Thursday, 23 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 10

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name.

Proclaim His salvation day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Thursday, 23 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 7-21

As the discussions became heated, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that from the beginning God chose me among you so that non-Jews could hear the Good News from me and believe. God, Who can read hearts, put Himself on their side by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them and cleansed their hearts through faith.”

“So why do you want to put God to the test? Why do you lay on the disciples a burden that neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? We believe, indeed, that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”

The whole assembly kept silent as they listened to Paul and Barnabas tell of all the miraculous signs and wonders that God had done through them among the non-Jews. After they had finished, James spoke up, “Listen to me, brothers. Symeon has just explained how God first showed His care by taking a people for Himself from non-Jewish nations.”

“And the words of the prophets agree with this, for Scripture says, ‘After this I will return and rebuild the booth of David which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again. Then the rest of humanity will look for the Lord, and all the nations will be consecrated to My Name. So says the Lord, Who does today what He decided from the beginning.'”

“Because of this, I think that we should not make difficulties for those non-Jews who are turning to God. Let us just tell them not to eat food that is unclean from having been offered to idols; to keep themselves from prohibited marriages; and not to eat the flesh of animals that have been strangled, or any blood. For from the earliest times Moses has been taught in every place, and every Sabbath his laws are recalled.”

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by the message of the words of the Scripture which speak to us about the importance for us all to be firmly attached to the Lord, as we cannot be separated from Him and hope or expect to be able to receive His graces, much as a branch separated from the vine or the tree cannot survive on its own, having depended on the tree and the vine for nourishment and support.

That was why the Lord Jesus used the parable of the vine in order to bring His point across, as He revealed to them just how each and every one of us who believe in Him must be united to Him and with Him, so that we do not act in ways that create division, separation, dissension and cracks in the Body of Christ, the Church. We must not allow our own pride, ego and stubbornness from causing us to be divided against each other.

It is when we begin to put our own desires, our own wants and desires ahead of the commitment we have as Christians that we become detached from God and from His love and grace. It was never God Who cast us out from His presence as His great love and compassion for each and every one of us would not have allowed that to happen. Rather, it was our own conscious and persistent choice to sunder ourselves from God that had caused this to happen.

In the first reading today, we heard an example of this action happening as the Acts of the Apostles recounted to us what happened when a bitter friction and factional dispute arose between the disciples and the communities of the faithful, with the hardline Jewish Christians who wanted to adhere strictly and closely to the laws of Moses on the other side, and other Jewish Christians and those sympathetic to the Gentiles or non-Jewish people who wanted to relax the rigorous application of the Mosaic law.

Those who wanted to impose the whole laws of Moses and its rigorous practices as encapsulated within the traditions of the Jewish people refused to back down and insisted that all those who believe in Christ must also obey the laws of Moses in their entirety, or else they could not be members of the Church. But this created a lot of problems for those who wanted to be believers, and yet did not practice the Jewish customs.

In order to better understand the context and circumstances we should understand first that at that time, the Jewish customs were seen as strange and even abnormality by many of the people in the Roman Empire, especially the Greeks and the Romans who abhorred the practice of circumcision as well as the religious dietary prohibitions among many others that would very well have prevented many from being able to openly live as Christians should the laws of Moses be imposed on all Christians.

It was sadly however, the insistence and stubbornness of those who refused to back down from their argument and wanted their way to be pushed through that caused such bitter division and disagreement within the Church. And if we look through the whole history of the Church, the divisions and disagreements we see in the Acts of the Apostles is just one of many other disagreements and divisions within the Church.

And these divisions and disagreements cause the faithful to be separated from the True Vine that is God, as they began to focus on their own selfish desires and thoughts, their own ideas and their own ways rather than listening to and following the will of God. And this is where the devil will indeed have rich harvest, as those who have been separated from God will be easy picking for him to attack and conquer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, all of us should reflect instead on the life and examples of St. Rita of Cascia, a notable saint and holy woman whose life has precisely shown that all of us should put aside our differences and learn to find the path of peace and reconciliation with God and with one another. St. Rita of Cascia was remembered for her patience and dedication to her family.

She did not have an easy life, and from her youth, she had endured many forms of sufferings and troubles, and she had to witness her own husband killed by another family his husband’s family was feuding with, and left to care for her children on her own. She dissuaded her sons from taking revenge on her deceased husband, even though her husband’s family was trying to goad her sons to do so.

When her sons was seemingly set on seeking the path of revenge following what her husband’s family had demanded, St. Rita of Cascia prayed fervently to God asking for them to be taken away from this world rather than for them to sin because of violence and murder. And indeed, miraculously, both of her sons passed away within a year from a terrible disease that struck the place, saving them from mortal sins that could have made them to end in hell.

This is a reminder to all of us that we should seek to be united to God and to be reconciled with each other, following the passionate example of St. Rita of Cascia who tried to overcome the bitter divisions that affected her own family, and also of the Apostles who tried to unite the bitterly divided factions and groups in the early Church as mentioned in our first reading today.

Let us all draw closer to God and do our best in order to serve Him and put Him at the centre of our lives so that instead of being divided because of our own ego and pride, we can grow instead in the love of God and be more united with one another through Him. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the True Vine and My Father is the Vinegrower. If any of My branches does not bear fruit, He breaks it off; and He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit.”

“You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Live in Me as I live in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but has to remain part of the vine; so neither can you, if you do not remain in Me. I am the Vine and you are the branches. As long as you remain in Me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from Me you can do nothing.”

“Whoever does not remain in Me is thrown away, as they do with branches, and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burnt. If you remain in Me and My words in you, you may ask whatever you want, and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit : it is then that you become My disciples.”

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 1-6

Some persons who had come from Judea to Antioch were teaching the brothers in this way, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Because of this there was trouble, and Paul and Barnabas had fierce arguments with them. For Paul told the people to remain as they were when they became believers. Finally those who had come from Jerusalem suggested that Paul and Barnabas and some others go up to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the Apostles and elders.

They were sent on their way by the Church. As they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they reported how the non-Jews had turned to God, and there was great joy among all the brothers and sisters. On their arrival in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, the Apostles and the elders, to whom they told all that God had done through them.

Some believers, however, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees, stood up and said that non-Jewish men must be circumcised and instructed to keep the law of Moses. So the Apostles and elders met together to consider the matter.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the assurance of God, that despite the challenges and difficulties we may have to face in the midst of following Him and obeying His will, but God will never abandon us. He will bless all those who have given themselves to His cause and will provide for all of those who have been faithful to Him.

He gave us this assurance as He prepared His disciples at that time of the coming persecutions and challenges that they would have to face in the midst of opposition and rejection from those who have closed their hearts and minds off from the Lord’s truth. In the first reading we heard the continuation of the story of St. Paul and St. Barnabas, who were cast out from many of the cities where they ministered and preached the Gospel because of those who incited the crowd against them.

But they remained firm in their resolution and commitment to serve the Lord and went to more places, encouraging the faithful and the disciples of the Lord with the same assurance that God has given them, that suffering and persecution were just among the many things that they had to endure in order to be able to enjoy the fullness of the glory of God’s eternal kingdom.

God is truly leading His disciples down the path that He has showed them, despite it having challenges and difficulties, because that is exactly what He Himself has endured as He was rejected, ridiculed, humiliated, tortured and made to endure the sufferings of many on His shoulders as He lifted up and took up His Cross. If God Himself had suffered for us so grievously and with so much pain and suffering, all the more His followers will also suffer and face similar persecution.

But God assured us all that He will be with us, regardless of what happens to us, and at every moment, be it times of good or times of trouble, He will be by our side, watching over us and protecting us, just as He has been with the Apostles, encouraging them and strengthening then with the power to carry on their duties and responsibilities. And through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles inflamed many others with the same strength and courage, to remain faithful to God.

It was through these examples and inspiring efforts of those who have given themselves to God that many more people became inspired to be courageous in defending their faith and in proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. And this includes St. Christopher Magallanes and his many companions who have suffered martyrdom for their dedication to the Lord and for their courage in standing up for their faith.

St. Christopher Magallanes was one of the many martyrs who have died remaining faithful amidst the intense anti-clerical and anti-Christian persecution conducted by the Mexican government in the early twentieth century, just slightly less than a century ago. St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions had to suffer daily harassment and attacks from all those who sought the destruction of the Church, and who targetted the priests and the leaders of the Church.

But they all remained faithful and committed to God, not allowing fear to overcome them. They continued to do what they could in being faithful to God, and for St. Christopher Magallanes and the many other holy priests and shepherds of the Lord’s suffering people to minister to the people of God. They remained firm in their conviction that God was with them, and indeed, God was by their side as they suffered and endured persecution and martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by the examples shown by our holy predecessors and commit ourselves wholeheartedly in the same way as they have done. Let us all not be disheartened and be fearful because of the persecution and the challenges we have to face, but remain firm knowing that God is always by our side. Amen.