only that we will do our work from now on, keeping in mind that it is God for whom ultimately we labour for in this world, and not for ourselves. Let us all pray that we shall be given the strength to persevere through all sorts of challenges in life. Amen.