Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 21 : 15-19

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”

Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 11-12, 19-20ab

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

The Lord has set His throne in heaven; He rules, He has power everywhere. Praise the Lord, all you His Angels.

Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 25 : 13b-21

As King Agrippa and his sister Berenice were to stay in Caesarea several days, Festus told him about Paul’s case and said to him, “We have here a man whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews accused him and asked me to sentence him.”

“I told them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over a man without giving him an opportunity to defend himself in front of his accusers. So they came and I took my seat without delay on the tribunal and sent for the man. When the accusers had the floor, they did not accuse him of any of the crimes that I was led to think he had committed; instead they quarrelled with him about religion and about a certain Jesus Who has died but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”

“I did not know what to do about this case, so I asked Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem to be tried there. But Paul appealed to be judged by the Emperor. So I ordered that he be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.”

Thursday, 25 May 2023 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded to stay united with God and to remain firm in our faith in Him at all times, resisting the temptations of worldly ambitions, attachments and other things that may end up misleading us down the wrong path in life. We should not let our desires and the corrupt temptations and attachments to this world lead us astray from the path that the Lord has shown us. As Christians we should continue to keep ourselves attuned to the Lord and firmly continue to uphold the Law and the commandments of God that He has shown us through His Church, amidst and despite the many challenges and trials that we may have to face and endure through as we live our lives faithfully as the followers of Christ.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles, of the time when St. Paul the Apostle was standing before the whole Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, which was composed of the most powerful and influential members of the Jewish community back then, including the Pharisees and the Sadducees among them, as the two most powerful factions among the Jews. Each of these groups were bitterly divided and antagonistic against each other, and was then united only in their common hatred and opposition against the followers of the Lord, especially that of St. Paul, who had performed so many works for the Lord and brought many into the Christian faith. Like what we heard in our first reading today, immediately when St. Paul mentioned that he belonged to the group of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Pharisees began to fight against each other in a massive conflict.

This shows that there was no unity among all those who persecuted St. Paul and the other early Christians, and God also gave St. Paul the wisdom to act in such a manner so as to prevent the Sanhedrin from uniting against him and in doing so, allowing St. Paul to commence his journey towards being put on trial by the Emperor in Rome, hence fulfilling what the Lord had called on him to do, to minister to the faithful and to spread the Good News to the very heart and centre of the Empire. Through his tireless efforts and commitment, and as well as all the time and hard work that he had put into place, St. Paul had shown us all what it means for us to be Christians, in trusting in the Lord and in doing what God has called and entrusted upon us to do. And God is always with us, by our side, just as the Lord Himself reassured His disciples as He prayed over them, as He promised them all that they would all see the true glory and joy through Him. Each and every one of us should be inspired to live our lives most faithfully as good Christians.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of three great saints whose lives and devotions to God in their own way may indeed be great source of inspiration and hope for each and every one of us, in how we can emulate their examples in our own lives. They are St. Bede the Venerable, a renowned priest and monk, and also a Church historian whose works and theological writings made him to be remembered greatly and honoured as one of the Doctors of the Church, and then Pope St. Gregory VII, who reformed the Church and led the Church through a turbulent and difficult moment where divisions and struggles between the religious and secular authorities were at its peak. Finally we have St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, a dedicated virgin and holy woman, whose life as a religious and experience as a mystic inspired many during her lifetime and afterwards.

St. Bede the Venerable lived and was active during the early years of Medieval Britain, in which he was renowned for being a great scholar and monk, with extensive library and collection of writings and works that still inspired so many people many centuries after his time. St. Bede the Venerable was ordained as a priest, and went on several travels and trips across the British isles, visiting many places and communities, which helped him to know and understand better about the local communities, especially the Christian Church there, and placed the foundation for the many works that he was writing, in topics as diverse as history and astronomy, among many others, and of course many of them dealing with the teachings of the Church and the Christian truth, which still inspired many who read his works afterwards. Many others made the works of St. Bede as their inspiration, and the rich diversity of his works continued to inspire the Church.

Meanwhile, Pope St. Gregory VII was the leader of the Universal Church during the height of what is known as the Investiture Controversy, which arose because of the dispute between the Pope and the Church with the secular authorities under the Holy Roman Emperor. In the past few hundred years before the time of Pope St. Gregory, both positions have become the greatest religious and secular authorities respectively, and the dispute arose because the Emperor claimed the right to appoint bishops and to control them within his own dominion, being appointed and supreme over all the secular rulers. On the other hand, the Pope St. Gregory VII represented the culmination of the Church efforts to resist secular influence and control of the Church and the members of the clergy, and stood firmly against any efforts of the Emperor and his nobles and supporters in trying to control the Church. He also carried out many other important reforms in purifying the Church from many corruptions and wickedness of that time.

Then, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a woman who had been attracted and called to a spiritual life from a very young age, and who eventually joined the Carmelite monastery, becoming one of the Carmelite religious sisters. She has begun receiving mystical visions from a young age, and this continued on through her time and experience as a Carmelite religious. Her great piety and dedication to God, her exemplary actions and care for others, as well as her great holiness and the visions she experienced inspired many others to follow her examples in faith and dedication to God. Through her dedication, many have come to seek the Lord and endeavour to follow the good examples that this faithful and dedicated woman had done in her own life. Thus, all of us should also be inspired by the examples of those whose lives and commitments to God we have just discussed.

Let us all therefore seek to glorify the Lord and proclaim His truth, love and Good News through our own works and actions. Let us all be good and faithful disciples and followers of our Lord and God, spending much of our time and effort to do the will of God and to proclaim Him in the midst of all the things that we have dedicated unto Him. Let us all be good role models and sources of inspiration for each other, in how we lead our lives and carry out our every actions, even in the smallest and seemingly least significant of actions and interactions with others around us. May the Lord continue to guide us in all things and help us to remain ever firmly faithful in Him, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 25 May 2023 : 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 (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in Me. May they all be one, as You Father are in Me and I am in You. May they be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

“I have given them the glory You have given Me, that they may be one as We are One : I in them and You in Me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that You have sent Me, and that I have loved them, just as You loved Me.”

“Father, since You have given them to Me, I want them to be with Me where I am, and see the glory You gave Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me.”

“As I revealed Your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and also may be in them.”

Thursday, 25 May 2023 : 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 (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even at night my inmost self instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

Thursday, 25 May 2023 : 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 (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 30 and Acts 23 : 6-11

The next day the commander wanted to know for certain the charges the Jews were making against Paul. So he released him from prison and called together the High Priest and the whole Council; and they brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul knew that part of the Council were Sadducees and others Pharisees; so he spoke out in the Council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee. It is for the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial here.”

At these words, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the whole assembly was divided. For the Sadducees claim that there is neither resurrection, nor Angels nor spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all these things.

Then the shouting grew louder, and some teachers of the Law of the Pharisee party protested, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Maybe a spirit or an Angel has spoken to him.” With this the argument became so violent that the commander feared that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He therefore ordered the soldiers to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him back to the fortress.

That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Courage! As you have borne witness to Me here in Jerusalem, so must you do in Rome.”

Wednesday, 24 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church marks the occasion of the Feast of Mary Help of Christians and also the Feast of Our Lady of Sheshan in China. On this day in particular therefore we remember all the faithful people of God all around the world who have been facing persecutions and oppressions, hardships and trials in remaining true to their faith in the Lord, in all that they have to endure as those who have embraced the salvation and the hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we ought to support one another such that we will not easily fall into despair and losing faith in God, and then falling into the wrong path in life. We must remind ourselves that none of us are ever alone in our journey and struggle of faith as Christians, because the Lord is ever always by our side, and He will never abandon us no matter what. We also have our fellow Christian brothers and sisters, some of whom may even have suffered more than us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard the conclusion of the narrative of St. Paul the Apostle and his farewell to the faithful people of God in Ephesus, which we have heard for the past few weekdays. At that time, St. Paul and also many other missionaries had been facing a lot of successes as well as obstacles in their missionary and evangelisation efforts, as the early Church of God grew rapidly and gained many members and followers, and continued to spread further and further despite the many obstacles, trials and hardships that they had to endure, facing rejection and refusal from many among the authorities. Both the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, as well as local governors and authorities, and others who were opposed to the Christian faith, made it difficult for the Christian missionaries to carry out their work.

St. Paul the Apostle had laboured hard to establish the reach and the foundations of the Church in many places he had visited together with the other disciples and missionaries, and faced trouble from some of the Jewish authorities in the places he visited, and he was accused falsely of crimes and things that he did not commit, and was on his way to Jerusalem to face those allegations and accusations. St. Paul could very well have chosen to flee and to stay away from those who sought to oppose and crush him, but he chose to follow the Lord, Who called on him to trust in Him and to follow where He was leading him to go to. The Lord told St. Paul that he would be His witness and missionary in Rome, at the capital and very heart of the Roman Empire, to proclaim the Good News of God and where he would also face sufferings and martyrdom, for the greater glory of God.

Thus, St. Paul reassured all the faithful in Ephesus and others who knew of his story and works, the challenges that he had faced and encountered, that being a faithful disciple of the Lord, while it may indeed be difficult and challenging for them, but the Lord would guide them and protect them throughout their path and way. Those who placed their faith and trust in the Lord would never be disappointed, and everything that they did and carried out in their lives will be blessed by God, and God will remember and know everything that they had done for His sake, and everything that even perhaps we do not know or did not realise. God has provided for us everything, even not sparing from us His own most beloved Son, Who had come down into our midst, in the flesh, showing unto all of us, the full and perfect manifestation of His ever enduring love and kindness.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, praying to His heavenly Father asking Him to bless and guide His disciples and followers, and to be with them all throughout their journey. The Lord Himself also promised them all the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who indeed came to descend upon the world, upon the disciples and the Church, empowering all of them and strengthening them, giving them the courage and hope to proclaim the Good News of God. That was how the Church continued to grow rapidly and remained firm despite the many challenges and trials that it and many of the faithful had faced throughout time and history. The many inspiring examples of those who have suffered and remained firmly faithful to the Lord inspired many others who were therefore encouraged to keep steady in their faith as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise that sufferings, hardships and persecutions of the Church still continue even right up to this day. There are still areas and places where being Christians is a difficult situation and condition, and not just that, but they even were actively persecuted and some even faced death threats and not few were martyred for being followers of Christ. One of such places is the region of Mainland China, which had endured for over seven decades of constant government intervention into their faith, belief and Church governance, and there had been a lot of hardships and challenges faced by the faithful people of God in that place, as they were torn between obedience to the Universal Church and its laws, with the ever increasing control from the officially Communist government that was hostile against the true expressions of the Christian faith.

That is why today, we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, as we remember our brothers and sisters who are currently suffering and enduring hardships in China, who had to face difficulties and challenges in living their Christian lives and in being true to the full expression of their Christian faith. We pray for all of them and reminding ourselves that we are all part of the same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. All of us are part of this indivisible and united Church, that is truly Universal in nature, and that is why it is important that we should support and pray for our brethren in trouble whenever we can. We should remember those who are less fortunate than us, those who did not have it easy like us who may be having better days and moments in living our lives as Christians and in expressing ourselves in our faith.

Let us also remember all the others all around the world who are also perhaps facing hardships and challenges, difficulties and other things in life for being Christians, that is for believing in the Lord and His truth. Let us all support one another as parts and members of the one united Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. May the Lord continue to bless us all and guide us, and be with us all His Church, at all times. May He empower all of us to remain firm in our faith, despite the many trials, challenges and hardships facing us, so that our lives and actions, everything we say and do will always reflect our Christian faith and beliefs, that many others may also be inspired to follow after us in following God’s path as well. Amen.