Saturday, 22 February 2020 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us celebrate together with the whole Church the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. It must have been quite bewildering for some of us why the Church chose to celebrate the feast of a chair, but in this case, the chair mentioned here as being the Chair of St. Peter, was more than just of any physical chair, for the meaning and significance of this Feast today is tied very much to the history and the foundation of our Church.

For the Chair being referred to here, while it represents the actual chair and seat of the Apostle St. Peter, the Cathedra Sancti Petri which by tradition is the wooden chair encased in gold and enshrined at the Altar of the Chair of the Basilica of St. Peter as the chair which St. Peter himself once used as his Cathedra, it also symbolically represents his teaching authority and the powers which God has entrusted to St. Peter as the Chief Apostle and His Vicar on earth.

Just like for the bishops of the Church, who has their seat of authority, or the Cathedra located at the church which is then named and known as the Cathedral of their respective dioceses, St. Peter as the chief of all the bishops and all the disciples of the Lord also has his Cathedra, both as the actual seat as well as the symbolic authority of his leadership as the shepherd of the whole entire Universal Church, which we celebrate and focus on today.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard of the Apostle speaking to the faithful with regards to the roles and responsibilities of the elders or the bishops in the community of the faithful. And St. Peter in today’s passage addressed those same elders or bishops directly with the exhortation and reminder that they, as the shepherds of God’s flock must lead God’s people to His truth and salvation, and they must labour hard and give their best for the sake of the flock entrusted to them.

It was through the authority which Christ has entrusted to St. Peter that the latter, as the Vicar of the one and true Head of the Church, and as the Shepherd of all the shepherds of God’s flock, that St. Peter spoke, inspiring those bishops who had been appointed to succeed the works of the Apostles and the first bishops of the Church. That was how the Church of God began and continued to flourish in its very beginning, as more and more people came to follow God and more and more people were called to serve them as deacons, priests and bishops.

The role which St. Peter played in the early history of the Church was indeed very crucial and important as several occasions in the Acts of the Apostles showed us how St. Peter was clearly the leader of the Apostles and the disciples, settling disputes and problems within the growing Christian communities, and as the one indeed who had been entrusted by Christ Himself with the governance of His Church in this world.

This was what we heard in our Gospel passage today, in the account of the establishment of the Church by God, through the words He Himself had spoken, as He was acknowledged by St. Peter as the Son of the Living God and Messiah of the world. The Lord Jesus spoke to St. Peter, saying that thus, he is Peter, whose name means ‘Rock’, and upon that same ‘Rock’ He would establish His Church that will prevail over all trials and tribulations that even the gates of hell cannot stand against it.

And Christ also entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven to St. Peter, which is now the symbol of Papal authority of the two crossed keys, representing what Christ had said, that the very authority to loosen or bind souls on earth and in heaven has been given to His Church through St. Peter, His Vicar, the first Pope and Bishop of Rome, as the leader of the entire of the whole Universal Church supported by the other Apostles who are the pillars of the Church.

We have to also note how Christ chose this man, St. Peter, who was then named Simon, son of John, who was the most unlikely of candidates to be chosen for such an important role. Simon was merely a poor, illiterate and brash fisherman from the lake of Galilee, whom the Lord called to follow Him. Simon followed, and Jesus gave him a new name, that is Peter, a symbolic grant of a new life and vocation, by which indeed later on he would be the ‘fishers of men’ together with his fellow Apostles and disciples.

Through the Holy Spirit, God guided St. Peter and turned him from the illiterate, uneducated and emotional man he was once before, cutting off the ears off a Temple servant in anger and denied knowing the Lord three times, into the great Apostle and Pope he was to become, as he gave his life to the service of God and ministered to the people throughout his many years of journeying to many parts of the world and resolving disputes between communities of the faithful.

Today therefore, we commemorate this great celebration and Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle as the reminder for each and everyone of us that our Church is indeed the one that Christ Himself has established in this world, as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And we therefore recall this very important Communion that we have as one Church and one Body of Christ, as we are united with St. Peter and his successors, our Popes and Vicars of Christ, who sit on the Cathedra or throne of St. Peter, as the Shepherd of shepherds of God’s people, entrusted with the care of the Universal Church.

Therefore today, let us all pray for our current Pope, His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ and Bishop of Rome. Let us pray for him that he will be able to carry on his ministry as the successor of the Prince of the Apostles, St. Peter, in guiding the entire Universal Church forward with the support of the bishops and priests, as well as all the lay members of the Church. Let us also support our Pope and the Church in our ever growing efforts in evangelisation and missionary works, in our numerous charitable outreach and works, and the many other efforts of the Church.

May the Lord continue to bless His Church and provide for us in everything, particularly through difficult and challenging moments. May He bless our Pope with courage and strength, with faith and perseverance as He once blessed St. Peter, the Prince and Chief of the Apostles. St. Peter, Holy Apostle, Pope and Vicar of Christ, pray for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 22 February 2020 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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-Jona, 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, 22 February 2020 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. 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, 22 February 2020 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 5 : 1-4

I now address myself to those elders among you; I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, hoping to share the Glory that is to be revealed.

Shepherd the flock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it not out of obligation but willingly for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart; do not lord it over those in your care, rather be an example to your flock.

Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will be given a crown of unfading glory.

Friday, 21 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented through the Scripture passages we heard, of the topic which often came up in the discussion of our faith, especially regarding the matter of salvation and faith. We are reminded that our faith cannot be empty and devoid of good and concrete actions, or good works based on that faith, because without those works, our faith is truly empty, meaningless and dead.

That is the essence of what St. James had mentioned in his Epistle, that faith without good works is the same as having a dead faith, and having a dead faith is meaningless and pointless to us, as it does not lead us towards God but instead to eternal damnation like those who have sinned and disobeyed God, and refused to repent from their sins. For faith, by itself, without the backing of concrete action, is no better than just formality or even hypocrisy for some.

St. James used the example of how even the demons and evil spirits, who rebelled against God and were formerly angels of heaven that were thrown down because of their sins, still believed in God and had to obey Him as their Lord and Master, no matter how they begrudged it or hated it. After all, they were created by Him and they still have to acknowledge His authority and power. That was why the demons and evil spirits obeyed Jesus when He ordered them to get out of the people they had possessed.

Yes, indeed, they believed and had faith in God much as we do, but the evil spirits and demons did not hold fast to their faith and instead put their trust in their own pride and rebellion, following Lucifer, their leader, whom now we know as Satan in their rebellion of pride and vanity, and they all fell and were condemned. They had faith but acted otherwise, no different from many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law whom the Lord Jesus often rebuked because of their hypocrisy and lack of true faith.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke about those who were unfaithful and preferred to save themselves rather than to gain the kingdom of God. These people were those who were too engrossed in their desires for worldly ambitions and pleasures, that they would rather save their lives in this world rather than to save themselves in the world that is to come. They put faith as a mere formality and at face value, but inside their hearts, there was no love for God.

The Lord spoke of this again with reference to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who often opposed Him and worked against Him all the time. They had faith in God indeed, and they claimed to be the most faithful and pious of all God’s people, and yet, their faith were superficial and for show, as they prayed publicly and made show of their piety that they might be praised and honoured for that, and they revelled and enjoyed in such treatment.

Those people had faith in God and yet did not show their faith through genuine good works, and instead, they acted in ways contrary to their faith and to what they had been teaching the people, and that was why they were considered as hypocrites. Their love for themselves and their own ego and desire surpassed and overcome their faith in God, and that was why, they refused to believe in the Lord’s truth and all the wonderful and miraculous deeds He has performed before their own eyes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are therefore called to be truly faithful to God, not just in name or as a formality only, but that we must be genuine in wanting to follow God and His ways at every moments of our lives. We are called to be His witnesses in our respective communities and places, to proclaim His glory and truth by our lives, lived with faith and true dedication, and not just faith in name only.

Today, we can look upon the good examples set by one of Our Lord’s faithful saint, whose life and works are truly an inspiration for all of us as Christians. This saint is none other then St. Peter Damian, a holy bishop, Cardinal of the Church and a Doctor of the Church whose feast we celebrate today. He was a member of the Benedictine Order, and was remembered to be a great reformer of the Church and the Christian faith.

St. Peter Damian devoted much of his life to serve the Church in various capacities, beginning from religious life as part of the Benedictine monks, and his tremendous piety and love for God were evident even from those early days. He worked closely with some of the Popes, and was involved in the major reforms of the Church at that time which was facing my corruptions and immoral behaviours of its members, especially that of the clergy, from the influences of the secular world.

For his many works and contributions, the then reigning Pope wanted to make St. Peter Damian a Cardinal, a great honour which he resisted and rejected for quite some time before finally he accepted the important role as the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, one of the most prestigious role in the Roman Church, becoming the right hand man of the Pope in reforming many Church practices and disciplines, guiding many back to the path of obedience to God.

For that and his many other contributions, we can see how St. Peter Damian was not just a man who had an empty and meaningless faith. Instead, he showed us all what it means for us to have a genuine, living and worthy faith, faith that according to St. James as faith which is lived through good works, and through those same good works and faith, we will be blessed by God and brought to salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we carry on living our lives in this world from now on, let us all reflect on today’s Scripture readings and the words of St. James, and being inspired by St. Peter Damian and his lifelong dedication to God, let us all strive to dedicate ourselves to God with a newfound zeal and strength. May God be with us throughout this journey, and may He bless us all now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 8 : 34 – Mark 9 : 1

At that time, Jesus called the people and His disciples, and said, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it.”

“What good is it to gain the whole world, while destroying your soul? There is nothing more precious than your soul. I tell you : If anyone is ashamed of Me and of My words among this adulterous and sinful people, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the Glory of His Father with the holy Angels.”

And He went on to say, “Truly I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the kingdom of God coming with power.”

Friday, 21 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family, there his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness, he is kind, merciful and upright.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

Friday, 21 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

James 2 : 14-24, 26

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, to profess faith, without showing works? Such faith has no power to save you. If a brother or sister is in need of clothes or food, and one of you says, “May things go well for you; be warm and satisfied,” without attending to their material needs, what good is that? So, it is, for faith without deeds : it is totally dead.

Say to whoever challenges you, “You have faith and I have good deeds; show me your faith apart from actions and I, for my part, will show you my faith in the way I act.” Do you believe there is one God? Well enough, but do not forget, that the demons, also, believe, and tremble with fear!

You foolish one, do you have to be convinced, that faith without deeds is useless? Think of our father Abraham. Was he not justified by the act of offering his son Isaac on the Altar? So you see, his faith was active, along with his deeds, and became perfect by what he did. The word of Scripture was thus fulfilled, Abraham believed in God so he was considered a righteous person and he was called the friend of God.

So you see, a person is justified by works, and not by faith alone. So, just as the body is dead without its spirit, so faith, without deeds is also dead.

Thursday, 20 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scriptures, we are reminded that we should be careful not to indulge in ourselves and our desires, that is to indulge in our desires and pride, so that we will not end up being swallowed by them and fall therefore into sin. We are reminded that as Christians we should instead be humble and allow God to work His wonders through us and our lives, opening ourselves to His truth and love.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. James, St. James mentioned how as Christians we should not seek worldly glory and attention, hubris and ambition, ego and desires. St. James made a mention of the discrimination that people often make based on status, wealth, prestige, fame and all sorts of parameters by which we classify and categorise people. We tend to look down on those whom we deem to be inferior to us, while we honour and praise those whom we deem to be powerful and mighty.

And all of that were because we ourselves sought acceptance, recognition and status. We honour and welcome those who are rich and those who have important status because we want to gain benefit and satisfaction from the relationship we build with those who can benefit us and provide us with material sustenance and worldly benefits. Those who are of no status and importance in the eyes of the world are often ostracised and put aside because we perhaps think that we can gain nothing from them.

We need then to take note that St. James was not against the rich or the powerful, but rather our prejudices and our bias against those who are weak, poor and those who we are often judgmental against. And all these are caused by our own inability to resist the temptation of power, of wealth, of fame, glory and renown, of pleasure and many other worldly desires that often lead us down the path of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what St. James wrote in his Epistle is a kind reminder to all of us Christians to be charitable in our words, actions and deeds. In everything we say and do, we should reach out to everyone, and love everyone equally without discrimination. We should also resist those temptations of power, of glory, wealth and fame, praise and vanity, all the things that will lead us astray from God and from His path.

We have to look at the example set by Christ Himself, as described in our Gospel passage today. The Lord Jesus asked His disciples Who they think or say He was, and while some said that He was a prophet and the One promised by God to come, St. Peter spoke firmly that he believed that Jesus was the Messiah and Holy One of God. What St. Peter spoke was the truth, but then we see just how cunning the devil can be, as he used that opportunity to strike and tempt Christ Our Lord.

St. Peter immediately rebuked the Lord when He mentioned how He would have to suffer and die at the hands of His enemies, which was indeed part of His ministry in this world. St. Peter rebuked the Lord saying that He should not have said such things and that He would not die as He had said. In fact, the devil tried to tempt Jesus again, by saying that because He is the Son of God and King of Kings, He should not have to suffer and die in such a manner, which befitted a slave more than a King.

Yet, that was what the Lord had exactly done, in accepting humbly His mission to save us all, out of His great compassion and love for each and every one of us. He resisted that temptation to leave His mission and be spared of the suffering that He was about to undertake for our sake. Although He was great and mighty, the Divine Lord and God, King of all kings, He willingly humbled and emptied Himself, so that by offering to His heavenly Father, His own worthy offering of His Most Precious Body and Blood, on the Altar of the Cross, He could save all of us mankind from our sins and from certain annihilation.

As Christians, all of us are called to imitate the love which Christ has shown to all of us, His ever generous love and compassion by which He has touched each one of us, calling us to repent from our sins and to embrace His wonderful mercy. We are called to love everyone equally, for we must also not forget how Christ loved us all even when we are still sinners, wicked and unworthy, disgusting and terrible because of all of our sins. Christ is still willing to forgive us despite all of that, provided that we make the commitment to change our way of life and follow Him with all of our heart.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore deepen our faith and grow further in our spiritual relationship with God. Let us all spend more time with God and do our best in our lives to serve Him and to glorify Him by our actions at all times. Let us resist the temptations put in our path by the devil, who sought our downfall by appealing to our pride, ego and desire. May the Lord be with us always and may He bless us in our every good works and endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 20 February 2020 : 6th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 27-33

At that time, Jesus set out with His disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” And they told Him, “Some say You are John the Baptist; others say You are Elijah or one of the prophets.”

Then Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” And He ordered them not to tell anyone about Him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed, and after three days rise again.

Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took Him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus turning around, and looking at His disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”