Saturday, 13 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

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.

Saturday, 13 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him.

As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

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.

Friday, 12 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are called to follow wholeheartedly the commandments of the Lord, to take it to heart and to believe in God most sincerely in all things. We should not forget this call and duty that each and every one of us as Christians have in living our daily lives with commitment and devotion to God. All of us have the calling and the mission entrusted to us to proclaim the truth and Good News of God to all the people all around us. We should do whatever the Lord has told us to do, and live our lives the way that He has taught us, so that by our examples and way of life, we may inspire others all around us to become more committed to the Lord, and to believe in Him as well.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles, of the conclusion of the First Council of Jerusalem, the very first Council of the Church assembled to discuss and discern the decision regarding how the Christian faithful, the people of God ought to carry out their lives, as there was then the controversy and division among the Christian faithful whether the Christian faithful ought to follow the full range of the extensive and often oppressive Jewish laws and customs espoused and championed by those who belonged to the group of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, and who embraced the Lord as their Saviour. To those people, the faithful had to embrace the fullness of the Jewish customs and laws, with all of their strict regulations and practices, in order for one to be saved and worthy of God.

However, the Apostles and the elders of the Church decided, after a period of gathering and discernment, guided by the Holy Spirit, that what is important is obeying the Law of God in its true spirit and understanding, and focusing on the key aspects of the Law of God just as the Lord Jesus Himself has revealed it, and not requiring the faithful people of God to subject themselves to the numerous tenets and often difficult to enforce rules and laws, which had in fact made it difficult for many of God’s people to come to Him, as those laws hindered them and prevented them from coming closer to God. Not only that, but as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law also often used those same rules and laws to discriminate against those whom they deemed to be less worthy and condemned as sinners, it became stumbling block for the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law themselves, who became enamoured with worldly glory, pride and ambition, and were blinded by their fanatical ideals and pursuits of their agenda.

They spent more time worrying about how to satisfy the many different aspects and tenets of the various rites and practices rather than truly loving and honouring the Lord their God through the faithful and proper appreciation, understanding and application of those laws and commandments. They often spent so much time focusing on the minute details that they had made an idol out of their way of observing and practicing the Law, zealously and even fanatically guarding their way of observing and practicing the Law, and not willing to listen to others who told them otherwise, even the Lord Himself Who had rebuked them and criticised them for their pettiness and their excessive emphasis on the ‘letter’ of the Law while forgetting the ‘spirit’ of the Law. The Lord reminded all of us, just as He had said to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that each and every one of us should truly commit ourselves to His commandments of Love, that is to love God our most loving Father and Creator above all else, and then to love one another in the same way.

Unless we have the right focus and motivation, it will likely be easy for us to be distracted and pulled down the wrong path, as like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law themselves have shown us, that we may be externally pious, holy and devout, and yet inside us, within our hearts and minds, it is possible for us not to have space for the Lord at all. Therefore in that case and regard, our faith is no more than an empty and dead faith, one that will not benefit us in our path towards the eternal life in God and in His salvation. Each and every one of us are called to be truly faithful to the Lord, to be filled with generous love like that which our Lord Himself has shown us at every moments. All of us are called to do what He has taught us, to be compassionate and kind towards our fellow brothers and sisters, and to resist the temptations of evil, of pride, greed and worldly attachments.

Today, all of us also can look upon the good examples and inspirations from three among our faithful predecessors, the saints and martyrs, namely, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, and also St. Pancras. Each and every one of them had lived their lives most courageously with faith, and had endured the hardships and trials, the challenges and obstacles they had to go through amidst their journey of faith. All of them had devoted themselves to the Lord to the very end, as they faced death and martyrdom with courage and joy. To start with, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were according to some traditions, eunuchs and chamberlains of the niece of the Roman Emperor Domitian, named Flavilla Domitilla, and they lived through the time of a great persecution of the Church and Christians, as the Emperor Domitian was historically known for his intense persecution of Christians, and attempts to eradicate the Church. According to tradition, they faced martyrdom with courage and faith, and did not give up their faith despite the trials that faced them.

Meanwhile, St. Pancras was a young Roman citizen who was also known as St. Pancratius, who lived through another period of great persecution of the Church and the faithful people of God, by the Roman Emperor Diocletian and the Roman state, which was known for the last great official persecution of Christianity, during which many of the faithful were arrested, suffered greatly and many were martyred for their faith in God. St. Pancras himself was a young man who converted to the Christian faith, and was brought before the authorities for being a Christian. He was forced to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods, but refused with firmness and zeal, and his determination to resist moved even the Emperor himself who tried to sway the young St. Pancras with wealth and power without avail. St. Pancras therefore faced martyrdom, in defending his faith in God to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the examples of the holy saints, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, and St. Pancras, in how they have lived their lives with faith and how they have dedicated themselves to the Lord. Let us all be truly faithful towards the Lord and place Him right at the centre of our lives and existence, and strive to do our best to glorify Him by our lives and by our every good works. May the Lord be with us all and may He continue to guide and strengthen us all in our journey of faith, now and always, forevermore. Amen.