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.