Saturday, 23 February 2019 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Scripture passages remind us of the need for us to be faithful to God, in all of our actions in life. By having faith in God it means that we must put our complete trust in Him, and we must dedicate ourselves to His way and walk in the path that He has shown us, even though those paths He led us to may be the ones that bring us pain and sufferings. To be a faithful servant of God, sometimes we need to suffer and even to face persecution, humiliation and disgrace.

Let us take for example, the names of those mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews, part of which is our first reading of today. In that passage, we heard the names of Abel, Enoch and Noah. These few people who were mentioned were those who have walked on this earth at the beginning of our history, those who were considered and mentioned to be righteous among the sons and daughters of men, descendants of Adam and Eve.

First, that of Abel, he was the son of Adam and Eve, younger brother of Cain. Abel offered the pleasing sacrifice of a young lamb while Cain offered what the Lord did not command him to offer, that is of his crops. When Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God, Cain was filled with jealousy and hatred, slaughtering his own brother out of anger and that jealousy within his heart. As a result, Cain sinned against God, and when God confronted him, he persisted in his disobedience by denying his involvement in such a wicked act.

And then, Enoch was mentioned as a most righteous man, more righteous than anyone living on earth at the time, and who obeyed the Lord so faithfully and completely, that God took him up into heaven directly, and Enoch did not suffer from death, much like how the prophet Elijah would later be taken up into heaven on flaming chariots before Elisha, his disciple and successor. God showed His love and faithfulness to those who have been faithful and committed to Him.

For Noah, in the recent days we have just heard how God commanded him to build up a great Ark, as He was about to wipe out all those wicked sons and daughters of men who lived at that time. The wickedness of those people were such that, God has to rescue Noah, his family and all that He wanted to preserve even as He struck against all those who were wicked in their ways and unrepentant in their sins.

All of these faithful servants of God certainly did not have an easy life, persecuted and ostracised, humiliated and made to suffer because of their faith in God. God Himself was also suffering through His begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Who came into this world to be our Saviour. As we heard from our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus openly proclaimed and predicted the coming of the persecutions He was about to face, and the pains He had to go through, ultimately leading to the sacrifice on the cross.

This is a reminder for us that the path which the Lord shows us, the way that He wants us to take will not be an easy one, as they will be filled with difficulties and challenges. For us to be good and committed Christians, we need to face this reality, that our lives may have to be changed dramatically if we want to be God’s disciples. That is because we have to walk in the way conforming to God’s will, which are often in opposition and are incompatible with the ways of this world.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Polycarp, a renowned holy bishop and servant of God, a committed disciple of the Lord and witness of His truth, and also a brave and courageous martyr of the faith. St. Polycarp is regarded as one of the three most important Apostolic Fathers, the early Church leaders and successors of the Apostles, together with Pope St. Clement and St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Polycarp was one of the earliest Church fathers who wrote extensively and helped to establish the sacred traditions of the Church.

He was dedicated in his work, and in his ministry to those faithful who were entrusted under his care. St. Polycarp devoted his life to serve the Lord and His people, so thoroughly that even through the difficult times of persecution and opposition against the Church and the faithful, he led them all through those difficult and challenging moments. That was how he was eventually martyred, by impaling and stabbing when even fire failed to harm him. St. Polycarp remained true to his faith in God and dedicated his life to His service.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to reflect on our own lives, on what we ourselves can do to give our lives in commitment to God, to serve Him and to love Him all of our lives, even as we are aware of the consequences and challenges that are awaiting us if we decide to do so. Let us remember that ultimately, in the end, the glory of God and His eternal life and blessings will be ours, if we persist and triumph through this challenging moment.

May the Lord continue to guide us all, and through the intercession of St. Polycarp, and the other holy saints, holy men and women of God, may we draw ever closer to God and may we grow ever deeper in our love and commitment towards Him. Amen.

Saturday, 23 February 2019 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 9 : 2-13

At that time, six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There His appearance was changed before their eyes. Even His clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say : they were overcome with awe. But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice, “This is My Son, the Beloved; listen to Him.”

And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean.

Finally they asked Him, “Why then do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered them, “Of course Elijah will come first, so that everything may be as it should be. But why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they have treated him as they pleased, as the Scriptures say of him.”

Saturday, 23 February 2019 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 144 : 2-3, 4-5, 10-11

I will praise You day after day and exalt Your Name forever. Great is the Lord, most worthy of praise; and His deeds are beyond measure.

Parents commend Your works to their children and tell them Your feats. They proclaim the splendour of Your majesty and recall Your wondrous works.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

Saturday, 23 February 2019 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 11 : 1-7

Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith our ancestors were approved. By faith we understand that the stages of creation were disposed by God’s word, and what is visible came from what cannot be seen.

Because of Abel’s faith his offering was more acceptable than that of his brother Cain, which meant he was upright, and God Himself approved his offering. Because of this faith he cried to God, as said in Scripture, even after he died.

By faith Enoch was taken to heaven, instead of experiencing death : he could not be found because God had taken him. In fact, it is said that before being taken up he had pleased God. Yet without faith it is impossible to please Him : no one draws near to God without first believing that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him earnestly.

By faith Noah was instructed of events which could not yet be seen and, heeding what he heard, he built a boat in which to save his family. The faith of Noah condemned the world and he reached holiness born of faith.