Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of two saints who are among the most important saints of the Universal Church and in particular of the Church of Rome, the seat of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, the leader of the whole Church. Today we mark the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, two of the most prominent of the Apostles of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

St. Peter was the leader of the Apostles and the one to whom the Lord Jesus has entrusted the governance of His entire Church, to be the shepherd among shepherds, supported by the Apostles and the other disciples, as the pillars of the Church of God. It was on the faith of St. Peter, whose name means the ‘Rock’ from his name ‘Petros’ in Greek and ‘Cephas’ in the original Aramaic, that God Himself established the firm foundation of His Church.

Meanwhile, St. Paul was once known as Saul, and although he was once a fanatic Pharisee and enemy of the faithful, but God called him to be his Apostle, to be the one He sent to the people especially to those who are of the non-Jewish origin, also called the Gentiles. Hence, that is why St. Paul is also known by his title of the Apostle to the Gentiles, in the crucial role he played in delivering the faith and the message of God’s truth to many places.

We may then think that St. Peter the Apostle and also St. Paul and the other Apostles are like superhuman and mighty beings, unlike us all. But the truth is in fact that St. Peter, St. Paul and all the other Apostles are no more and no less as human as we are, as flawed and weak as we are, as vulnerable and as sinful as we are. They were called from their various backgrounds and origins, all with the same purpose, that is to serve the Lord.

In our first reading passage today, we heard about St. Peter and how he had been arrested by the order of king Herod who had earlier on put St. James the Apostle to the sword in martyrdom. And the same fate would have been St. Peter’s, and he waited for the day of his trial in the prison. Yet, the Lord had a different plan for St. Peter, as He sent His Angel to break him free of his chains and opened the way for him to escape back to the Christian community.

This was just one among the many trials, challenges and difficulties that St. Peter had to endure in the time of his service and work as an Apostle. And just imagine that St. Peter was initially just an uneducated, rough and unintellectual fisherman who sailed his fishing boat in the Lake of Galilee, a lowly profession, looked down upon and often ignored by the society as a whole. This same fisherman then became a great Apostle, travelling from places to places, preaching and revealing the truth of God to many people, Jews and Gentiles alike.

This was the same St. Peter, who was the one that denied the Lord not just once but three times, when the Lord was arrested by the Jewish authorities and despite having pledged his dedication and desire to serve the Lord and to even die for Him. At that moment, the faith and courage of St. Peter faltered and when confronted by the people who claimed that he belonged to the group of the Lord Jesus, he denied any involvement and denied knowing Him.

And if we look at St. Paul, at the time when he was still known as Saul, there could not have been a worse and more unlikely candidate to be the servant of God than him, for there he was, a young and fanatical Pharisee, whose methods in seeking for and arresting those who professed the Christian faith was particularly brutal and repressive, putting into prison and probably even killing those who have been known to be the followers of the Lord.

Yet, God called Saul when he encountered Him on the way to Damascus to destroy the Christian community there. He came to see the truth of God and received the wisdom and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and from then on, became a committed and hardworking disciple and servant of the Lord, a total change and conversion from his previous life and principles. From a great sworn enemy of the Lord and His Church, into His greatest champion and defender.

That was the same change that the Apostles, including St. Peter experienced as they received God’s love and promise of the Holy Spirit, when at Pentecost they were bestowed the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. And for the case of St. Peter, in the Gospels, we heard of how the Lord Jesus forgave him and called on him to renew his commitment, knowing that despite having denied him three times, he did so out of fear and uncertainty, but still with a heart that is focused, centred and filled with faith and love for Him.

That is why the Lord asked St. Peter three times, “Peter, do you love Me?” To which St. Peter responded with, “Yes, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love You.” This threefold profession of love by St. Peter is not only symbolic of how God has forgiven his threefold denial, but also a reaffirmation of what God has said in today’s Gospel passage, that He has established His very own Church on the firm foundation of the Rock of faith that is St. Peter.

And just as St. Paul who dedicated himself to the Lord so well and so courageously, in his many missionary and evangelising journeys throughout the cities of the Eastern Mediterranean region, enduring the worst persecutions and challenges, ridicules and humiliations, imprisonment and even threats to his life, St. Peter and St. Paul dedicated themselves, having been called and chosen by God to be the instruments of His good works among His own people.

St. Peter and St. Paul eventually would come to Rome as the last part of their earthly ministry and journey. St. Peter having established many Christian communities in the cities of Antioch among many others came to Rome to be the first of the bishops of Rome, as the elder and overseer of the Church community in Rome, and by virtue of his position as the leader of the Apostles and the Church, he became the first Pope, the first of God’s Vicar on earth.

Meanwhile, St. Paul came to Rome during his last missionary journey as part of his evangelising journey as he went for his last trial, being falsely accused by his enemies and the Jewish authorities, and he claimed the right he had as a Roman citizen to stand before the Roman Emperor and to be tried by him in Rome. St. Paul therefore came to Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire and according to the Acts of the Apostles, he ministered to the faithful there and helped to establish the Church.

Eventually, great persecution of Christians occurred, under the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, who blamed the great fire that happened in the city of Rome to the Christians as scapegoats. And both St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in that city, the city of Rome, as great witnesses of their faith for the Lord, glorifying Him in their death just as it had been by their lives and many good works for His sake.

St. Peter was arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to die by crucifixion in the area now known as the Vatican, where now the great Papal Basilica of St. Peter and the Vatican City is located at. St. Peter, with great conviction and humility, proclaimed that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Master, Lord and Saviour. Therefore, he asked to be crucified upside down on the cross, and he died glorifying God.

St. Paul was also imprisoned and made to suffer by the same persecution, and he was martyred by beheading in Rome, marking the end of his many years of service and struggle for the sake of the Lord. But similarly, by his death in martyrdom, he proclaimed the glory of God, and became a great inspiration, together with St. Peter and the other Apostles, for the faithful throughout the ages to follow.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this great Solemnity in the memory of these two principal Apostles of the Church, the great St. Peter and St. Paul, holy servants of God, let us all reflect on our own lives. God has in fact called us all in many different ways, just as He has called St. Peter and St. Paul all those years ago. He has given us the same gift of the Holy Spirit and the many talents and abilities we have, and He has called us to be His servants and disciples just as the Apostles had been.

We are all called to be the successors to the works that the Apostles had done, which they had given their whole lives for, in glorifying God. And as I said earlier, God did not call these people from their great or even superhuman origins. Rather, He called ordinary people, from ordinary backgrounds and even from those that we may think or presume to be unlikely and impossible origins.

He called His Apostles and gave them the strength, courage and wisdom to do what He has called them all to do. That is exactly what we should be doing as well. In our own ordinary lives and in our daily living, we should therefore put our trust in God, and turn towards Him wholeheartedly so that we may truly be inspired by the courage and the examples showed by the Apostles that we may bring glory to God by our every actions in life.

Let us all be good and courageous witnesses of our faith in God, in each and every days of our lives. Let us all be like the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, in how we live our lives as great testimonies of faith so that hopefully many more people would be inspired and touched to follow the righteous path towards God’s salvation. Holy Apostles, St. Peter, Vicar of Christ and Prince of the Apostles, pray for us, and St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, pray for us. Amen.

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Timothy 4 : 6-8, 17-18

As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, with which the Lord, the just Judge, will reward me, on that day, and not only me, but all those who have longed for His glorious coming.

But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength, to proclaim the Word fully, and let all the pagans hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will save me from all evil, bringing me to His heavenly kingdom. Glory to Him forever and ever. Amen!

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I will praise YHVH all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in YHVH; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

YHVH’s Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of YHVH! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 12 : 1-11

About that time king Herod decided to persecute some members of the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword, and when he saw how it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.

This happened during the Festival of the Unleavened Bread. Herod had him seized and thrown into prison with four squads, each of four soldiers, to guard him. He wanted to bring him to trial before the people after the Passover feast, but while Peter was kept in prison, the whole Church prayed earnestly for him.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound by a double chain, while guards kept watch at the gate of the prison. Suddenly, an Angel of the Lord stood there and a light shone in the prison cell. The Angel tapped Peter on the side and woke him saying, “Get up quickly!”

At once, the chains fell from Peter’s wrists. The Angel said, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” Peter did so; and the Angel added, “Now, put on your cloak and follow me.” Peter followed him out; yet he did not realise that what was happening with the Angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

They passed the first guard, and then the second, and they came to the iron door leading out to the city, which opened by itself for them. They went out and made their way down a narrow alley, when suddenly the Angel left him. Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know that the Lord has sent His Angel and has rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from all that the Jews had in store for me.”

Friday, 28 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, World Day of Prayer for the Sanctity of Priestly Life (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, celebrating the popular devotion to Our Lord’s Most loving and Sacred Heart, as first revealed through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and all others through whom God had revealed the great love in His Most Sacred Heart, the great love of a loving Father, the love of a most loving and compassionate Shepherd, Our God.

In the Scripture passages we have heard today, most prominently the Lord was depicted as the Good Shepherd, as the Figure Who showed great love and compassion, care and mercy to us all, who are of the Lord’s flock, His most beloved sheep. This is most profound example used by the Lord Himself to show how much He has loved His people, in a community where many among the people had the profession of shepherds.

In the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, the passage which is our first reading today spoke of the Lord referring to Himself as the Shepherd of Israel, the One Who would guide His people to the right path, protecting them from harm, binding and healing their injuries, watching over them and looking out for those who have been lost from Him. He would guide them all with justice, mercy and compassion, which is exactly what the Lord Jesus would reiterate with His message of Himself as the Good Shepherd.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord again referred to Himself before the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as the Good Shepherd, showing to those people how God is loving and merciful, kind and compassionate to all of His beloved ones, even to the worst and most rebellious, the most wicked and the greatest of sinners among them. No one is ever beyond the reach of God’s love and compassionate mercy.

In order for us to understand the significance of the encounter and the words the Lord spoke to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law more clearly, we must understand the philosophy and the actions that those two groups of people often took at that time. They put the obedience and adherence to the Law over everything else, and they were very particular with how those laws and regulations are preserved and followed.

And they deemed all those who did not follow the Law as they have followed and preserved it to be inferior and unworthy, to be sinners and undeserving people while at the same time thinking highly of themselves and being proud of their own obedience and adherence to the strict observation of the Jewish customs, traditions and laws, and being highly respected by the people and being very influential in the community.

That was why they were very ardent in their prejudiced attitude against the prostitutes, tax collectors and other people deemed to be sinners in general. They also thought of people with disabilities and sicknesses as those whom God had punished and cursed because of their sins. They looked down on them and rejected them, and when the Lord sought all these people, they immediately cast the same prejudice on the Lord, seeing Him approaching those whom they deemed to be unworthy and unclean.

This is where the Lord showed His love and revealed what it truly means for one to obey the Lord and His laws. Mankind might have been unfaithful, wicked and filled with sins, and yet, fundamentally we are all still His beloved creations, His beloved children and people. We are the sheep to Him, Who is the Shepherd of all of us. And a shepherd loves his flock of sheep above all else, and a true and dedicated shepherd will do everything just so that his sheep will be good, safe and well taken care of.

Sometimes the sheep end up going wayward on its own, being misled or distracted by things that probably sparked its curiosity, and the sheep becomes lost from the flock. The shepherd knows all of his sheep, and every single one of them are precious to him. If one of the sheep is lost, the shepherd will come to know of this very quickly, and unless he does not care for his sheep, he will do whatever he can to find that lost sheep.

A sheep that is left to wander on its own is in a great danger because of all the threats that can destroy it, from falling into a ravine, or off a cliff, of being hunted and killed by wolves and predators among many others. And how are all these relevant to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is what each and every one of us have experienced ourselves and perhaps even are experiencing now at this very moment.

For it is sin and the temptations to sin which have led us astray from the Lord, end up in us being separated from God and from the flock of God’s faithful as we end up falling deeper and deeper into sin. We have become the lost sheep of the Lord, and the Lord Who is our Good Shepherd does not want us to be lost from Him. Rather, He wants us to be reconciled to Him and be found, and He had done everything He could to gain us back.

That is what He meant when He said that the shepherd would seek the one lost sheep even though there was only one lost sheep among one hundred sheep in all. The shepherd would do everything to find that one lost sheep so that the lost sheep may be found and be reunited with the rest of the flock, safe from all the dangers that could have happened to it if it remained lost and separated from the flock.

Unless we are found and reunited with our loving Shepherd, we will fall deeper and deeper into sin, and from there into the danger of eternal damnation, out of which there is no escape from eternal despair and suffering, annihilation and total destruction. This is not the fate that God, our loving Father, Creator and Shepherd wants to happen to us, because He loves each and every one of us so much.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate this great love which Our Lord has shown from His most loving and compassionate heart, His Most Sacred Heart, which was filled with love for each and every one of us, so much so that, He did the ultimate act of love to show us just how much He loves us and how precious each and every one of us are to Him. He took up His Cross, suffer persecution, pain and the worst of pains and went through a most humiliating death so that, all of us may live.

That is just how much Our Lord loves us, in His loving and bleeding Most Sacred Heart. In the depiction of His Most Sacred Heart, we see the Lord’s Heart being surrounded by a crown of thorns and with a great burning flame representing His ever passionate and burning love for us. And that crown of thorns represents all the pains and sufferings He had suffered for the sake of that love He has for us.

And now, we have those whom God had called to be His caretakers, His shepherds made in His own image and example, namely our priests, who are shepherds of God’s flock, representing the one true Shepherd in our midst. They are the ones who go around the world taking care of us all, God’s beloved people, showing the same love that God has poured forth from His Most Sacred Heart.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today that is why, on this Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we also pray as the whole Church together for those who have been called by God, to be His servants and followers, His priests, dedicating themselves into the priestly life and to shepherd His beloved people. On this day, we gather our prayers for them, that each and every one of them may be courageous and be loving just as Our Lord has loved us so deeply.

And at the same time, let us all realise this great love that God has shown us, that He had done everything for our sake, enduring every kinds of imaginable sufferings of the worst kind, that we may be saved. He did all of that in order to save us and to reunite us to Himself. Each and every one of us are truly precious to Him. Next time, before we even contemplate to sin or to disobey God, let us remember that every single sins we commit, no matter how small, how insignificant they may seem to us, they are wounds we inflict on the Lord, that He bore willingly for our sake.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to be better disciples of the Lord, and be more dedicated to Him, remembering how He has loved us so wonderfully and generously despite of all of our nonsense and disobedience. His patience and most loving Sacred Heart is truly our hope, and we should cling closely to this hope we have in Him. May the Lord Jesus Christ, His most loving Sacred Heart continue to love us all, now and forevermore as always. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us all. Amen.

Friday, 28 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, World Day of Prayer for the Sanctity of Priestly Life (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 15 : 3-7

At that time, Jesus told the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law this parable : “Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbours together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’”

“I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.”