Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of God’s amazing and most wonderful love by which He generously cared for us and provided for us and our needs. He has loved us all as a father loves all of his children, and to that extent, He has given us the assurance of true happiness and eternal joy through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Lord and Saviour.

And in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah we heard the prophecy of the coming of Christ, Who is indeed the very Word of God mentioned in that passage of the prophet Isaiah. The prophet spoke of the Lord sending His Word into the world and how the Word would not return to Him before He has done the will of His heavenly Father, which is to bring about the salvation to all peoples of all the nations. The Lord sent His Son to reveal to us His most wonderful mercy and love, and to gather us all in, as a Shepherd gathering all of the lost sheep.

And thus, we have seen the glory and love of God revealed to us through Christ, the Son of God and the Divine Word Incarnate, Who by assuming our humble human nature and existence, united us to Himself, and by sharing in our humanity, has made us all the adopted sons and daughters of God, our heavenly Father. Just as Christ is the Son of God, and as the Son of Man is like a brother to us, that we have shared in the relationship that He has with His Father in heaven, and thus, become those whom God had favoured and called to be His own ones.

And gathering us all in, the Lord Jesus also taught us what it means for us to be a true disciple and a follower of His, to be devoted to God, His laws, ways and commandments. Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and teaching them all how to pray to their heavenly Father, to the Lord, their God. This is the prayer that we now know as the Lord’s Prayer, being taught by the Lord Himself, or the Pater Noster in various languages, which means ‘Our Father’.

Through the prayer that the Lord taught us, He wanted to teach us that to pray is for us to speak, communicate and interact with our own beloved Father, the One Who had loved us so much. And the essence of prayer is one of communication and the willingness to engage in a meaningful conversation and spending time with God, to praise Him and to thank Him for all the wonderful things that He had done for us, and to seek His forgiveness for our many faults and wrongdoings.

All these were contained in the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer that is all of thanksgiving, petition, glorification of God and communication all in one. Through that prayer, the Lord Jesus wanted to teach us to pray in the right way, not to pray as if we are seeking for things to magically and miraculously happen to us by asking the Lord to do things for us. The Lord is not a miracle granter or wish granter that we can just ask for something or even worse still, demand for something.

And with this, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded and asked to reflect on our own faith and lives thus far. Have our way of life thus far been truly reflective of true Christian discipleship? Have we had a good and healthy relationship with the Lord, a regular life of prayer and constant communication with God? Or have we allowed our faith to wither and go to waste, to remain idle and lacking in genuine commitment to love the Lord?

Have we remembered God only in times of desperation and great need, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or have we consistently and constantly been making the effort to strengthen our relationship with Him through prayer and charity, by listening to Him in the depth of our hearts and in speaking to Him, to know what it is that He has been calling us to do with our lives? Today we are all called to reflect on this carefully as we discern how to move forward in life.

As we progress through the season of Lent, we have been given this excellent opportunity to reevaluate our lives and to reconsider how our way of living our Christian faith has been. Are we willing to commit ourselves anew to the Lord, by deepening our spiritual existence through prayer, through generosity and charity in all of our dealings in life? Today we are all called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Polycarp, in how he had lived his life virtuously and courageously.

St. Polycarp was one of the early Church fathers and the Bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor, renowned for his links to the early leaders of the Church such as St. John the Apostle, who was still alive during the lifetime of St. Polycarp, as well as St. Ignatius of Antioch, the successor of St. Peter in the important See of Antioch. St. Polycarp himself was also remembered for his interactions with the then Pope and Bishop of Rome, Pope St. Anicetus, for his writings and correspondences with other bishops in the region.

Then, St. Polycarp was remembered for his courageous faith and defence of his beliefs in martyrdom, when he in his old age he was martyred for refusing to offer sacrifices to the Roman Emperor under the pain of suffering and death. He remained firm and resolute in staying true to his conviction and dedication to the Lord to the very end, and his example in faith inspired many others who came after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the same courage and faith showed by St. Polycarp, in all that he had done for the sake of the Church and the faithful. Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed faith and zeal, and strive to dedicate ourselves to glorify the Lord by our lives, through our actions and deeds in life. Let us all deepen our relationship with the Lord, and let us be ever better Christians in life, making best use of this season of Lent to bring ourselves ever closer to God, to be His beloved and worthy children.

May God bless us always, and may He strengthen our faith and may He guide us all to the path to eternal life, true happiness and joy with Him. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 6 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do; for they believe that, the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask Him.”

“This, then, is how you should pray : Our Father in heaven, holy be Your Name, Your kingdom, come, Your will, be done on earth, as in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us.”

“Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.”

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 33 : 4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

The eyes of YHVH are fixed on the righteous; His ears are inclined to their cries. But His face is set against the wicked, to destroy their memory from the earth.

YHVH hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles. YHVH is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 55 : 10-11

As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My Word that goes forth out of My mouth : it will not return to Me idle, but it shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which It has been sent.