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.

Friday, 22 February 2019 : 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 we commemorate the occasion of the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, bringing us into focus to the Chair or the Seat of authority which St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of the Apostles has, in his position as God’s own Vicar on earth, as the one to whom God had entrusted His own Church, all the collective body of the whole faithful, the Church of God, which He has built upon the firm foundation of the Rock of faith, St. Peter, His Vicar.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what is so significant about this ‘chair’ of St. Peter the Apostle that there is a special feast day to commemorate it? This chair does not refer to any physical chair, even though in St. Peter’s Basilica, there is indeed a wooden chair installed on the apse of the great Basilica, above the Altar of the Chair, which was one of the actual chairs that St. Peter has once used as the Bishop of Rome.

The meaning of the word chair here goes deeper in the sense that, the chair refers to the authority that the Lord has granted to His Apostles, and in this case, to St. Peter, the special authority above all the other Apostles and disciples, as their leader and therefore as the leader of the entire Universal Church, as the Vicar of the true Head and Leader of the Church, Christ Himself.

Each bishops of the Church have a chair or cathedra, their seat of authority, which is located in the church called cathedrals precisely because of the presence of this seat. And each of the bishops have been given the authority over their respective dioceses, which correspond to the flocks of the faithful people of God, and that authority is presented in the seat of authority, the cathedra of the bishop.

And for the Bishop of Rome, they are the successors of St. Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, to whom a special authority has been granted, as the Gospel passage today mentioned, specifically that the Lord has entrusted His whole universal Church to the care and the leadership of St. Peter, whose name in Aramaic language means ‘Rock’, the rock of faith on which God built the foundations of His Church.

Therefore, the chair of St. Peter that the feast day today celebrates, commemorates that divine authority which has been given to the Church through its leader, St. Peter, as the one tasked, with the aid and support of all the other Apostles and leaders of the Church, with the governance and guidance of the direction of the Church, where it is moving towards and its efforts in evangelisation and in the salvation of souls.

Therefore today we are reminded of the great challenges that the Church is facing, in its numerous commitments and good works in our world today, in the evangelisation of the people of God, the spreading of the truth of the Gospel, in the salvation of souls and the works of God’s mercy, as well as the oppositions and challenges from all those who do not wish to see the work of God to be successful, especially those who are under the power and influence of Satan and his fellow deceivers.

And at the forefront of it all, is the Pope, as the successor of St. Peter, as the Bishop of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ and leader of the entire Christendom, of all God’s faithful people. Of course, the Pope is not alone in bearing all the burdens of his office, as at the heart of it all, the Pope is at the same time also sharing his ministry of the episcopate with all the bishops, the successors of the Apostles.

Therefore, the Pope leads the efforts of the bishops of the universal Church, as the chief of the shepherds that God has appointed over His people, to guide the people and the souls of God’s beloved ones to the right path, leading them down the path towards God, while resisting the temptations, the falsehoods, the pressures and challenges that come from the world, from the devil and all forces seeking the destruction of us all.

And in all that we have seen in our present day world and in our Church today, the works of the Church, especially that of its leader, our Pope, our Supreme Pontiff and Christ’s Vicar is definitely not an easy one. There are plenty of challenges and obstacles, one after another, are adding up in the path that the Church is taking, in its journey through the tribulations and trials of the world today.

That is why, our role as Christians, that is as all those who compose the Body of Christ, the Church, is very important, as each and every one of us have important roles to play in our respective areas and specialties, to support the Holy Father, our Pope and leader, in the efforts and works that he is driving the whole Church through, amidst all the turbulences and challenges that we are facing together as the whole Church in this journey of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore grow in our devotion and commitment to God as Christians, as members of His Church, through our obedience to the Law and the commandments laid out by the Church, and trust ourselves to the leadership and guidance of our Holy Father, the Pope, the Vicar of Christ. Let us all do whatever we can in order to serve the Lord better, by making good use of the gifts and the talents that He had entrusted to each one of us.

May the Lord continue to watch over His Church, particularly as we are going through difficult moments and challenges, that the Church may continue to persevere through all of these difficult times, especially for the Pope, our leader, that he may continue to faithfully carry on the mission and works entrusted to him since the time of St. Peter, the first Pope. May God bless us always, and may He continue to love His beloved Church, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 22 February 2019 : 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.”

Friday, 22 February 2019 : 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.