Wednesday, 13 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the thirteenth day of May we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, in commemoration of the very first Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the place known as Fatima in the countryside and remote place of Portugal near the city of Leiria. At that time, in the year of Our Lord 1917 was the third year of the First World War, or what was then known as the Great War. At that time, the War has raged on for three long years and many millions had perished in the battlefield, while many millions more were suffering from poverty, unemployment, hunger and famines, diseases among many others.

Then, on that one fine day, the thirteenth of May of that year, as three young shepherd children were walking in the fields, they saw the Apparition of a beautiful Lady which seemed to be a truly supernatural experience for them. Prior to this, they had also received three apparitions from the Angels of God, who had taught them several prayers and revealed some things to them. But beginning from the thirteenth of May, the Blessed Virgin Mother of God herself appeared to the three children.

Mary, later to be known as Our Lady of Fatima in honour of her apparition spoke to the three children and revealed to them the urging for everyone to pray the Holy Rosary and also devotion in order to bring an end of the Great War and also restore peace to the whole world. There had been too many conflicts and bitterness among men, and there had been way too many deaths. There had been too many tragedies and enmities among men. And there would be even more in the years and decades to come after that moment.

That was perhaps why Mary chose to appear to the three children of Fatima, St. Jacinta Marto and St. Francisco Marto, and Servant of God Lucia dos Santos. She appeared to them at that most difficult of moments to remind us all mankind that God would not abandon us all in our time of greatest need. And she herself appeared as a reassuring and loving Mother to calm us all down, and to help show us the way out of the darkness and into the salvation and liberation through her Son.

Our Lady of Fatima appeared every month, on the thirteenth of the month with the message calling on all people to be devoted once again to God and to turn away from their sinful ways, and in particular to pray the Holy Rosary devotion to help to bring peace and to seek God’s loving intervention and grace to turn away our misfortunes and to drive away all the darkness and destruction from the world. Our Lady of Fatima called the faithful to repent from their sins and to be devoted once again to God.

Many people came to believe in the words of the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin, and many would come to see the Apparition every month, led by the three children of Fatima. Soon, a crowd of hundreds and then thousands of people flocked to the Leiria and Fatima region, and the devotion quickly spread and became known. Eventually this would culminate in the great ‘Miracle of the Sun’ which happened at the last Apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, and was witnessed by tens of thousands of people.

Among the messages and revelations of Our Lady of Fatima was the renowned ‘Secrets of Fatima’, one of which involved the Consecration of Russia to the Blessed Virgin, as well as the prophetic revelation of how Pope St. John Paul II was almost assassinated over six decades later on the exact date of the first Fatima Apparitions, namely the thirteenth day of May. Through all these, the Blessed Mother of God wanted to reach out to all of us her children, out of her love and concern for us.

Through these revelations, Our Lady of Fatima revealed the bitter sorrow that we the faithful and the world had to face, just as the great scourge of Communism would rise in Russia in that very year, and gripped the whole world many tragedies that lasted many decades as Communism spread all around the world and led to many persecutions of Christians under their care. Many people suffered and had to practice their faith in hiding, evading the authorities and many were martyred as well.

Now that all these tragedies, challenges and difficulties encountered by many of our predecessors in the past century had become part of history, we are called then to turn towards the Lord once again through the guidance of His Mother Mary, Our Lady of Fatima. During the first five months in this year alone, we have encountered so many troubles and difficulties from all directions, particularly the still terrible coronavirus pandemic that is still raging all around the world.

At the time of the Great War, just not long after the Apparition of Fatima, one of the most deadly pandemics in the history of the world struck, caused by the influenza virus and known as the ‘Spanish Flu’, which ended up causing tens of millions of deaths during its more than two years of spread worldwide. Although comparatively the impact of the current coronavirus pandemic seemed to be much milder due to our vastly improved medical facilities and technologies, but people still died from the current pandemic and many more are suffering.

And this is coupled with all the other troubles, natural disasters like floods, volcanic eruptions among others, as well as other forms of difficulties that had come all around many communities. We certainly have heard how there are many people out there who are struggling to keep themselves, their families and their loved ones supported and afloat. Many of them had even lost their jobs or received temporary suspension of their work and pay, or being given significant pay cuts that made it difficult for them to take care of their families sufficiently.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is now that we are called to remember again the words of Our Lady of Fatima, calling on all of us to pray more fervently and be more devoted at all times. Amidst the difficulties and challenges we are probably facing and enduring right now, let us all have more faith in God, trust in Him more and worry less about many things in our lives that are beyond our control. Let us entrust ourselves to the Lord through His Mother Mary, Our Lady of Fatima.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all pray the Holy Rosary especially during this blessed month of May, the month of the Holy Rosary, following what Our Lady of Fatima herself had told us through the three children of Fatima. Let us all pray fervently and inspire one another to pray, that God, in His mercy, may be moved to help us and deliver us from our troubles. Let us all be hopeful in Him that as long as we have faith in Him, we have no need to fear anything, be it the terrible pandemic or anything. Instead, let us all live our lives to the fullest and exercise Christian virtues and charity wherever and whenever we can.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He, through the intercession of His Mother Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, deliver us all from our darkness and troubles, and lead us into a new light and a new existence in His love. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima (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.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Fatima)

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Wednesday, 13 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima (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.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Fatima)

Psalm 44 : 11-12, 14-15, 16-17

Listen, o daughter, pay attention; forget your father’s house and your nation, and your beauty will charm the King, for He is your Lord.

All glorious as she enters is the princess in her gold-woven robes. She is led in royal attire to the King, following behind is her train of virgins.

Amid cheers and general rejoicing, they enter the palace of the King. Forget your fathers and think of your sons, you will make them princes throughout the land.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima (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.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Fatima)

Isaiah 61 : 9-11

Their descendants shall be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a race YHVH has blessed.

I rejoice greatly in YHVH, my soul exults for joy in my God, for He has clothed me in the garments of His salvation, He has covered me with the robe of His righteousness, like a bridegroom wearing a garland, like a bride adorned with jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its growth, and as a garden makes seeds spring up, so will the Lord YHVH make justice and praise spring up in the sight of all nations.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs and St. Pancras, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard of the promises of the Lord reassuring all of His disciples and therefore all of us His faithful ones that He will always be with us and will be faithful to the Covenant He has established with us and our ancestors. And this is indeed a very important and powerful reminder for each and every one of us as at the same time we are also reminded that being Christians will likely lead us down the path of many challenges to come, if we have not already experienced them.

In our first reading today, we heard how the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas encountered trouble during their missionary journey, as they were harassed and attacked by the Jewish people from Antioch and Iconium who incited the pagans and Gentiles to attack the two Apostles as well which resulted in both of them almost being killed by the masses. Thankfully by God’s providence and protection, the two of them managed to survive and they went on to another place.

Yet, that did not dampen their spirit and they remained firm in their commitment to serve God. If we noticed carefully, as both St. Paul and St. Barnabas went back towards Antioch, one of the important early centres of Christianity, they passed through the same city of Lystra and Iconium, where they had encountered troubles with the Jews and others who had almost persecuted them to death just earlier on. And in Antioch itself there had been many other forms of difficulties the Christians had encountered, just as how it was in Judea and Jerusalem.

Many among the faithful had suffered greatly because of their faith in Christ, either because they encountered stiff opposition and anger from some among the Jewish communities as well as from the Jewish authorities, some of whom were very strongly and ardently opposed to the Lord Jesus, His Way, ministry and teachings. In addition, they also encountered challenges from the pagans especially the pagan priests and ardent worshippers who saw the Christian faith as dangerous threat to their own popularity, authority, way of life and their pagan deities.

And to the Romans, who were the rulers and overlords of much of the known world and the Mediterranean region then, the rapid growth of Christianity were also often viewed with much suspicion and distrust, as the Romans also tended to group the Christians, especially during its earliest days with the Jews, whose rebellious ways and growing tensions almost resulted in uprisings and open rebellions during the earliest days of the Church. It was amidst all of these challenges and trials that the early Christians lived and professed their faith in God.

The Apostles strengthened and encouraged the resolve and faith of the people of God as mentioned in our first reading today, by reminding all of them of God’s providence and love, His faithfulness and commitment to the Covenant and the promises He had made with all of them. The Apostles encouraged the people of God and reassured them with the same reassurance from the Lord than even though they might be suffering the effects of the rejection and persecutions of the world, but the Lord was always with them and He would guide them through all the way.

And this was how so many courageous saints and martyrs came to be throughout the long history of the Church especially during times and moments of great persecutions. And today alone we are celebrating the feast of three of these great servants of God, who have all suffered martyrdom for their faith. They are St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, as well as St. Pancras, all the martyrs of the Lord from the earlier years and time in the Church.

St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were servants of a niece of the Roman Emperor Domitian, one of the early Roman Emperors, during whose reign the Apostle St. John wrote the Book of Revelations during his exile at the island of Patmos. St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were secret Christians who were probably persecuted by the early Christian persecution especially during the reign of that Emperor Domitian, who after Nero was the second Emperor to carry out harsh persecution against Christians. Those two faithful followers of God suffered and were martyred.

Meanwhile, St. Pancras, also known as St. Pancras of Rome was a young Christian man who was martyred under the reign of another Roman Emperor who was notorious for his particularly harsh and terrible persecution of Christians, namely Emperor Diocletian. He was forced to offer sacrifices to the Roman pagan gods and to the Emperor, then treated as if equal to the pagan deities, but St. Pancras, who was still just a teenager then, refused to do so.

The Emperor was really impressed with the courage and dedication showed by St. Pancras that he promised the teenager a lot of wealth and power if he would only abandon his faith in God. But St. Pancras still remained firm in his faith and would not be swayed or tempted by the Emperor’s offers, and in the end, he was also martyred by beheading, a true Christian and a devout son of God to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what all these three saints and martyrs had shown us is that suffering and persecution in some form will be inevitable in our journey and life. However, we must not lose faith or focus, and we must always remember that God is always by our side, protecting us, providing us with our needs among other things. That was how those faithful servants of God remained firm in their faith despite the challenges and sufferings that they had to face.

Let us all be inspired by their examples, their great courage and faith, and let us all be more committed and faithful in following the Lord from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us to be ever stronger in our piety and desire to love Him with all of our hearts, now and forevermore. Amen.