Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, we heard of the ‘farewells’ made by two different people, both following the will of God, in fulfilling their part in their calling and ministry, as both were going on to encounter great sufferings and persecutions, which eventually would lead to their respective deaths. Today we heard of the story of St. Paul who was in Ephesus just before he was to depart for Jerusalem to confront his final ministry, and we also heard about the prayer of the Lord Jesus for His disciples which He made during His last moments before He embarked on His Passion.

In our first reading today, St. Paul met with the elders and leaders of the community of the faithful in Ephesus, as he was on his way back from his extensive missionary journey towards Jerusalem, the early centre of Christendom and the capital of the Jewish people at the time. At that time, St. Paul already had received revelation from God that his journey to Jerusalem this time would be his very last one before he was to be tried for his alleged crimes and sent to Rome to appeal to the Emperor, and he would not have the chance to see the elders and the community in Ephesus again.

For someone so dedicated to the cause of the faith, filled with so much enthusiasm in preaching the Good News like that, it must have been difficult for St. Paul to say farewell to all the people, some of whom must have been known to St. Paul for many years during his almost three decades of missionary works, in which he passed through Ephesus quite a number of times. We must not forget that St. Paul also wrote Epistles or letters to the Church in Ephesus, showing that the Church there must have been close to his heart.

But St. Paul was greatly encouraged knowing and believing that God would be with all of them and ensure the continued growth of the Church there even long after he had gone and departed from this world. St. Paul therefore also prayed over the elders and the community of the faithful, praying that God would continue to guide them and remain with them through their good and bad times. And St. Paul also uttered the words to the elders in Ephesus as what he also uttered in another occasion to St. Timothy, for which he is now famous, that, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.’

Our first reading today, as well as even our Gospel today can basically be summarised by that phrase. Both St. Paul and the Lord Jesus had done wonderful works among the people, making countless people to believe in God through them, performed miracles and wonders, and brought God’s truth and salvation closer to many. And that they were both coming to the end of their earthly journey and ministry, both of them thanked God for having been with them throughout, as St. Paul thanked and praised God for His constant guidance, and the Lord Jesus also thanked His heavenly Father for the same.

And most importantly, is that both of them accepted their roles in the works of salvation and what would happen to them as God has revealed to them. St. Paul accepted his eventual martyrdom for the sake of his faith, and willingly went on to Jerusalem to accept the punishment from the Jewish authorities, for which accusations he decided to claim the right for appeal to the Emperor which led him to go to Rome, to be martyred but also with the opportunity to preach and work among the community in Rome. In the same way, the Lord Jesus also accepted the role that He had to suffer and die on the Cross for the salvation of all.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what do all these then show us? It is that as Christ’s followers and disciples, all of us must be ready to detach ourselves from worldly desires and concerns, from the attachments to worldly matters and all the things that prevent us from being able to fully give ourselves to the service and the greater glory of God. Too often we have allowed ourselves be swayed and tempted by all these worldly matters and concerns that we have ended up down the wrong path.

St. Paul could have evaded issues, troubles and sufferings by staying in Ephesus or at other places he was welcomed or having friends in, but he chose to face his challenges, departing for Jerusalem where he knew all his enemies were gathered to give witness to his faith and to proclaim the Lord to more people especially in Rome, to where God had sent him to evangelise. In the same way, the Lord Jesus could also easily have evaded His arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion, but He chose to obey the will of His Father, and devoted Himself to His Passion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what we also have to take note of, that we have to be ready to follow the Lord, to listen to Him and to trust in Him rather than to be distracted, tempted, and pulled down by various worldly desires and concerns. We have to keep our focus clear, to trust in the Lord and the path He has set before, and do our best through whatever He has given us to contribute to the greater good of the Church and for God’s greater glory.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Neri, one of the very famous saints of the Church, famously known as the Second Apostle of Rome who was remembered for his extensive works in establishing important congregations and religious orders, especially the Confraternity of the Holy Trinity and Congregation of the Oratory. St. Philip Neri himself was born into a noble and wealthy family, but he chose to abandon everything after God had called him into a life dedicated to His service.

St. Philip Neri was remembered for his great labours among the poor and the sick in the city of Rome, ministering to even prostitutes and others normally shunned by the rest of the community. All of his hard work and efforts are what made him to be called the ‘Second Apostle of Rome’ as mentioned earlier, following in the footsteps of both St. Peter and St. Paul, who went to Rome, ministered there and were eventually martyred for their faith. St. Philip Neri dedicated himself to the congregations he founded, and was remembered for his intense personal piety.

All of these inspired many others to follow his good examples, and many joined his congregations which grew rapidly and played important roles in the rejuvenation of the faith among the faithful, especially those who have lapsed from their faith. The examples of St. Philip Neri should inspire us all to follow his examples, and to live our lives from now on, following what God has called us to do, and follow Him with zeal and commitment, and with the desire to love Him more and to serve Him faithfully.

Are we willing and able to entrust ourselves to the Lord, and be ever more devoted to Him as our holy predecessors had done? We do not have to abandon the world as what St. Philip Neri had done, or to follow St. Paul into his sufferings and persecutions. Rather, what we are called to do is for us to live our lives as good and devout Christians that in everything we do in our respective areas, in whatever calling and vocations we have been called to, in our families and in our communities, we will always focus our attention on God, and that we do everything for the sake of God and following whatever He has shown and taught us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all live an ever more genuine Christian living from now on, and let us dedicate more of our time, effort and attention to walk in the path of Christ, following the inspiring examples of our Lord Himself, of St. Paul the Apostle, St. Philip Neri and many other holy saints and martyrs of God. May God be with us always throughout this journey of faith in life, and may He strengthen us all that we may follow Him wholeheartedly. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 1-11a

At that time, after Jesus said all that He had said to His disciples, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to Your Son, that the Son may give glory to You. You have given Him power over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to all those You entrusted to Him. For this is eternal life : to know You, the only true God, and the One You sent, Jesus Christ.”

“I have glorified You on earth and finished the work that You gave Me to do. Now, Father, give Me, in Your presence, the same glory I had with You before the world began. I have made Your Name known to those You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they kept Your word. And now they know that whatever You entrusted to Me, is indeed from You.”

“I have given them the teaching I received from You, and they received it, and know in truth that I came from You; and they believe that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those who belong to You, and whom You have given to Me. Indeed all I have is Yours and all You have is Mine; and now they are My glory.”

“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I come to You.”

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 67 : 10-11, 20-21

Then You gave a rain of blessings to comfort Your weary children. Your people found a dwelling and in Your mercy, o God, You provided for the needy.

Blessed be the Lord, God our Saviour, Who daily bears our burdens! Ours is a God Who saves; our Lord lets us escape from death.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 20 : 17-27

From Miletus Paul sent word to Ephesus, summoning the elders of the Church. When they came to him, he addressed them, “You know how I lived among you from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, how I served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that the Jews caused me.”

“You know that I never held back from doing anything that could be useful for you; I spoke publicly and in your homes, and I urged Jews and non-Jews alike to turn to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.”

“But now I am going to Jerusalem, chained by the Spirit, without knowing what will happen to me there. Yet in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that imprisonment and troubles await me. Indeed I put no value on my life, if only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, to announce the Good News of God’s grace.”

“I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom of God will ever see me again. Therefore I declare to you this day that my conscience is clear with regard to all of you. For I have spared no effort in fully declaring to you God’s will.”

Monday, 25 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture through which we are told of the revelations of God’s love and truth to us all, to remind us during this season of Easter how we are always blessed to have God Who dearly loves each and every one of us without exception. God has blessed us with such a great love for each and every moments of our lives, and even more importantly, He has saved us and gave us the reassurance of eternal life and glory through Him.

In our first reading today, we heard of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that was given by St. Paul to some of the people who have believed in the Lord and yet they had not yet received the baptism into the faith according to the teachings of the Church. In that occasion, the people who have believed in God and accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour received the Holy Spirit by the laying of the hands by the Apostle, completing their journey of initiation into the faith.

This was a time at the very early days and beginnings of the Church, when there had not been much of an established framework and structure of the Church and Christian hierarchy yet. That was a time when the faith rapidly spread all across the Mediterranean world and beyond, brought by the Apostles and their fellow missionaries, those who have been sent out and empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the truth of God to the many people of many nations.

But there were those like Apollos, although courageous and very charismatic, yet he had not had full and proper understanding of the Christian faith. It was likely Apollos who had revealed his then partial understanding of the Christian faith to the people in Ephesus earlier on. Apollos would later on receive help from some among the faithful who taught him more about the Christian faith, and Apollos went on with ever greater commitment to his ministry than before.

Thanks to the combined efforts of all these faithful servants of God, many became believers and came to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and God. They trusted in the Lord and despite the trials and challenges they had to encounter, they placed their hope with God, as per what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, entrusting themselves to the One Who had overcome the world and has shown them the path to eternal life and glory through Him.

All of us have therefore received our faith through them, passed down to us through countless generations of brave and courageous predecessors, missionaries and all those who have heard and known of the Lord’s love, and show that same love in their own actions, words and deeds, convincing one another to remain faithful in this loving and compassionate God. And today, we have even more of these good examples and inspirations of our faith to follow.

St. Bede the Venerable, a renowned early English saint, was one of the most famous saints of the Middle Ages, and he was known for his extensive works and dedication to Christian learning, history and knowledge. He wrote many great works and wonderful tomes that were revolutionary for his time and were widely read many years afterwards. His piety and devotion to God was also well-known, and his works inspired many generations of Christian intellectuals and saints in the years after his life.

Meanwhile, Pope St. Gregory VII was one of the great Popes of the Middle Ages, who was a great reformer of the Church and the faith, well-known especially for his crucial role in the Investiture Controversy or the conflict between the Church and the secular authority of the Holy Roman Empire and its Emperor. At that time, the tension and conflict between the Pope and the supreme secular authority in Christendom, that is the Holy Roman Emperor was peaking, and the Emperor claimed the rights to appoint the bishops and leaders of the Church in his realm.

But Pope St. Gregory VII stood up against the Emperor and his many supporters, and he opposed the efforts of those who wanted to put the Church under their authority and power. He also was instrumental in reforming the Church and the corrupt and immoral practices of the Church at the time, purifying the institution of priesthood and restoring the discipline of the clergy among many other reforms he made. He encountered various opposition and difficulties, but that did not stop him from doing his best and dedicating himself to serve God.

And lastly, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a Carmelite nun and mystic, who had devoted herself to God from a very young age, and was renowned for her great faith and commitment, joining the religious life and received from God visions that what made her well-known as a pious and devoted servant of God. She dedicated herself to God to the very last moments of her life, and her dedication inspired many others to be faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard from the wonderful story and testimonies of these faithful saints, now, are we all more convinced to lead a life more attuned to God? Are we more willing to commit ourselves to God from now on? God has given us all these wonderful people throughout the ages who dedicated themselves to Him and therefore brought so many people including we ourselves to Him and to salvation in Him. It is now our turn to commit ourselves for the good of the Church and all people.

May the Lord help us and give us the strength and courage to live faithfully, with ever more devotion, with each and every passing moments, that we may dedicate ourselves much as the Apostles had, and as St. Bede the Venerable, Pope St. Gregory VII and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, and innumerable other saints had done with theirs. May the Lord bless us all, now and always in our every good works. Amen.