Saturday, 29 April 2023 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are called to remain firm in our faith as Christians, as those who have been called by the Lord and responded with faith, to follow Him in all things. We are called and reminded to stay by His side no matter what challenges and trials may come our way, just as many of our predecessors can attest to God’s loving providence and His constant presence in their lives and works. We should continue to strive to live our lives worthily as Christians, doing whatever we can in order to proclaim the Risen Lord in our communities and among those whom we encounter daily and regularly in our lives and ministry. As Christians, we are expected to uphold all of our tenets and beliefs, faithfully and sincerely in our every day moments and lives, and to be exemplary in our actions and way of life.

In our first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the works of the Apostles, especially that of St. Peter who went from place to place, ministering to the people of God and proclaiming His truth and Good News, speaking to many who were convinced by him to become disciples and followers of the Lord. After the conversion of Saul, who became St. Paul the Apostle, the early Church as mentioned, had reprieve and moment of calm between the persecutions, and the Church rapidly grew as the disciples of the Lord, the missionaries and the faithful went on great journeys and missionary works, spreading the Good News of the Gospels to more and more of the people, to the people in the Jewish diaspora and to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people alike. More and more people turned to the Lord and believed in His words, thanks to the dedication of the Apostles and the others who had given their all to the service of God.

For example, as we heard from the actions of St. Peter, we heard how he helped and ministered to the sick and the dying in the community, as he performed many miracles just like how the Lord used to do when He was still around. This authority and power has been given to St. Peter, to the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord from God Himself, through which God showed forth His might and power, the truth of His words and everything that the Church has proclaimed in His Name. St. Peter healed the paralysed man Aeneas in the Name of the Lord, brought Tabitha, the faithful old woman and servant of God, back to life after a period of illness, and everyone who witnessed all these works, and the dedication which St. Peter had shown must have been really impressed by what they had heard, experienced and seen.

St. Peter and the other disciples of the Lord were proclaiming essentially what the Lord Himself had told His disciples, followers and all the people in our Gospel passage today. Today is the culmination and end of the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse by the Lord in which the Lord Jesus referred to Himself specifically as the Living Bread from Heaven, by which all the life originated from, and without Him, there can be no true life and existence. He spoke of how all those who partake, eat, drink and share from His Body and Blood will live forever, and that He would give Himself to those who believe in Him, being broken and offered on the Altar of His Cross at Calvary, His Precious Body crushed and broken for us, and His Precious Blood poured out and shared for us to drink, coming down from His Cross, as the manifestation of God’s ever enduring love and compassion towards us.

Thus, St. Peter and all the other disciples were proclaiming to the whole world of the Good News that Christ our Lord, Who has risen triumphantly from the dead, has indeed fulfilled everything that He has promised to them, and fulfilled all that God has promised to mankind since the beginning of time. The Lord has not abandoned us or cast us out from the promises He has made, but have again and again reaffirmed His love and kindness towards us, patiently showing us and guiding us the way towards Him. And although we have repeatedly disobeyed Him, stubbornly resisting and rejecting Him, committing sin one after another against Him, but the Lord still patiently desired us to be reconciled to Him, that we may find our way back to Him, be reconciled and reunited fully with Him, and that we may once again enjoy the fullness of His love and grace.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is what all of us as Christians are reminded of, the love of God that has been most wonderfully shown to us through His beloved Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Each and every one of us have received the fullness of God’s love manifested before us in the flesh, in the Holy Eucharist that we partake, that is our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood, that we share among us, as members of the same Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We believe that what we partake is no mere bread and wine but the bread and wine had been completely and wholly transformed into the essence, reality, substance and matter of Our Lord’s Body and Blood. The same Most Precious Body and Blood we have received in the Eucharist is the same Body and Blood of the Lamb of God broken and sacrificed on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary.

As Christians, we believe in this truth and fact, but as we heard in our Gospel passage today, many of the Lord’s disciples and followers left Him behind once He told them about this truth, how He would give them His own Body and Blood to partake. The disciples themselves groaned and complained that this truth was too hard and too difficult for people to accept. However, although many of the Lord’s disciples and followers left Him, His closest collaborators and disciples stayed by His side despite all the discomfort and uneasiness surrounding His revelation of the truth to the people. The Lord Himself also predicted His own suffering, persecution and death to His disciples, which must have also been difficult for quite a few among them to accept or understand, but those who have kept their faith in the Lord shouldered on and kept on going, and remained faithful to Him. Those were the same ones who began the expansion and growth of the Church, led by St. Peter and the other Apostles.

Therefore, we should follow the good examples of the Apostles and the many other saints, holy men and women of God, including that of St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Catherine of Siena was known for her great piety and dedication to God, in her holy way of life, in her commitment to live a holy and devout life aligned with God and His Law and commandments. She refused the efforts of her parents to marry her off to a man who was her elder sister’s widower. She spent her time fasting and keeping herself pure despite the efforts of those around her to make her to do otherwise. She dedicated herself to the Lord completely, and offered herself as a perpetual Virgin consecrated to God. Her great piety and dedication to God inspired many others to follow her inspiration and examples, and her great intellect and ability to connect to various peoples of different origins led her to be involved in many of the political discussions and struggles during her time.

St. Catherine of Siena was well-known for her involvement amidst the often politically tense situations in the region, acting as peacemaker and bridge builder in connecting the rivals and the conflicting parties. She was even involved in the efforts and was instrumental in bringing the Pope back to Rome after having reigned from the enclave in Avignon for many decades. She helped other parties to work together towards peaceful solutions amidst their conflicts, among many other efforts that she had done. St. Catherine of Siena was also known for her many letters and writings, which influenced many people after her time, and her great and exemplary faith became inspiration for many others as well, inspiring many of the people of God to follow Him more faithfully and to carry out the similar works as what this great and holy woman of God had done.

May the Risen Lord, our God and Saviour Jesus Christ continue to be with us and guide us always, and may He continue to empower and strengthen us so that we may persevere faithfully and continue to commit ourselves to His path, much as how our early Christian predecessors had done, in their missionary and evangelising zeal. May all of us be drawn to love the Lord more and to dedicate ourselves to a holy life and existence much as St. Catherine of Siena has shown us with her great and exemplary life. May God be with His Church always, and bless its every works and good efforts. Amen.

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