Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of God in the Sacred Scriptures we are reminded to put our faith in the Lord and to trust in Him, asking Him for strength and guidance in our respective journeys of life. We are all called to follow Him and to walk in His path, modelling ourselves and our lives based on all that He has taught us through His Apostles and disciples, and through all the holy men and women, all those who have dedicated themselves to walk in the path of the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard of the time when King Solomon of Israel, the son of King David who succeeded him as the king over all the people of God, the Israelites. We heard how Solomon, who was then still young and inexperienced, asked the Lord for wisdom and guidance so that he might be able to follow in the great examples set by his father. He prayed for wisdom to be a good leader for the people of God, asking the Lord to show him the path forward as he took over the kingship and leadership from his father.

The Lord did not just grant Solomon what he had asked for, because he did not ask for more wealth, power or glory unlike what most people would have asked for. He humbly asked for wisdom and guidance to be a good leader for the people of God, and God gave him just that, a wisdom unsurpassed by others, which made him famous beyond the lands of Israel. At the same time, God gave Solomon wealth, power and glory unsurpassed and unmatched, and this made the kingdom of Israel to be a great kingdom at the height of its power.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the works of the Lord and His disciples as they went from place to place ministering to the people, proclaiming the truth of God and the Good News of His salvation. There were so many people following them and desiring to listen to the Lord that the disciples were often overwhelmed. They could not even have a proper time to rest. As we heard in our Gospel today, even when they finally managed to get away to a secluded place on their own, the people managed to figure out where they were going and went there ahead of them.

There, despite the tiring works that He had done earlier, the Lord still ministered to the people, teaching them and speaking to them, spending a lot of time with them. It was at that time when the disciples were likely given a time to rest while the Lord continued to work tirelessly, reaching out to His people. We saw in that occasion just how beloved each and every one of us are to God, and how fortunate we are to have been beloved in such a manner by the Lord. God has sent to us His only begotten Son to be our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Through what we have heard today, we have seen how God loves us, wants to be reconciled and reunited with us, that He reached out to us and bestow upon us His blessings and graces. However, more often than not, we are not able to grasp His love and efforts because we are too busy with our many preoccupations and worldly desires. We are often too busy thinking about our many concerns and plans in life to notice God and His presence in our lives, only remembering Him when we have need of Him, and forgetting Him when we do not need Him.

Today, all of us are called to be like Solomon, in humbling ourselves before the Lord and asking for His guidance and wisdom, so that we may discern carefully our path in life going forward from now on. And we also should model ourselves based on the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, whose feast we celebrate today. St. Agatha of Sicily, a renowned martyr and saint from the time of the Great Persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperors can indeed inspire us to be better Christians in true deeds and actions.

St. Agatha was born into a noble Roman family and she made a vow of holy and perpetual virginity, which she offered to God freely and wholeheartedly. Her great beauty was noted by a pagan Roman prefect named Quintianus, who did all he could to try to persuade and coax her to marry him. But despite his best efforts, his pressure and even threats, all those could not sway St. Agatha from abandoning her vow of virginity and her faith in the Lord. She remained resolute in her conviction and desire to follow the Lord.

As that time coincided with the intense persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Decius, which was a particularly brutal period of intense persecution against Christians, the displeased and disappointed prefect reported St. Agatha to the authorities, and as the prefect Quintianus himself presided over the trial, he hoped that the threat of suffering and death would make St. Agatha to give up her stubborn resistance and refusal to abandon her faith in God. Instead, St. Agatha remained even more ardent in her faith and refused to give up.

She prayed to the Lord saying, “Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, You know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am Your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil.” And despite the efforts the prefect tried to incarcerate, torture and make her life difficult, St. Agatha would not be swayed and she remained faithful to the very end. She was tortured with all sorts of punishments, and had her breasts cut, surviving a burning at the stake before eventually dying in prison, remaining faithful to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all be inspired by the great examples set before us by the young King Solomon and by St. Agatha, the great Holy Virgin and Martyr. Let us all follow their examples in faith and commit ourselves to walk in the path of faith and grow ever stronger in faith and loving God more and more with each and every passing moments. Let us all seek the Lord with ever greater conviction and ask Him for guidance and strength that we may draw ever closer to Him, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 118 : 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

How can young people remain pure? By living according to Your word.

I seek You with my whole heart; let me not stray from Your commands.

In my heart I have kept Your word, that I may not sin against my YHVH.

Praise to You, o YHVH; instruct me in Your statutes.

That, with my lips, I may declare all Your spoken decrees.

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Kings 3 : 4-13

The king used to sacrifice at Gibeon, the great high place; on the altar there he had offered a thousand burnt offerings. It was in Gibeon, during the night, that YHVH appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you want Me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown Your servant David my father a great and steadfast love because he served You faithfully and was righteous and sincere towards You. You have given him proof of Your steadfast love in making a son of his sit on his throne this day.”

“And now, o YHVH my God, You have made Your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a young boy who does not know how to undertake anything. Meantime, Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen – a people so great that they can neither be numbered nor counted.”

“Give me, therefore, an understanding mind in governing Your people that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to govern this multitude of people of Yours?”

YHVH was pleased that Solomon had made this request. And He told him, “Because you have requested this rather than long life or wealth or even vengeance on your enemies; indeed, because you have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I shall grant you your request. I now give you a wise and discerning mind such as no one has had before you nor anyone after you shall ever have.”

“I will also give you what you have not asked for, both wealth and fame; and no king shall be your equal during your lifetime.”

Friday, 4 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the words of the Sacred Scriptures all of us are reminded yet again on what each and every one of us ought to be doing as those who believe in God and walk in His path. Today we are all called to remember the great examples set by two of our holy and dedicated predecessors, namely King David of Israel, the great King of all Israel who ruled the people of God justly and defeated Goliath the great enemy in his youth, as well as St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah, the one who proclaimed the coming of Christ into this world.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Sirach regarding the story of David, the faithful servant of God, how he followed the Lord in all that He had called him to do, all the way from the early years of his youth. David had loved God and was a kind and righteous man from the very beginning, and he allowed God to lead him in whatever he did. He followed the Lord and when he was chosen to be the new King over all the people of God, he entrusted himself to God wholeheartedly.

He was the one whom God blessed and protected, and when he courageously answered the mocking calls of the Philistine champion, Goliath, David stood before the people of Israel and the Philistines who mocked and ridiculed God. He stood against the mighty giant, clad in just his shepherd’s cloak against Goliath’s fully armoured might. David completely trusted in the Lord, and through Him, he brought Goliath down, defeated the Philistines and restored the glory of God’s Name and the glory of Israel.

David was not a perfect person and neither was he blameless. He was a sinner just like us, who made mistakes and committed sins such as when he coveted the wife of Uriah, his own loyal commander, whom he led to his death in order to hide his affair from becoming known to the public. He also sinned against God when in his moment of pride desired to know the power and the glory he possessed and ordered the census over the entire land of Israel on his own accord, not in accordance with the will of God.

Yet, what was remarkable about David was that although he had sinned against God at times, but he genuinely loved God and His people, and he atoned for his sins many times over, admitting his sinfulness, humbling himself and stripping himself from the trappings of glory to be a penitent on more than one occasion just as recorded in the Book of the prophet Sirach and in the Book of Kings and the Chronicles. He desired to be reconciled with God and remained faithful and true to his dedication to Him to the end of his days.

Meanwhile, we have also heard the good examples of St. John the Baptist, the one whom God had sent into this world to be the one to proclaim the coming of His salvation. St. John the Baptist was the Herald of the Messiah, the one to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. In today’s reading, we heard how this faithful servant of God was martyred because of his commitment, so much so that he was not afraid to speak out against the king, Herod as well as his unlawfully wedded wife, Herodias, who was still in the eyes of the Law, the lawful wife of Herod’s living brother Philip.

St. John the Baptist spoke out against the king’s immoral action, and this led to Herodias in particular holding a grudge against him, which eventually led to the plot in which Herodias used her own daughter, historically named Salome, to seduce her own stepfather, king Herod, in the middle of the party and then in the end, forced him to order the execution of St. John the Baptist in prison just as we heard in our Gospel passage today. Thus was how the life of this great servant of God ended, he who had gone and stood up against the vices of the Pharisees and the king, all for the truth and the greater glory of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore now discern carefully the path that we are going to take in life from now on. Are we going to live our lives from now on following the good examples of King David and St. John the Baptist? Or are we still going to continue to disobey the Lord and remain in the state of sin? The choice is ours, and we should make a firm decision to walk down the path of righteousness and faith, rejecting the temptations and the allures of sin, and doing our best to dedicate our lives to God. We may not be perfect, as no one is perfect, but following the examples of our holy predecessors, we can draw ever closer to God.

May the Lord be with us in our journey of faith through life. May He strengthen each and every one of us, and empower us to walk ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always, forevermore. May God bless us all in our every deeds and works, in our every moments. Amen.

Friday, 4 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 6 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of his bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Friday, 4 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 17 : 31, 47 and 50, 51

This God – His way is perfect; the word of YHVH can stand fire. He is a shield for those who seek refuge in Him.

YHVH lives! Praised be my Rock! Exalted be my Saviour God. For this I extol You, o YHVH, among the nations; I will sing praise to Your Name.

He has given victories to His king; He has shown His love to His anointed ones, to David, and to his descendants forever.

Friday, 4 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Sirach 47 : 2-13

As fat is selected from the peace offering, so David was chosen from among the Israelites. He played with lions and bears as if they were lambs or young goats. He was still young when he slew a giant, to restore the honour of his people; with a sling he aimed a stone that killed the arrogant Goliath.

He invoked the Lord Most High, who gave him strength to slay a mighty warrior, and so exalt the power of his people. So they glorified him for his ten thousands and praised him as a blessing from the Lord when he was chosen king. For he wiped out his enemies on all sides and annihilated his adversaries, the Philistines, crushing their power forever.

In all that he did, he gave thanks to the Most High, and showed his love for his Maker by singing with all his heart. He placed singers accompanied by harps before the Altar to make beautiful music; he gave splendour to feasts and even greater magnificence to the more solemn occasions, exalting the Holy Name of the Lord and having the Sanctuary ring with His praises from early morning.

The Lord forgave David’s sins and established his power forever; He made a Covenant with him for the benefit of the kings and gave him a glorious throne in Israel. A wise son succeeded him and fared well because of him. Solomon reigned during times of peace, and God gave him rest from war to enable him to build a house for His Name, a Sanctuary that would stand forever.

Thursday, 3 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the Word of God being spoken to us through the Sacred Scriptures, we are called to remember the love which God has shown us His beloved people and the mission which he has entrusted to each and every one of us in reaching out to our fellow men and women, and we have to do our part to reach out to others and to proclaim to them the truth of God by our own exemplary actions and life. That is how each and every one of us are expected to do as the Lord’s disciples and faithful followers.

In our first reading today, we heard from the first Book of Kings relating to us the story of the transmission of rule, power and kingship from David, the famous king of Israel to his son, Solomon, whom God had chosen to succeed him in leading the people of Israel. King David reminded Solomon of the obligation and the expectation for him to follow in the path of the Lord and His Law. David reminded Solomon how God has shown His kindness and blessings to the people of Israel and how He has blessed David himself and promised to be with His family and house forever.

The Lord will continue to bless His people and Solomon and his rule and kingdom, just as David has been blessed. But, if they fell into sin and disobeyed God, then they would have to endure the consequences of their sins. God will however forgive them if they are to repent from their sinful ways and desire to return to His loving embrace. He has always loved us and desired for us to be reconciled to Him, sending His servants and messengers to reach out to us and to help us find our way to Him. That is what we have also heard in our Gospel passage today.

For in the Gospel today, we heard the Lord sending out Apostles two by two out to visit the various places that He wanted them to minister in, and often that these were the places where He Himself would come to visit. He sent them to those places just by themselves and told them not to take excessive equipments and preparations with them, and instead asked them to depend on the goodwill of the people they visited because God wanted them to depend not on their own power or might, on their own resources and goods that they could achieve success in their ministry.

Instead, God reminded them all that it is because of Him and His presence guiding them throughout the way, that the Apostles had achieved great accomplishments and successes throughout their work. It was by the power of God that they had healed the sic, cast out the demons and it was by the love and mercy of God that they had touched the hearts and minds of many who had seen the works of God and His servants, answering the Lord’s call that they too have come to believe in Him and became His followers.

Through what we have heard in today’s Scripture readings, we are all reminded that we have been entrusted with the gifts and talents from God, for us to use for the good cause of the Lord and to follow His commandments and Law. We are all called to be righteous like how David reminded Solomon to be obedient to God and righteous in his actions, and just as how the Lord told His Twelve Apostles to do His will and to depend not on their own strength and power, but rather by trusting in God and His love and providence throughout their ministry.

And each one of us have also been entrusted with the same mission by the Lord, to be the witnesses of Our Lord’s truth and resurrection in our communities today. We have been called to follow the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly, and we have a lot of good examples to follow on, based on the inspirations from the saints. We should therefore do what our holy predecessors, namely St. Blaise and St. Ansgar, whose feast day we are celebrating today. St. Blaise was a martyr and bishop of the Church, while St. Ansgar was remembered as a great bishop and missionary of the Church, the Apostle to the Germans.

St. Blaise was the Bishop of Sebastea in Asia Minor during the late era of Roman Empire, living during the time of the reforms and upheavals among Christians under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian and his successors. The Christian faithful endured a particularly brutal persecution, the last of the great waves of persecutions against Christians, which culminated in the last round of persecution after the time of the Emperor Diocletian, when the Emperor Licinius in his rivalry with the Emperor Constantine the Great persecuted the Christians in his territory, which led to the martyrdom of many including that of St. Blaise.

St. Blaise was a great bishop, wholly dedicated to his flock, spending a lot of time and effort through his virtues and works, and in the many miracles accorded to him, to whom a lot of people flocked seeking physical and spiritual healing. Later on, he was arrested, tortured and eventually martyred by the local Roman governor, beheaded for his faith. Through this martyrdom and his earlier care for the ailments of the people, St. Blaise has been well known to this day for the special ‘Blessing of St. Blaise’ for the ailment of the throat.

Meanwhile, St. Ansgar was a renowned missionary who was sent to the lands of the Saxons in the northern parts of Germany which was then still mostly following pagan ways. He converted many among the pagans through his works and devoted his life to the flock entrusted under his care. He helped to build a strong and firm foundation of the Church in that region, and did a lot of work to reach out to the people who have yet to believe in Christ. His efforts earned rich dividends although he had to endure a lot of trials and challenges in doing so. But he never gave up and kept on doing his best, and many came to God’s salvation through him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by these many good examples and inspiration in faith. Let us do what we can in our daily lives to be role models for each other. May the Lord bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 3 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

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

Mark 6 : 7-13

At that time, Jesus called the Twelve to Him, and began to send them out two by two, giving them authority over evil spirits, and He ordered them to take nothing for the journey, except a staff : no food, no bag, no money on their belts. They were to wear sandals and were not to take an extra tunic.

And He added, “In whatever house you are welcomed, stay there until you leave the place. If any place does not receive you, and the people refuse to listen to you, leave after shaking the dust off your feet. It will be a testimony against them.”

So they set out to proclaim that this was the time to repent. They drove out many demons and healed many sick people by anointing them.