Wednesday, 30 November 2022 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 4 : 18-22

At that time, as Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me; and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them.

At once, they left the boat, and their father, and followed Him.

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we must not be ignorant of what we are all called to do as Christians in our daily living, and to heed the signs of the times. For each and every one of us as Christians, we are all called and expected to make good use of our lives and all the talents, abilities, opportunities and all other things that the Lord had granted us, so that our lives may be truly fruitful and worthy of God. We must not be idle in our lives or worse still, act in ways contrary to our beliefs, as what unfortunately many amongst even us Christians have done, and are currently doing in our lives. To do so is truly unbecoming of our Christian identity, and is truly a scandal of our faith, which is something that many amongst us have to account for in the end.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the moment of the final defeat of Satan, the great enemy at the end of time, and the ultimate triumph of God and the faithful over all those who have long persecuted the holy people of God. The Lord will triumph over all evils and all the forces of the wicked, and that vision of St. John saw of this great victory and the final defeat of evil serves to encourage all the faithful people of God who at that time had been facing a lot of struggles, trials, challenges and persecutions, having to endure prison, and even martyrdom for their belief and faith in God. Many, like St. John himself, had to suffer because they believed in God and refused to worship the pagan gods and idols, or the Emperors, who back then were often regarded as divine.

All the things that St. John witnessed in his heavenly vision became source of hope and encouragement for the Christians all over the world who were persecuted for their faith. St. John the Apostle witnessed how the mighty forces of the devil met their deserved end and defeat, crushed and conquered by the might of God, and God will come to save His people, just as He has once saved the people of Israel from their enslavement in Egypt and from the tyranny of the Pharaoh. Also highlighted in today’s passage of St. John’s vision is the occasion of the Last Judgment, when all the people, living and dead, all will be assembled before God and face their final and eternal fate, be it that their names are listed in the Book of Life and hence worthy of God, and therefore worthy of enjoying the eternal bliss and joy with God, or whether their names are not found in the Book of Life, and will be cast out into eternal darkness and oblivion, to suffer for eternity.

In the relatively short Gospel passage we have heard from today, the Lord reiterated this again, as He reminded all of His followers that the coming of the time of reckoning can be anytime, and while no one will know or have known the exact time and occasion of when it will happen, but the signs from the Lord are clear. And anyway, regardless whether the coming of the Day of Last Judgment is imminent or not, we must always be ever ready to welcome the Lord when He comes again, and it means that we should always be ever prepared in everything we say and do. In all things we must always be filled with the zeal, passion and faith to live our lives faithfully as is expected of us as Christians, and not to allow temptations of the world to distract or even mislead us down the wrong path. We must be careful or else before we realise it, we are already deep in the path towards damnation and destruction.

Clearly, as we heard from all these passages from the Scriptures, we are all being reminded as we have been in these past two weeks towards the end of the current liturgical year, of how important it is for us to remember to always put the Lord as the centre and the focus of our lives and existences. We should not replace Him with other focuses or pursuits which we may have or desire. Unfortunately, more often than not, this is exactly what happened to us Christians, as we are often easily distracted and tempted to succumb to the allures of worldly comforts and pleasures, to all of our greed and ambition, our pride and ego. And all of these can lead us to our ultimate downfall if we are not actively resisting those temptations and pressures, as well as striving to live our lives in a most genuine, Christian manner as we have been called and expected to do in our lives.

Today, we mark the occasion of the Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of the great saints of the Church and one of the most renowned martyrs of the faith. Hopefully by reflecting upon her lives, actions, examples and faith, we may find inspiration and strength to dedicate ourselves and our own lives to God in the way that this holy woman of God had done. St. Catherine of Alexandria was the daughter of nobleman or a Roman governor in the land of Egypt, during the years of the final persecutions against Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and his fellow co-Emperors and successors. One of those, Emperor Maxentius conducted intense persecutions against Christians in his domains, and St. Catherine went directly to the Emperor to rebuke him for his actions and cruelty against Christians.

At that time, such an action definitely merited death penalty, not only because St. Catherine was a Christian but she dared to rebuke the person of the Emperor, who by the time had become very feared and powerful position. Yet, this holy woman of God fearlessly defended her faith before the Emperor and others, and not even many pagan philosophers, the best of the best assembled by the Emperor to debate her can best her in wisdom and understanding, and she utterly trounced them through God’s wisdom and power. St. Catherine also resisted the temptations of power and worldly comfort herself when the Emperor, who was mesmerised by her beauty and eloquence, tried to woo and persuade her to become his bride. She chose to suffer and die in martyrdom than to betray her faith and principles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us hence strive to do our best to obey the Lord and His commandments, as well as putting Him as the centre and focus of our lives. Let us all be genuine in being faithful to Him and do whatever we can to live our lives, in even the smallest things and actions we do, in accordance with His will, His Law and commandments. As Christians we have been called to love God first and foremost, and then to love our fellow brethren in the same manner without distinction or prejudice. Hence, let us try our best to do that, so that by our faith made manifest and alive through our actions and works, we may truly be deemed worthy by the Lord on the Day of Judgment, and receive from Him the promised everlasting life and joy. May God bless us all in our every works and efforts, for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 29-33

At that time, Jesus added this comparison, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as their buds sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”

“Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all this has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 83 : 3, 4, 5-6a and 8a

My soul yearns, pines, for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young, at Your altars, o Lord of hosts, my King and my God!

Happy are those who live in Your house, continually singing Your praise! Happy the pilgrims whom You strengthen. They go from strength to strength till they appear before God in Zion.

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Revelations 20 : 1-4, 11 – Revelations 21 : 2

Then an Angel came down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the Abyss and a huge chain. He seized the monster, the ancient serpent, namely Satan or the devil, and chained him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss and closed its gate with the key, then secured it with locks, that he might not deceive the nations in the future until the thousand years have passed. Then he will be released for a little while.

There were thrones and seated on them were those with the power to judge. I then saw the spirits of those who had been beheaded for having held the teachings of Jesus and on account of the word of God. I saw all those who had refused to worship the beast and its image, or receive its mark on the forehead or on the hand. They returned to life and reigned with the Messiah for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection.

After that I saw a great and splendid throne and the One seated upon it. At once heaven and earth disappeared, leaving no trace. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before the throne while books were opened. Another book, the Book of Life, was also opened. Then the dead were judged according to the records of these books, that is, each one according to his works.

The sea gave up the dead it had kept, as did death and the netherworld, so that all might be judged according to their works. Then death and the netherworld were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. All who were not recorded in the Book of Life were thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that no matter how challenging and difficult the obstacles, trials and persecutions we may have to face in being Christians, as those whom the Lord had called and those who had devoted themselves to Him, we must always have faith in God and in the fact that in the end, the Lord will be triumphant. And all of us who remain faithful to the Lord will be justified and share in the triumph and victory of He Who conquers sin, evil and death. That is something which all of us need to remember, as we continue to progress through our lives and activities daily, so that we do not end up losing sight on the true destination that we will reach through Christ.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations, we heard of the details of the vision of St. John the Apostle seeing the great defeat of Babylon the great, the mighty enemy of all the faithful, and how the persecutions and oppressions against the people of God will finally cease and those who persecute them will face their just consequences and punishments. The Lord will not let those who are faithful to Him to suffer without good reason and without being avenged, and their blood and sufferings will be paid dearly by those who have inflicted hurt on their own brothers and sisters, and those will be thrown down and cast into the eternal darkness and annihilation together with the devil and all of the other forces of the wicked and evil, all the fallen angels, demonic spirits and more.

Some people back in the early days of the Church associated that Babylon with what is in fact a connotation to the time when the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and Jerusalem, a few centuries before the coming of Christ, and destroyed the city and its Temple, persecuting the people of God and bringing them into exile. That Babylon by the time of the Lord and afterwards would come to be associated then with Rome, and its bitter persecutions of Christians. That association became even stronger after the Romans, like the Babylonians in the past, destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple just less than four decades after the Lord Himself had predicted it, and there were many among the people of God who were killed or suffered because of that.

Hence, naturally Rome was seen as the great Babylon, and the Lord’s retribution and victory would be won against it. Indeed, later on after almost three centuries of persecutions, the Christian faith and Church was finally tolerated and the persecutions were mostly gone, and eventually the Roman Emperors themselves and the whole entire Empire would adopt the Christian faith as their faith. However, it also means that the vision of St. John the Apostle have not yet taken place yet, unlike some early Christians who would have believed that the events as recorded in the Book of Revelations to be happening immediately, or very soon afterwards. But only the Lord Himself knows the exact moment when all of that will happen.

The Gospel passage today essentially spoke of what I had mentioned just earlier, about the Lord Himself proclaiming to the people how the city of Jerusalem, its Temple and all the people inside it, will face destruction because of the forces arrayed against them in the coming years, which would indeed come true during the first Roman-Jewish war that came about because of the rebellions from a certain segment of the Jewish people against the Roman rule which eventually led to the great and bitter conflict culminating in the siege and downfall of Jerusalem, and how the magnificent Temple built just a few decades earlier by King Herod the Great was thrown down and destroyed right to its very foundations. Everything happened as the Lord had proclaimed, and He warned His followers of the signs of what would happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the lesson we then ought to learn from our Scripture passages today is that, while we may face daunting moments and trials, hardships and persecutions in our journey towards the Lord, but we must not give up our faith in God and we must not give in to the temptations, coercions and pressures to follow in the flow of the world, all the demands of those who seek to subvert the truth of God, and all those forces seeking our downfall and destruction. We should stand firm in our commitment to the path that God has shown and led us into, and follow the good examples set by our faithful and dedicated predecessors, all the saints and martyrs who had given their all to glorify God by their lives and examples.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, consisting of both the Christian missionaries who came to Vietnam to proclaim the Lord’s Good News and the local Christian converts and communities of the faithful. Like that of in the early days of the Church, the then Vietnamese government and authorities persecuted the Christians and the Church as they were highly suspicious of them because the missionaries came from foreign countries whom might be seen back then as attempting to sow dissent and act as agents to the foreign powers which back then had begun to interfere in the political and societal establishment of Vietnam and its neighbours.

To that end, the authorities persecuted Christians all throughout Vietnam, as people like St. Andrew Dung-Lac, who was one of the first local Vietnamese ordained to the priesthood, as well as the foreign missionaries, other leaders of the Church and more of the general Christian population, were gathered up, arrested and eventually put to death. Yet, despite the great challenges that they had to endure, most of those Christian faithful remained firm in their faith and chose to suffer and die rather than to betray their Lord and Master. Their courage and piety, their great dedication to God became inspiration for so many other people who are encouraged to remain firmly faithful to the Lord despite the challenges and trials facing them. Therefore, we too should be inspired and encouraged in the same way as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed zeal and conviction, with the strength, courage and spirit to dedicate ourselves, our every actions and deeds, our every energy for the sake of the Lord, for His Church and for His people. May the Lord continue to guide us all through this journey of faith, and may He empower us all to be ever stronger in faith and to draw ever closer to His grace and love, like that of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 4, 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.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His Name.

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

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 18 : 1-2, 21-23 and Revelations 19 : 1-3, 9a

After this I saw another Angel coming down from heaven. So great was his authority that the whole earth was lit up with his glory. In a strong voice he cried out : “Fallen is Babylon the great! Fallen! She has become a haunt of demons, a lodge for every unclean spirit, a nest for any filthy and disgusting bird.”

A powerful Angel picked up a boulder the size od a large millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “With such violence will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down, never again to be seen. Never again will tunes of harpists, minstrels, trumpeters and flutists be heard in you. Never again will an artisan of any trade be found in you. Never again will the noise of the mill be heard.”

“Never again will the light of a lamp shine in you. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never again be heard in you. Because your traders were the world’s great and you led the nations astray by your magic spell.”

After this I heard what sounded like the loud singing of a great assembly in heaven : “Alleluia! Salvation, glory and might belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just. He has condemned the great harlot who corrupted the world with her adultery. He has avenged His servants’ blood shed by her hand in harlotry.” Once more they sang : “Alleluia! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever!”

Then the Angel told me, “Write : Happy are those invited to the wedding of the Lamb.”

Wednesday, 23 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures all of us are presented with the reality of being Christians in that we may face hardships, persecutions, and even may lose our lives in the midst of us living our lives faithfully as Christians. Each one of us are reminded that while persecutions and sufferings may be in our path, and we may have to endure them for a while, there is no path for those who continue to refuse to believe in God and those who persecute His people, as those will end up being crushed and defeated by the triumphant Lord, Our God and our Saviour, Who will come again at the end of time, at the time of His choosing, to gather us all who are faithful to Him, and cast into the eternal darkness and destruction, all those who rejected Him to the very end.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, continuing the account of the past two weeks as we continue to progress through the final days of the current liturgical year, as a reminder for all of us how things will turn out eventually in the end. St. John witnessed in his heavenly vision the Seven Angels of God bearing the last and final plagues that will rise against those who are wicked and all those who continue to side with Satan and the other wicked ones, and continue to rebel against Him. Those who are righteous will be remembered by God, and the moment of His coming will be close with all the manifestation of God’s wrath, as He will come as He has promised, to gather each and every one of us who remain faithful to Him, the living and the dead, to rise together with Him into a new life and existence, totally and completely free from the bondage to sin and evil.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus told His disciples of all the things that they would experience going forward, as they continued to carry on their ministries, missions and vocations, as His Apostles, disciples, servants and missionaries among the peoples of various nations. He presented to them frankly and truthfully of how the world that had rejected Him and persecuted Him would likely persecute them as well. Just as much as they would indeed enjoy rich fruits of their efforts in mission and evangelisation, causing countless souls and people to come to know the Lord and be saved, they also had to contend against the many challenges, persecutions and rejections from all those who refused and would refuse to believe in the Lord and His truth.

And all of those things indeed came true as the early Church and Christians came under intense persecution firstly from the Jewish authorities, the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, and then later on from the local governors and eventually the Roman state and government itself, resulting in many years, decades and centuries of terrible persecutions against the Church and all Christians. And even three centuries later, when the Christian persecutions were ended and the faith was finally tolerated and accepted, persecutions, challenges, trials and rejections still continued to happen, from time to time, again and again throughout the past two millennia of the history of the Church and its presence and works in our world, even right to the present day.

Throughout the world, there are still various kinds of difficulties, challenges and persecutions facing the people of God all over, as they face hardships and trials just for even being believers of Christ and for showing their faith in Him. Many had to practice their faith in secret, and many were, and are still suffering daily, even in prison and torture for their continued belief and faith in the Lord, their God and their Saviour. Yet, many of them remained steady and firm in their faith, and they did not give up despite the various pressures, coercions and efforts to make them turn away from their faith and betray the Lord. And still in other places, while it is alright to practice the Christian faith, Christians are facing challenges, trials and also oppositions to their very beliefs and way of life, and many are forced to choose between their faith and the fashionable ways and thoughts of the current world.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of two great saints whose lives ought to inspire us all in how we ought to live our lives with faith, namely that of Pope St. Clement I, one of the earliest Popes and Vicars of Christ, a holy martyr of the faith, and also St. Columban, a renowned and holy Abbot, both of whom were dedicated to God in their own unique ways, and whose lives and actions showed great deal of faith and commitment to God. Both of them can show us what it truly means to be Christians, to live our lives worthily of Him in all of our words, actions and deeds, that we may indeed come ever closer to the Lord and find our way to Him, to His grace, love, salvation and eventually, eternal life with Him in true happiness and joy.

Pope St. Clement I was the successor of St. Peter through St. Linus and St. Anacletus, as the fourth Pope, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome and therefore the leader of the Universal Church. He led the Church through the difficult years of persecutions and hardships, particularly during an especially bitter era of persecution under the Roman Emperor Domitian. Christians throughout the Roman Empire were persecuted for their faith, and many perished as martyrs in refusing to obey and worship the Roman Emperor as a divinity and betraying their one true God, Jesus Christ, their Lord and Saviour. Amidst all those challenges, Pope St. Clement I led the Church, which grew gradually despite the hardships and martyrdoms, and he was well known for his many letters or Epistles, helping to strengthen the Church and keeping all the faithful together and united in Christ. Eventually, this holy man of God himself perished in the persecutions, but he remained faithful to the very end.

Meanwhile St. Columban lived at a different era when Christians were already free to practice their faith and Christianity was in fact already the dominant faith throughout the region. However, there were a lot of lapses and corrupt practices within the Church in various places, which St. Columban in his works and efforts as a missionary and then as an Abbot, tried hard to help to reform the Church and excise the excesses of worldly attachments and impurities from the Christian faith, the Church and the faithful people of God. He had to go up against powerful people, even the leaders of the Church in the region of Gaul, now France, where he worked and ministered in. Yet, despite all the opposition and hardships, St. Columban remained committed to his mission to the very end, and many were converted through his efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see from the examples set by those two saints, let us all therefore renew our own commitment to live our lives truly worthily as Christians, in dedicating our works, efforts, our every words, actions and deeds to bring glory to God. Let us all therefore continue to work hard in doing the will of God, and being vigilant that whenever is the Lord’s second coming, we will always be ready to welcome Him into this world, and receive from Him the crown of eternal glory, and to enjoy forever the inheritance and true joy that He has always intended for us, His beloved children and people, the jewels and pinnacle of His creation. May God bless us always, and may He continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, always and forevermore. Amen.