Saturday, 6 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the narrative of the Lord as the Good Shepherd of all the faithful and as the One to guide all the people towards the salvation and eternal life found in God alone. Through Christ, the Lord has gathered all of us to Himself, and He has done this for us so that each and every one of us may be saved, and not fall into eternal damnation.

The Lord offered Himself as the worthy sacrifice and also acting as the High Priest in offering this gift that through His offering all of us receive the assurance of eternal life and true happiness, a joy that is everlasting and true, no longer burdened by the chains of sin. He has done all of these out of love for us, because He has seen how wretched we have been in our condition just as exemplified by our Gospel passage today.

In that occasion, the Lord saw how the people who were gathered to listen to Him were like sheep without a shepherd, without a guide and without a proper direction in life. He showed them the path towards His salvation and taught them even when He and His disciples were tired and exhausted. He dedicated Himself, truly like the Good Shepherd He is, patiently caring for the people entrusted to Him, loving them and showing them the true face of God’s love.

We have seen how God loved us so much that He willingly gave everything for our sake. Do we then appreciate the love He has shown us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Many of us often forget about God and we only remember Him when we need something from Him or require assistance from Him. When things are good for us, and when everything is fine, we quickly forget about Him and carry on living our lives in the same way and routine, again and again.

As Christians, all of us are called to live our lives with God at the centre of our lives and existence. We should do our very best to dedicate our actions and our daily living to glorify God at all times, to the very best of our abilities. We are all called to be inspiration for one another, to be exemplary in how we lead a Christ-like life, to be filled with love for God and to be filled with love for our fellow brothers and sisters.

The Lord has called us all to follow His example as the Good Shepherd, to show love and care for one another, and to be genuinely compassionate towards those who need our help and attention. He wants us to live up to our Christian calling and be genuine Christian at all times, dedicating ourselves to serve God and to stand up for our faith whenever it is necessary. That is how we inspire others to follow the Lord and be faithful as well.

Today, all of us celebrate the memory of the great saints, St. Paul Miki and his companions, the Holy Martyrs of Nagasaki, the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan. At that time, the Church in Japan had been going through a period of very rapid expansion that saw hundreds of thousands of people converting to the Christian faith. However, the initially supportive authorities began to be wary of the rapid expansion and powerful influence of the Church, and the then Regent of Japan, Hideyoshi Toyotomi began to persecute Christians throughout the realm.

St. Paul Miki was among those who were arrested for their faith, and they were tried and condemned to death in Kyoto, the then Imperial capital of Japan and the seat of the Regent. St. Paul Miki and his companions were forced to undergo the most painful journey from Kyoto to Nagasaki, halfway across Japan on foot, a distance of almost a thousand kilometres, to the place of their martyrdom. Perhaps the authorities hoped that some among them would give up and abandon their faith.

On the contrary, St. Paul Miki and his companions, the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs took courage in God and sang the glorious hymn ‘Te Deum’ in praise of God throughout their journey, thanking and glorifying God as they marched towards their deaths. They remained faithful to the very end and faced martyrdom with courage, receiving from the Lord, their Divine Master and Good Shepherd, the crown of true and everlasting glory and happiness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of our holy and devout predecessors? Are we willing to commit ourselves to the good cause of the Lord and to spend the time and effort to proclaim the greater glory of God through our own lives, our actions and deeds? Let us all reflect on this and discern in what way we can live up to our Christian calling, in following the call and example of Our Lord, our Good Shepherd and Master. May God continue to guide us and bless us abundantly in all of our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 6 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (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, “Go off by yourselves to 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 a long teaching session with them.

Saturday, 6 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Saturday, 6 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 13 : 15-17, 20-21

Let us, then, continually offer through Jesus a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips celebrating His Name. Do not neglect good works and common life, for these are sacrifices pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are concerned for your souls and are accountable for them. Let this be a joy for them rather than a burden, which would be of no advantage for you.

May God give you peace, He Who brought back from among the dead Jesus our Lord, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Whose Blood seals the eternal covenant. He will train you in every good work, that you may do His will, for it is He Who works in us what pleases Him, through Jesus Christ, to Whom all glory be forever and ever. Amen!

Friday, 5 February 2021 : 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 all of us as Christians are reminded to be holy and pure in all things, in our dealings and in our relationships. In particular today we are called to focus on the nature of marriage and family that is truly sacred in the eyes of the Lord. Then we are also called to reflect on the courage that St. John the Baptist in upholding the sanctity of this marriage against even the powerful ruler of his time when he disobeyed the Law and committed adultery.

In our first reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminded the faithful to keep up their faith and to continue showing the love as they had been instructed and commanded to by the Lord. The author wanted all the faithful especially among the Jewish populations not to be afraid of the opposition and challenges from the community at large and in particular from the authorities who might be trying to prevent them from practicing their faith.

The author reminded all of the people that God was with them and that they would not walk the journey all alone, as God would be journeying with them. The Lord was by their side and walked with them even against the world, and therefore they should not be afraid. In the same way, their predecessor in faith, namely St. John the Baptist himself had suffered and endured bitter struggles for his commitment and faith in the Lord.

St. John the Baptist had been arrested and imprisoned for having rebuked the king, Herod Antipas for his adulterous and sinful behaviour in taking the lawfully wedded wife of his own brother, Herod Philip, as his own wife, when Philip was very much still alive. Such an action was tantamount to adultery and wicked, and a very immoral act for someone who ruled as the king over the land.

Hence, just as St. John the Baptist had earlier on rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their hypocrisy and lack of faith in doubting his work and authentic ministry, thus he did the same against even king Herod, earning especially the wrath and enmity from Herodias, the wife of Herod, the one with whom Herod committed adultery with. Yet, as we can see, St. John the Baptist was not afraid to do so.

Even in prison, he would continue to speak out against the king and his immoral actions, being faithful to the very end. When he was eventually martyred after Herodias tricked king Herod into killing the man of God by using her own daughter as a pawn in the process, St. John the Baptist showed us all what it truly means for us to be a follower of God and to be faithful to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all respond to God’s call to be His faithful servants, and let us all be inspired by the faith that had been shown by St. John the Baptist. Let us all not be deterred by the challenges and trials that we may face throughout our journey, all the temptations and pressures that may persuade or force us to abandon the faith and the efforts to live a genuine Christian living.

Today we also commemorate the feast of St. Agatha, a renowned saint and martyr of the faith, who have died defending her faith and purity in commitment to God. Also known as St. Agatha of Sicily, she lived a virtuous Christian life throughout her youth, and despite the efforts of a pagan Roman prefect who desired her, she resisted the temptations and efforts, and this led to her arrest and torture.

But St. Agatha remained firm and resolute in her faith, and not even all the sufferings and trials could dim her dedication and zeal to the Lord. Despite all the sufferings she experienced, tortured and struck with iron hooks, burnt with torches and even had her breasts cut out with iron pincers, she remained true to her faith, to the very end, as the perfect example of dedication and commitment of a true Christian, one that we can be inspired by and follow.

The Lord has called us all to be His faithful servants and followers. He has called us to be exemplary in our lives and to be inspiration in our way of life such that so many others could be inspired to follow in our footsteps and be saved as well. Let us all pray for the grace of faith and strength, of courage and the ability to dedicate our lives and actions daily for the Lord, in keeping ourselves true to our faith. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 5 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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, 5 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 26 : 1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fail; though war break out against me, I will still be confident.

For He will keep me safe in His shelter in times of misfortune; He will hide me beneath His roof, and set me high upon a rock.

I seek Your face, o Lord. Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my Protector, do not reject me.

Friday, 5 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 13 : 1-8

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to offer hospitality; you know that some people have entertained Angels without knowing it. Remember prisoners as if you were with them in chains, and the same for those who are suffering. Remember that you also have a body.

Marriage must be respected by all and husband and wife faithful to each other. God will punish the immoral and the adulterous. Do not depend on money. Be content with having enough for today for God has said : I will never forsake you or abandon you, and we shall confidently answer : The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Consider their end and imitate their faith. Christ Jesus is the same today as yesterday and forever.

Thursday, 4 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are reminded that through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour all of us have received such great graces and wonders from God, that we have seen the salvation of God and been so fortunate to have heard of God’s truth from the hands of His Apostles and successors which we have received through the Church, of which we are members and parts of.

In our first reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews today, we heard of the great majesty and the power of God, so mighty and fearsome that no one could see the Lord’s majesty and power and lived. Those who saw God would perish because of their sins and unworthiness, having been corrupted ever since our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, disobeyed the Lord in the Gardens of Eden.

That was why they hid from God upon having committed the sin, and they were banished from Eden to roam about on Earth as a consequence for their sins. When Moses then later on came and meet God at Mount Horeb, saw God and was in His holy presence, his whole countenance and face changed, radiant with the glory and majesty of God, and all were terrified and awed by his appearance. Moses was perhaps one of the only few who saw God, walked with Him and lived.

But then, things changed with the coming of Christ, for in Jesus Christ the Son of God and Divine Word Incarnate, the fullness of the glory of God has been made visible and tangible through His humanity, and by His entry into this world, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, He has bridged the once great and uncrossable chasm that existed between mankind and God. Through His coming and His sacrifice on the Cross, God has reconciled us to Himself and we have received the sure guarantee of eternal life and happiness in Him.

And it is exactly this truth which the Lord has revealed to us and passed down to us which we now believe and commit ourselves to as Christians. We believe in the Lord Who has willingly entered our world and assumed our humble human existence, that by sharing in our humanity, not only that He was able to gather us all and sanctify us through His sacrifice on the Cross, but He made Himself tangible and accessible to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all then be thankful to God for His wonderful love, as well as also reflecting on the calling that the Lord has entrusted to us, as each and every one of us have the same mission that God has entrusted to the Apostles and disciples, all those who have been called to serve and to proclaim the truth and the Good News of God. The Lord has sent them all out to prepare the way for Him and to proclaim His truth to more and more people.

Their works are still far from over, brethren. There are still many areas that require our participation and efforts. As members of the Church, it is our obligation and duty to be active in dedicating ourselves to the Lord, in reaching out to our fellow brothers and sisters, all those who need to hear the Good News, the truth and the love of God. This is why we all need to respond to the Lord’s call and seek Him ever more courageously.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with a renewed zeal and commitment, dedicating ourselves and committing our time and efforts, to lead more and more people down the path towards salvation and eternal life. Let us all be entrust ourselves to the Lord, and be more and more courageous and willing to walk faithfully in the path of the Lord.

And let us all pray, that God will continue to strengthen us and guide us in our journey of life, in glorifying Him at all times through our actions and deeds. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 4 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.