Saturday, 23 February 2019 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 9 : 2-13

At that time, six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There His appearance was changed before their eyes. Even His clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say : they were overcome with awe. But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice, “This is My Son, the Beloved; listen to Him.”

And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean.

Finally they asked Him, “Why then do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered them, “Of course Elijah will come first, so that everything may be as it should be. But why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they have treated him as they pleased, as the Scriptures say of him.”

Saturday, 23 February 2019 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 144 : 2-3, 4-5, 10-11

I will praise You day after day and exalt Your Name forever. Great is the Lord, most worthy of praise; and His deeds are beyond measure.

Parents commend Your works to their children and tell them Your feats. They proclaim the splendour of Your majesty and recall Your wondrous works.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

Saturday, 23 February 2019 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 11 : 1-7

Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith our ancestors were approved. By faith we understand that the stages of creation were disposed by God’s word, and what is visible came from what cannot be seen.

Because of Abel’s faith his offering was more acceptable than that of his brother Cain, which meant he was upright, and God Himself approved his offering. Because of this faith he cried to God, as said in Scripture, even after he died.

By faith Enoch was taken to heaven, instead of experiencing death : he could not be found because God had taken him. In fact, it is said that before being taken up he had pleased God. Yet without faith it is impossible to please Him : no one draws near to God without first believing that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him earnestly.

By faith Noah was instructed of events which could not yet be seen and, heeding what he heard, he built a boat in which to save his family. The faith of Noah condemned the world and he reached holiness born of faith.

Friday, 22 February 2019 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate the occasion of the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, bringing us into focus to the Chair or the Seat of authority which St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of the Apostles has, in his position as God’s own Vicar on earth, as the one to whom God had entrusted His own Church, all the collective body of the whole faithful, the Church of God, which He has built upon the firm foundation of the Rock of faith, St. Peter, His Vicar.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what is so significant about this ‘chair’ of St. Peter the Apostle that there is a special feast day to commemorate it? This chair does not refer to any physical chair, even though in St. Peter’s Basilica, there is indeed a wooden chair installed on the apse of the great Basilica, above the Altar of the Chair, which was one of the actual chairs that St. Peter has once used as the Bishop of Rome.

The meaning of the word chair here goes deeper in the sense that, the chair refers to the authority that the Lord has granted to His Apostles, and in this case, to St. Peter, the special authority above all the other Apostles and disciples, as their leader and therefore as the leader of the entire Universal Church, as the Vicar of the true Head and Leader of the Church, Christ Himself.

Each bishops of the Church have a chair or cathedra, their seat of authority, which is located in the church called cathedrals precisely because of the presence of this seat. And each of the bishops have been given the authority over their respective dioceses, which correspond to the flocks of the faithful people of God, and that authority is presented in the seat of authority, the cathedra of the bishop.

And for the Bishop of Rome, they are the successors of St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, to whom a special authority has been granted, as the Gospel passage today mentioned, specifically that the Lord has entrusted His whole universal Church to the care and the leadership of St. Peter, whose name in Aramaic language means ‘Rock’, the rock of faith on which God built the foundations of His Church.

Therefore, the chair of St. Peter that the feast day today celebrates, commemorates that divine authority which has been given to the Church through its leader, St. Peter, as the one tasked, with the aid and support of all the other Apostles and leaders of the Church, with the governance and guidance of the direction of the Church, where it is moving towards and its efforts in evangelisation and in the salvation of souls.

Therefore today we are reminded of the great challenges that the Church is facing, in its numerous commitments and good works in our world today, in the evangelisation of the people of God, the spreading of the truth of the Gospel, in the salvation of souls and the works of God’s mercy, as well as the oppositions and challenges from all those who do not wish to see the work of God to be successful, especially those who are under the power and influence of Satan and his fellow deceivers.

And at the forefront of it all, is the Pope, as the successor of St. Peter, as the Bishop of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ and leader of the entire Christendom, of all God’s faithful people. Of course, the Pope is not alone in bearing all the burdens of his office, as at the heart of it all, the Pope is at the same time also sharing his ministry of the episcopate with all the bishops, the successors of the Apostles.

Therefore, the Pope leads the efforts of the bishops of the universal Church, as the chief of the shepherds that God has appointed over His people, to guide the people and the souls of God’s beloved ones to the right path, leading them down the path towards God, while resisting the temptations, the falsehoods, the pressures and challenges that come from the world, from the devil and all forces seeking the destruction of us all.

And in all that we have seen in our present day world and in our Church today, the works of the Church, especially that of its leader, our Pope, our Supreme Pontiff and Christ’s Vicar is definitely not an easy one. There are plenty of challenges and obstacles, one after another, are adding up in the path that the Church is taking, in its journey through the tribulations and trials of the world today.

That is why, our role as Christians, that is as all those who compose the Body of Christ, the Church, is very important, as each and every one of us have important roles to play in our respective areas and specialties, to support the Holy Father, our Pope and leader, in the efforts and works that he is driving the whole Church through, amidst all the turbulences and challenges that we are facing together as the whole Church in this journey of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore grow in our devotion and commitment to God as Christians, as members of His Church, through our obedience to the Law and the commandments laid out by the Church, and trust ourselves to the leadership and guidance of our Holy Father, the Pope, the Vicar of Christ. Let us all do whatever we can in order to serve the Lord better, by making good use of the gifts and the talents that He had entrusted to each one of us.

May the Lord continue to watch over His Church, particularly as we are going through difficult moments and challenges, that the Church may continue to persevere through all of these difficult times, especially for the Pope, our leader, that he may continue to faithfully carry on the mission and works entrusted to him since the time of St. Peter, the first Pope. May God bless us always, and may He continue to love His beloved Church, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 22 February 2019 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Friday, 22 February 2019 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Friday, 22 February 2019 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 5 : 1-4

I now address myself to those elders among you; I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, hoping to share the Glory that is to be revealed.

Shepherd the flock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it not out of obligation but willingly for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart; do not lord it over those in your care, rather be an example to your flock.

Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will be given a crown of unfading glory.

Thursday, 21 February 2019 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God in the Scriptures speaking to us regarding the salvation which God has given to all of His people, the Covenant which He has made with all of us mankind, through which He restored us all from the state of disgrace and sin, into a renewed existence in grace and beloved by God.

God has brought Noah and his family, who alone were faithful among the many wicked and unrepentant sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, safely through the Great Flood that destroyed everything in the world, and through the Ark, brought them all into a new life on a renewed earth. And God made a new Covenant with Noah and his family, with him and all of his descendants, that include all of us living here today.

The Covenant that God has made is a Covenant of love, the promise of love between God and His beloved people, in which the two parties involved entered into a most solemn and honourable agreement and binding decision, to be committed to each other, to be devoted and to love each other with sincerity and genuine desire. And God loved His people as He has always done, not desiring their destruction but salvation and liberation from sin.

And because a Covenant is contracted between two parties and is binding between them, therefore, if God Himself has entered into the agreement with us all, and willingly committed Himself to us, then we mankind, who are also part of this same Covenant, must therefore also love God in the same manner, and commit ourselves to a loving relationship with Him. If we love God, then we must be willing to walk in His ways, and change our way of life to do what He has taught and shown us to do.

And God renewed His Covenant as we have heard in our Gospel passage today, through none other than Jesus Christ, His own beloved Son, sent into the world for this very purpose, that is to renew the Covenant He had once made with His people, with a new and everlasting Covenant that surpasses every previous Covenants, sealed with nothing less than the pure sacrifice and the Most Precious Blood of Christ, flowing down from the cross.

Yet, are we able to love Him as He has loved us so dearly? Many of us have not been able to commit ourselves in the same manner as our Lord as loved and devoted Himself to us. He has loved us so totally, so as to give everything for our sake. Many of us love instead the many tempting things in the world, not even giving our attention and time for God. We look for things such as worldly glory, fame, prestige, wealth and power.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as long as we are distracted by all of these temptations, we will not be able to give ourselves totally and wholly to God, and we will always end up failing and falling into sin again and again. We need to make the conscious effort to resist those temptations to sin. Otherwise, we will easily be swayed by the devil and all those who have always been trying to tempt us, day after day, at every moments.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Damian, a holy and devout servant of God who should become our inspiration in life. St. Peter Damian was a renowned Benedictine monk who eventually rose to the rank of Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, as one of the closest confidants of the Pope, for his vigorous reforms and commitment to the renewal of the Church at the time, in which corrupt practices were rampant.

St. Peter Damian dedicated much of his life to the eradication of the wicked practices and sins present within the Church, both among the clergy and the laity at the time, when the Church members and officials were deeply embroiled in scandals pertaining their worldly ambitions and ways. St. Peter Damian led the effort to eradicate all of these excesses and wicked practices, helping the Pope at the time to steer the Church through the difficult times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to follow the examples and the commitment shown by St. Peter Damian in living an upright life dedicated to God. We are called to abandon our past attachments to sin, and repent from our past disobediences. Indeed, this is not something that can be easily done, but unless we make the conscious effort to do so, we can see how the devil’s wickedness have once again struck at our Church, both among the clergy and the laity alike.

We have seen all sorts of scandals involving the clergy as well as those counted among the laity, and how all of these are causing hurts and difficulties to the efforts of the Church to bring more souls to the salvation in God. Let us therefore begin from ourselves, the effort to purify our lives and to bring about a renewal of the Covenant of love that God has made with us, through Christ, His Son, our Lord and Saviour.

Let us all turn once again wholeheartedly towards the Lord, loving Him and placing Him at the very centre of our lives. Let us all seek to walk faithfully in His ways, and do our best to obey Him from now on. May the Lord our loving God continue to love us and bless us, each and every days of our lives. Amen.