Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise YHVH, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 3-16

Paul spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here, in this city, where I was educated in the school of Gamaliel, according to the strict observance of our law. And I was dedicated to God’s service, as are all of you today. As for this Way, I persecuted it to the point of death and arrested its followers, both men and women, throwing them into prison.”

“The High Priest and the whole Council of elders can bear witness to this. From them, I received letters for the Jewish brothers in Damascus; and I set out to arrest those who were there, and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But, as I was travelling along, nearing Damascus, at about noon, a great light from the sky suddenly flashed about me.”

“I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me : ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me : ‘I am Jesus, the Nazorean, Whom you persecute.’ The men who were with me saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of the One Who was speaking to me. I asked : ‘What shall I do, Lord?’”

“And the Lord replied : ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there, you will be told all that you are destined to do.’ Yet, the brightness of that light had blinded me; and so, I was led by the hand into Damascus by my companions. There, a certain Ananias came to me. He was a devout observer of the law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who were living there.”

“As he stood by me, he said : ‘Brother Saul, recover your sight.’ At that moment, I could see; and I looked at him. He, then, said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know His will, to see the Just One, and to hear the words from His mouth. From now on, you shall be His witness before all the pagan people, and tell them all that you have seen and heard.’”

“‘And now, why delay? Get up and be baptised, and have your sins washed away, by calling upon His Name.’”

Alternative reading

Acts 9 : 1-22

Meanwhile, Saul considered nothing but violence and death for the disciples of the Lord. He went to the High Priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus that would authorise him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem, anyone he might find, man or woman, belonging to the Way.

As he travelled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute Me?” And he asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus, Whom you persecute. Now, get up, and go into the city; there, you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were travelling with him stood there speechless : they had heard the sound, but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground and, opening his eyes, he could not see. They took him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. He was blind; and he did not eat or drink for three days.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, to whom the Lord called in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Here I am, Lord!” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, at once, to Straight Street and ask, at the house of Judas, for a man of Tarsus named Saul. You will find him praying, for he has just seen in a vision that a man named Ananias has come in and placed his hands upon him, to restore his sight.”

Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, and all the harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem; and now, he is here, with authority from the High Priest, to arrest all who call upon Your Name.”

But the Lord said to him, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument, to bring My Name to the pagan nations and their kings, and the people of Israel as well. I, Myself, will show him how much he will have to suffer for My Name.”

So Ananias left and went to the house. He laid his hands upon Saul and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you, so that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see; he got up and was baptised. Then he took food and was strengthened.

For several days Saul stayed with the disciples at Damascus, and he soon began to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. All who heard were astonished and said, “Is this not the one who cast out, in Jerusalem, all those calling upon this Name? Did he not come here, to bring them bound before the chief priests?”

But Saul grew more and more powerful; and he confounded the Jews living in Damascus when he proved that Jesus was the Messiah.

Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the great story of the moment when David, chosen to be the king of Israel by God and anointed by the prophet Samuel, refused to take the excellent chance and opportunity to strike at Saul, his predecessor who have fallen from grace and yet, as David rightfully mentioned, Saul was still the anointed king of Israel.

Although all the men who were accompanying David persuaded, begged and kept asking David to strike at Saul when he was at his most vulnerable in that cave when Saul came into the cave and rested, not knowing that David and his men were also inside, but David firmly refused to do so. Although those who accompanied David even persuaded him by saying that God had brought Saul into his hands and gave him the opportunity to kill Saul there and then, but David still firmly refused to lay a finger on Saul.

Saul had indeed been affected and tempted by the evil spirits and the devil himself as he felt insecure, angry and jealous at David, plotting to have him killed and destroyed to avoid this upstart to threaten his own authority and kingship. But David would not allow himself to be affected in the same manner, the same trick by which the devil definitely tried to bring down David as well.

David did not allow his pride and his desire to overcome his faith in God, his righteousness and commitment to do what God has shown him to do. He remained steadfast although it must have indeed been hard to resist such a powerful temptation right there and then with so many pressing and persuading him to kill Saul and be freed from everything that he has been suffering from that time.

Yes, we must not forget that it was because of Saul that David had to become a fugitive, running from place to place and living in the wilderness, even having to resort to flee to the territory of the Philistines with some of his followers just that he might escape from Saul and his wrath against him. He was also a rightfully anointed king as Saul was, and had he killed Saul then, he would have no issue in getting the legitimate claim over the kingship of Israel. But then, if he had done so, he would have sinned and stained his life with Saul’s blood.

David gave us a very good example of what we should do as a follower of Christ. As a follower of the Lord, we have been called as Christ called and chosen His Apostles in our Gospel passage today. And we should put God above all else, obeying Him and listening to Him, doing His good works and whatever it is that He has entrusted to us to do. David has done this well, resisting the temptations to fulfil his desires and satisfy his own personal vendetta and agenda.

It is something that we will likely encounter in our lives as well, the moments when we will be tempted to follow our own desires rather than to obey the Lord. Are we able to resist those temptations and do what king David had once done? Let us also not forget how the Apostles of the Lord were surely faced the same temptations, that eventually they fell too into those temptations, one of them betraying the Lord for money, that is Judas Iscariot, while others abandoned Him in the hour of His greatest agony and misery.

Yet, in the end, except for Judas Iscariot, all the rest remained true to their faith and almost all of them gave their lives to the Lord in martyrdom during their many years of ministry in establishing the Church of God. They put God and His greater glory ahead of their own desires and pride, as King David did. And today, we have yet another one of our holy predecessors whose memory we venerate, that is St. Francis de Sales, a holy bishop and a Doctor of the Church.

St. Francis de Sales was renowned for his role as the Bishop of Geneva in what is now present day Switzerland, at the height of the Protestant reformation, when many of the people left the Church for various heretical and dissident leaders who persuaded them to follow their ideas instead of the truth in the Church. St. Francis de Sales was a great preacher and teacher, and he ministered in that area with great patience and love, facing lots of trials and difficulties as most of the people were not initially interested in what he came to offer.

From the earlier days of his ministry prior to his time in Geneva, St. Francis de Sales had seen how the deteriorating morale and faith among the rulers and the people contributed to the decline in the quality of faith and life, and subsequently leading to further divisions and misunderstandings within the Church. And this is why St. Francis de Sales worked so hard in trying to evangelise with love and compassion as he carried on his missions, first as priest and then as the Bishop of Geneva.

St. Francis de Sales faced much opposition, persecution, challenges and threats during the duration of his ministry, but all these did not dim his passion in reaching out to God’s people including all those who were opposing and rejected him. He preaches with love and care for all those whom he reached out to, as was his motto, ‘those who preach with love, preach effectively’. His care, understanding and mild-mannered behaviour were remembered by many who were touched by his dedication and passion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as St. Francis de Sales and his life example has shown us, it is indeed not going to be easy to be a faithful disciple and follower of Christ. But we must persevere and put our trust in God for He will definitely not abandon us and will always be with us no matter what. Let us follow then the good examples of king David and St. Francis de Sales, in serving the Lord with all of their hearts and strength and not allowing their pride and desire to interfere as they lived their lives with faith.

May the Lord continue to guide us all through our respective journeys of faith and life, and may through the intercessions of His servants, king David and St. Francis de Sales, all of us may be inspired to live ever more faithfully and be more dedicated in serving Him and in resisting the many temptations present in this world. May the Lord bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed Twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘Apostles.’ He wanted to send them out to preach; and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 56 : 2, 3-4, 6 and 11

Have mercy on me, o God, have mercy; for my soul takes refuge in You; I will find shelter in the shadow of Your wings, till the disaster has passed.

I call on God the Most High; on God, Who has done everything for me : may He send from heaven, a Saviour, and put my oppressors to shame. May God send me His love and faithfulness.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Your glory be over all the earth! For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Friday, 24 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Samuel 24 : 3-21

So Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel and went in search of David and his men to the east of the Wild Goat crags. When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he entered a cave to relieve himself.

Now David and his men were far back in the cave. David’s men said to him, “This is the day which YHVH spoke of : ‘Look I will deliver your enemy into your hands and you will do with him as you see fit.’” So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David regretted having cut off an end of Saul’s robe, and he said to his men, “Let me not lay my hands on my master, for he is YHVH’s anointed.”

With these words, David restrained his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way. Then David himself stepped out of the cave and called after Saul, “My master, the king!” When Saul looked back, David knelt and then bowed to the ground in homage and asked him, “Why do you listen to those who say that I want to harm you?”

“Look, today you have seen that YHVH delivered you into my hands in the cave. I was told to kill you but I held myself back and said : ‘I will not lift my hands against my master who is YHVH’s anointed.’ My father, look at this end of your robe which I am holding! I cut off the end of your robe but did not kill you.”

“Now you may know that I mean you no harm or treason. I have done you no wrong and yet you are hunting me down to kill me. May YHVH be judge between you and me; and may He exact justice from you in my case. But I shall do you no harm. As the saying goes, ‘From the wicked comes wickedness’; as for me, my hand shall not harm you.”

“But who is it you are after, o king of Israel? Are you pursuing a dead dog? A flea? May YHVH be Judge between you and me. May He see and uphold my cause and deliver me from your hands.”

After David had spoken these words, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, my son David?” He wept aloud and said to David, “You are right and I am wrong, for you have repaid with kindness the harm I have inflicted on you. This day you have shown your righteousness to me by not taking my life when YHVH put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go unharmed?”

“May YHVH reward you for what you have done for me today. Now I know for certain that you shall reign and the kingdom of Israel will be firm in your hand.”