Thursday, 3 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 28b-34

At that time, a teacher of the Law came up and asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is : Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God, is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the Law said to Him, “Well spoken, Master; You are right when You say that He is One, and there is no other besides Him. To love Him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.”

Jesus approved of this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.

Thursday, 3 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear the Lord and walk in His ways. You will eat fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Thursday, 3 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Tobit 6 : 10-11 and Tobit 7 : 1, 9-17 and Tobit 8 : 4-9a

When Tobit and Raphael had entered Media and were already approaching Ecbatana, Raphael said to Tobias, “Friend, we shall spend the night at the house of Ragouel. He is a relative of yours. He has no son, just an only daughter called Sara.

When they arrived in Ecbatana Tobias said to Raphael, “Friend Azarias, take me straightaway to our friend Ragouel.” So Raphael led Tobias to Ragouel’s house and they found Ragouel sitting by the door of the courtyard. They killed a sheep and served them numerous dishes.

After they had bathed and washed, as they were relaxing before the meal, Tobias said to Raphael, “Friend Azarias, tell Ragouel to give me Sara my kinswoman. Talk about what you were saying during our journey, that the matter may come about and be accomplished.”

Ragouel overheard the conversation and he said to Tobias, “Eat, drink and be merry tonight. You are the man who has most right to take Sara my daughter because you are my kinsman. Indeed it is impossible for me to give her to any other man but you, because you are my closest relative. But, my son, I must tell you the whole story. I gave her to seven husbands from among our kinsmen. They each died on the wedding night. But, for the moment, my son, eat and drink and the Lord will arrange things for you.”

Tobias said, “I shall eat nothing if you do not stop now and bring this matter to a conclusion.” Ragouel said to Tobias, “Take her from now on; I give her to you according to the Law of Moses and you have to understand that God Himself gives her to you. Receive your kinswoman, from now on you are her brother and she is your sister. She is yours from today and forever. Now God will bless you this night and may He give you both His mercy and peace.”

He called his daughter Sara and taking her by the hand, he gave her to Tobias as his wife. He said, “According to Moses’ Law, take her now and bring her to your father’s house.” And he blessed them. Ragouel then called Edna his wife; taking a sheet of parchment, he wrote down a matrimonial contract and they both affixed their seals.

Then they all began to eat. Ragouel called his wife and said to her, “My sister, prepare the other room and take Sara there.” Edna did as Ragouel told her and she took Sara to this room and Sara began to cry. Edna dried her daughter’s tears and said, “Have courage, my child, the God of heaven and earth will change your sorrow into joy. Have confidence, my daughter!”

When Sara’s parents had left the room and closed the door, Tobias got up from the bed and said to Sara, “Get up, my sister, and let us ask the Lord to have mercy on us and save us.” She got up and they began to pray, asking that they be given life. Tobias began like this, “May You be blessed, o Lord God of our fathers, and may Your holy and glorious Name be blessed forever. May the heavens and all creatures bless You. You created Adam and You gave him Eve, his wife, as a helper and companion, so that from these two the human race might be born.”

“You said : ‘It is not good that man should be alone, let Us give him a companion who is like himself.’ Now, Lord, I take my sister to myself in sincerity and love, not merely seeking pleasure. Have mercy on us and grant us a long life together.” Together they said, “Amen,” and returned to bed for the night.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture through which we are reminded of the powerful deeds of the Lord in saving His people as He heard the prayers of His faithful ones in distress, that of Tobit the righteous Israelite who suffered from blindness and other personal matters as well as Sara, the distressed daughter who was beset by a powerful demon. Both Tobit and Sara prayed to the Lord and sought His help in their most vulnerable moments.

And God answered them by sending one of His Archangels, Raphael into the world to help both of them and to show all of us the love He has for each and every one of us, as well as the guidance and providence that He has shown to us all along the way. Through the Archangel Raphael, God eventually rescued Tobit and healed his eyesight, while sending his son Tobias with Raphael to visit the family of Sara, who was the daughter of Tobit’s friend, Raguel. Raphael would then free Sara from the bondage by the evil spirit and deliver her from her troubles.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we listened to the story of the Lord and His confrontation with the Sadducees, who tried to question Him on the matter of the resurrection of the dead, which they staunchly refused to believe in, as part of their beliefs. The Sadducees were the powerful members of the Jewish community who held positions of great influence and belonging to the more secular and irreligious segments of the community. They were especially at odds with the Pharisees who were the spiritual guides of the community.

To a great extent, the Sadducees and their aversion to anything spiritual extended to their refusal to accept any form of life or existence after death, that there can be no resurrection of the dead, and they also refused to believe in spiritual beings such as Angels and spirits, which means that they really saw the worldly life and existence they had there and then as the only sole existence. As such, many of them tended to live in a hedonistic and worldly manner, swayed by their desires and temptations.

And they probably also referred to the case of Sara in the Scriptures, when they asked the Lord regarding the matter of resurrection from the dead, as Sara was already married to seven husbands before she met Tobias and Raphael, and all of the seven husbands had been killed by the demon Asmodeus who made her suffer. They used this example to highlight the question on who then the woman would have been legally married to in the afterlife, in the life after the resurrection since she had been married to all the seven husbands in the world, and then later on would also marry Tobias, the son of Tobit after she was freed from the demon.

Instead, the Lord said to all of them that their understanding of the Lord and the faith was flawed, and they were too fixated on worldly matters that they failed to understand what the life that is to come is all about. Indeed, in truth, they had also failed to appreciate what life is all about. They saw life from the perspective of worldly desires and wants, of human ambition and pride. This is why they failed to realise that their lives were not just about themselves or their own desires, but instead all are for the sake of glorifying God. In the world that is to come, everyone will be free of their corruption of sin, and will be in perfect harmony in God, where little desires for pleasures and worldly things no longer have meaning.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that without Christ and without the Lord’s guidance and providence, without His strength and grace, we are really nothing. We are great and wonderful because we have God by our side, and all that we are, we owe it to the Lord, Who is always constantly by our side, as He constantly sends out His Angels and Archangels, all of His forces to be by our side and to safeguard and protect us, even when we cannot see them directly. The example of how the Archangel Raphael appeared to Tobias and helped him and Tobit and Sara showed us that God is always with us, and the views of the Sadducees were wrong.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of the holy saints and martyrs, St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, both of whom according to the Church and martyr tradition were servants of God, a priest and an exorcist who were beheaded for their faith during the intense anti-Christian persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. They remained faithful to the Lord and were committed to the mission that they had been entrusted with as servants of God, which was likely also how they ended up in martyrdom, arrested and then put to death because they refused to abandon or reject their faith in God.

Had they not believed in the Lord, in the resurrection from the dead and eternal glory that they have been assured with through their faith, they would not have been willing to suffer so grievously and to die for their faith. The Sadducees would have viewed their suffering and death as stupidity and folly, but that was because they themselves failed to see the truth and they were too engrossed in their own selfish desires to understand God’s truth and His intentions. St. Marcellinus and St. Peter through their courageous lives and martyrdom strengthened the faith of many of their fellow brothers and sisters, and many others afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Do we trust in the Lord as our holy predecessors had done? Do we have the faith and are we able to commit ourselves knowing that God is always with us and He will always provide for us, for His faithful ones. If we are suffering now and are in difficulty, as Tobit and Sara had suffered, then we should seek the Lord and bring up our prayers to Him. God knows what we need, and sometimes we have to be patient, and persevere, as in the end, no matter what happens, God’s will shall be done, and we will triumph with Him. The outcome may not be according to what we want, but that is because God has a better plan for us.

Let us all turn towards the Lord with a renewed faith, and let us all seek Him with ever greater conviction and love Him more and more with each and every passing moments. May the Lord empower us with hope and strength, that we may always hold onto Him and remain strong in our devotion, regardless of the challenges we face through life. St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, holy martyrs and servants of God, pray for us! Amen.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 12 : 18-27

At that time, the Sadducees also came to Jesus. Since they claim that there is no resurrection, they questioned Him in this way, “Master, in the Scriptures Moses gave us this law : if anyone dies and leaves a wife but no children, his brother must take the woman, and with her have a baby, who will be considered the child of his deceased brother.”

“Now, there were seven brothers. The first married a wife, but he died without leaving any children. The second took the wife, and he also died leaving no children. The same thing happened to the third. In fact, all seven brothers died, leaving no children. Last of all the women died. Now, in the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife? For all seven brothers had her as wife.”

Jesus replied, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry, but are like the Angels in heaven. Now, about the resurrection of the dead, have you never had thoughts about the burning bush in the book of Moses?”

“God said to Moses : I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is the God not of the dead but of the living. You are totally wrong.”

Wednesday, 2 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 24 : 2-3, 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

In You my God I trust; let me not be put to shame, let not my enemies exult over me. Those who hope in You will never be humbled; those who turn away from You will suffer disgrace!

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Tobit 3 : 1-11a, 16-17a

Distressed, I wept and prayed and expressing my sorrow, I said, “You are just, o Lord; all Your actions and all Your ways are merciful and just; Your judgments are always true and just. Remember me, Lord, and look on me. Do not punish me for my sins nor for the wrongs I have committed through ignorance.”

“Pardon the sins which my fathers have committed in Your sight, for they disobeyed Your commandments. You have allowed us to suffer pillage, captivity and death. You have allowed us to be mocked by all the pagan nations among whom we have been dispersed.”

“Ah well! All Your judgments are just when You choose to punish me for my sins and those of my fathers, because we have not accomplished Your will, nor have we sincerely obeyed Your commands. We have not walked before You in truth. Do with me as You will. Order my life taken from me, and turn me into dust, because I prefer death to life. In this way free me and let me return to dust.”

“It is better for me to die than to live, because these unjust reproaches have caused me great distress. Command that I be now released from trials, and let me enter my eternal dwelling place. Do not turn Your face away from me.”

That same day, at Ecbatana in Media, Sara, the daughter of Ragouel, was insulted in a similar way by her father’s young maidservants. Sara had had seven husbands, but the demon Asmodeus had killed each one of them before the marriage had been consummated.

The maidservants said, “It was you who killed your husbands. You have had seven husbands and you have not enjoyed marital relationship with any of them. Why do you punish us? Since they are dead, go and join them. May we never see a son or daughter of yours!”

That same day Sara was so distressed in mind that she went to the upper room in her father’s house. She wished to hang herself. But she thought better of it and said : “If people ever reproached my father and said to him : ‘You had an only daughter whom you cherished and she hanged herself because she was unhappy,’ I would cause my father in his old age to die of grief. It is better for me not to hang myself but to ask the Lord that I may die and not live to hear any more insults.”

At that moment she stretched forth her hands towards the window and prayed. The Lord in His glory heard the prayer of Tobit and Sara and He sent Raphael to heal them both – to give back his sight to Tobit and to give Sara, the daughter of Ragouel, to Tobit’s son Tobias, as his wife.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to dedicate ourselves to the Lord while doing what is right and required according to the laws and requirements of the nations and the states of this world that each one of us belong to. As good Christians of course first and foremost we must obey the Lord and devote ourselves to Him in all things, but at the same time, as far as possible and so long as it does not contradict our faith in God, then we must also obey the laws of the land.

In our Gospel passage this was summarised well as we heard the Lord speaking to the chief priests and the Pharisees who wanted to trap Him with His own words and responses to their queries, with regards to the matter of paying the taxes due to the Romans. At that time, the Romans were the rulers and the overlords of the land, including that of the Jewish state and territories throughout Judea and Galilee, and taxes is an important sign of control as well as submission to the Roman rule.

Naturally, many among the Jews resented the imposition of taxes as they did not want to be ruled by the Romans, regardless of what benefits that had brought them. They wanted to be free and this led to efforts to free the land from Roman rule, even through the use of force and struggle as done by the Zealots and other extremist freedom fighters at the time. If the Lord had told the chief priests to pay the taxes to the Romans, then the latter could have undermined the Lord’s authority and credibility by portraying Him as a traitor to the people and country.

On the other hand, had the Lord told the chief priests that the people should not pay any taxes, then immediately the latter could have then handed Him to the Romans for inducing a sedition and treasonous action among the people by refusing to pay the obligatory Roman taxes. The Romans took any attempt at betrayal and treason very seriously, and throughout its earlier history, they had treated treason as very grave threat and crime against the state punishable by death. This is what the Lord eventually suffered as the chief priests later on would hand Him over to the Romans with the false accusation that Jesus wanted to proclaim Himself King of the Jews.

Hence, the Lord then wisely answered the queries of the chief priests by saying that one ought to give to God what belongs to God and then give to man and country what belongs to those. And this is the truth that cannot be refuted by any of those who tried to accuse the Lord wrongly, as when one paid their taxes, they did so with the coins issued by the Romans, stamped with the image of the Emperor. As such, those coins did belong to the state and the Emperor, just as our own modern day currency also belong to the state, and in fact in a lot of places, it is illegal to deface or damage a piece of currency be it a paper money or coinage.

Meanwhile, what does it mean by giving to God what belongs to God? It means that we ought to give of ourselves, dedicating our own time, effort and attention to the Lord. Why is that so? That is because we are all God’s own people, His own beloved ones, and we all belong to Him. Hence, it is only right that we give ourselves to God wholeheartedly and commit ourselves to Him thoroughly, as best as we are able to, in every moment and at all times.

This is therefore what we are all challenged to do as Christians, to be faithful and obedient to God while trying our best to be law-abiding citizens of this world as much as we are able to do. And while this is not something that is easy to be done, we should gain the courage and strength to do what we can to remain faithful to the Lord while managing the expectations of the world. Of course, first and foremost we have to obey the divine Law first, but as long as the local and human laws do not contradict the divine Law, we can obey those as well.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Justin the Martyr, a renowned early Church Father and philosopher who was once a pagan but then after a fateful encounter with a wise old Christian man, came to know of the Lord and His infinite wonders, and then he chose to become a Christian afterwards. He established a well-known school of philosophy in Rome, gaining quite a few followers, many among whom also decided to become Christians. Through his writings, it was told that he managed to get the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, another famous philosopher, to end the persecution of Christians by the Roman state.

While later on St. Justin would be arrested and martyred together with some of his followers, after a dispute with another philosopher who then incited the authorities to arrest him, St. Justin showed us through his works and interactions, with pagan philosophers and even with the Emperor himself, that it was indeed possible to be fully faithful and committed to God and yet also live in harmony as a law-abiding member of the community and the state. In fact, it was this harmonious coexistence that often gave rise to various opportunities at evangelisation of the faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on this matter, let us all seek to follow the examples set by St. Justin the Martyr and our many other holy predecessors that we may also be first and foremost be wholeheartedly committed to the Lord and love Him with all of our heart, but at the same time also doing our best to live harmoniously with the world, and do our best to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters in our community. Through our exemplary faith and actions, our sincerity in loving one another, may God’s Name ever be glorified, and may He bless us all in our every efforts and good works, always. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 13-17

At that time, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees with members of Herod’s party, with the purpose of trapping him by his own words. They came and said to Jesus, “Master, we know that You are truthful; You are not influenced by anyone, and Your answers do not vary according to who is listening to You, but You truly teach God’s way. Tell us, is it against the Law to pay taxes to Caesar? Should we pay them or not?”

But Jesus saw through their trick and answered, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a silver coin and let Me see it.” They brought Him one and Jesus asked, “Whose image is this, and whose name?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they were greatly astonished.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 7-8, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

For his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is confident, he needs not fear, he shall prevail over his foes at the end.

He gives generously to the poor, his merits will last forever and his head will be raised in honour.