Monday, 22 February 2021 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, celebrating with the entire Universal Church the Primacy and Authority of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ and the representative of the Head of the Church, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we focus our attention on the centrality of the role of St. Peter and his successors, the Popes, in the governance and leadership of the entire Church.

We may find it weird that we are celebrating the feast on a ‘Chair’ but the meaning and significance of the ‘Chair of St. Peter’ are in fact very great if we understand fully the importance of chair in the matter of governance and leadership, especially in the context of the early Christians. Chair is often the symbol and visible sign and proof of authority, the seat of the leader and the physical proof of the authority the leader held over the group he was in charge of.

For example, Pontius Pilate, as the Roman Procurator or Governor of Judea has his judgment seat, called the Gabbatha, when he was about to proclaim judgment on the case of the Lord during His Passion. It was from that seat that Pontius Pilate, representing the Roman Emperor, proclaimed his judgment that the Lord Jesus was to be condemned to death and be crucified.

The High Priests of old and other leaders also had their seats of authority, and for the kings and lords, these are called thrones, and even up to this day, thrones are symbol of the monarchical, royal and governmental power. Similarly therefore, for the bishops of the Church, their authority and power, entrusted to them by the Lord, are represented by their ‘seat of authority’, called the Cathedra. And aptly, the church where this Cathedra is located at, is called the Cathedral, the heart of the bishop’s diocese and the mother of all the churches in the diocese.

Therefore, that seat of the bishop symbolises not just the authority of the bishop over his diocese, but also the unity of the whole local Church and the Christian community to the bishop and therefore to the Universal Church, as then symbolises by the Chair of St. Peter, the Seat of the Pope as the Successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ, as the leader of the entire Universal Church, the whole One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

By this virtue, the Pope has been entrusted with the care of the whole community of the faithful, to safeguard the truth and the teachings of the Lord, His commandments and laws as passed down faithfully through the generations. He also spoke with the authority of the Lord, as we have heard from our first reading today, in the Epistle of St. Peter, in which St. Peter spoke exhorting the bishops and leaders of the Church to be responsible and faithful in the exercise of their mission.

St. Peter reminded the bishops, then known as elders and overseers in the earliest days of the Church, that they ought to be exemplary in their conduct and faith, so that by their faith and obedience to God, they might be faithful and be good examples for their flock, helping and leading them down the right path towards God. Otherwise, they would be leading them down the wrong path, and then, much blame will be on them.

That is why some Church traditions held that the famous St. John Chrysostom, the Doctor of the Church and one of the most influential Church fathers, himself also a bishop of the Church, spoke of how the road to hell is paved with the skulls and bones of errant and terrible priests and especially bishops who led the faithful astray down the wrong path, either through their own immoral and unfaithful life, or through false teachings and ideas.

Today, all of us are called to pray for our bishops, as well as our priests, and first and foremost of all, for our Pope, the successor of St. Peter, that in the heavy responsibilities they held, they might remain strong in faith, and firm in their conviction and their beliefs, so as not to be overwhelmed by the many temptations and pressures surrounding them, or be swayed by false teachings and ideas that can lead them astray, and then lead all the flock astray as well.

Let us all give them our prayers, our support and love, brothers and sisters in Christ, that our Pope first of all, then the other bishops may imitate the faith and examples of St. Peter, whose faith in the Lord was unwavering to the end, and whose humility was indeed exemplary. Although St. Peter himself did make mistakes and famously denied the Lord three times, but in his imperfections, he remained filled with love for God, and was genuinely remorseful for his actions.

The kind of courage and faith, the genuine love that St. Peter had in loving God, in declaring His faith and dedication to the Lord, is something that all of us Christians should also have, and are especially important for the leaders of the Church, the shepherds entrusted with the care of the faithful. Therefore, as we celebrate together this Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, let us all renew our support and obedience to the Magisterium of the Church in our Pope and the bishops, and especially to our Pope, Francis, as the successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ.

May the Lord continue to bless the Church, our Pope and the bishops, our own respective diocesan bishops and all others entrusted with the positions of leadership within the Church, that He will continue to guide them and protect them, and give them the wisdom and strength to lead and guide, to show the way to us, the flock of the Lord, that together as one Church, we may come to the Lord’s salvation, grace and eternal glory with Him. Amen.

Monday, 22 February 2021 : 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.”

Monday, 22 February 2021 : 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.

Monday, 22 February 2021 : 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.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scripture passages, beginning with the promise of salvation which God would show His people, Israel, as He prophesied through His servant Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and then, what we heard from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Jewish Christians, about the coming of Christ, Who is the High Priest of all the faithful, in Whom is found the salvation of the world.

In the Scripture readings today therefore, we heard about the the love and mercy which God has shown to us all, to His beloved people, a reminder of the constant gift which the Lord has given us despite all of our disobedience, rebelliousness and the refusals we have made against Him. The prophecy made through the prophet Jeremiah had to be understood in the context of what happened at the time, when the people at the kingdom of Judah was suffering and was in the brink of annihilation, having been subjugated by their enemies, principally the Babylonians.

It was a time when everything seemed to be hopeless, and the enemies of Israel were mounting and plotting against them. Yet, the people of God still rebelled against Him and did what was wicked in the sight of men and God alike. They worshipped pagan idols, committing adulterous and wicked actions in life, and refused to listen to the words of the prophets sent to them to remind them of God’s love and mercy, including that of prophet Jeremiah.

The prophet had to suffer persecution from all those who resisted God’s will and those who turned a deaf ear to the word of God. The king and his nobles, the people and many of the members of the community continued to sin against God, and even considered Jeremiah as the bearer of bad and wicked news, when he continued to prophecy about the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, as well as its Temple because of the sins of Israel. But Jeremiah through today’s passage, showed us that God, despite of His anger against the sins committed by His people, He still loved them and wanted them to be reconciled with Him.

The second reading today, as mentioned, is taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews. Again in that occasion, the Lord spoke to His people through St. Paul, His Apostle, reminding them of the great love and mercy which He showed them, by the perfect gift of Jesus Christ, His Son, Who was appointed the One and True High Priest of all, above all other High Priests of the people of God since the time of Aaron. Christ is the ultimate sign and symbol of God’s love.

How is that so? First of all, as mentioned by St. Paul, the High Priest appointed by God ever since the day of Moses and Aaron is supposed to be the one through whom God exercised His mercy and forgiveness of the sins of the people, by the means of offerings of sin offering and love offering on the Altar of God. The animal offering was meant to be atonement for the sins of the people, and since the High Priest himself was also a sinner, then he was also offering the sin offering for himself.

But the Lord Jesus, the One True High Priest is blameless and without sin, as He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man, having in Himself the perfection of divinity and the perfection of humanity, having two natures of divine and human united in His person. He also offered not the imperfect offering of lambs and goats, their blood and fats, which although according to the Law, only physically blameless and good quality animals should be chosen, but they paled in comparison to the offering that the Lord Jesus made.

For in the Lord Jesus, the Lord our God showed the perfection and the perfect manifestation of His love and compassion for us, His beloved people, whom He loved despite our sins and rebelliousness, as the example from the Old Testament had shown us earlier. God was patient and filled with love for us, His people, that despite the sins which Israel had done in the past, He forgave them and still brought them to the Land which He promised them and their ancestors.

And He forgave them many times, when He brought them back from exile in Babylon, and continued to take care of them, sending them prophets and messengers, one after another, to remind them of the promise of the salvation He has given to them, and calling on them to remain faithful and true to the Law and the teachings which He has revealed to them. And in Jesus, the Lord’s faithfulness and promises were fulfilled completely.

How is that so? The Lord Jesus came and showed the Lord’s mercy, when He healed the sick and the people who were dying, those who were ostracised and shunned by the society, and calling them back to the right path towards God, healing them both from their physical afflictions and spiritual sickness, caused by sin and disobedience. One example was what we have just heard in the Gospel today, as the Lord healed the blind man who called on Him for help and for healing.

But even more so, the Lord Jesus did not come just to heal and to perform all those miracles as He had done before the people, but He showed His love for us, so great and so amazing, in a way that He Himself had said to His disciples, that there is no greater love than for someone to lay down his life for his friend. He laid down His own life, by suffering on the Cross, that through that act, offering His own Flesh and Blood, to be the perfect offering for our sins.

Through that act of ultimate sacrifice and selfless love on the Cross, the Lord showed us all, that He is truly a loving and merciful God, Who was willing to endure such pain, such suffering, such tribulation and difficulty, just so that, by His death, we may be spared our fate of eternal death, because of our sins. Instead, by sharing in His death and united through His resurrection from the dead, we are freed from that terrible fate, and receive a new hope of a new life in God.

Today, all of us ought to spend some time to reflect on this reality, the love of God which He has shown so generously towards each and every one of us, that He willingly took up upon Himself our sins, and to bear them patiently, that as our True and Eternal High Priest, His prayers for our supplication and for the atonement of our sins are heard by God, His heavenly Father. Through the obedience of Christ, our High Priest and the New Adam, all of us who believe in Him are saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of two of Christ’s Apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude, both of whom dedicated their lives after they accepted the calling to be an Apostle of the Lord, and they worked hard in evangelising and preaching in faraway lands, speaking the truth about God and His love, His sacrificial gift to all mankind, and the call to repentance, that all the children of God may be reconciled to their loving and merciful God.

St. Simon and St. Jude went to various places, spreading the word of God, suffering persecutions and troubles from those who refused to believe in the truth they brought with them. But they placed their trust in the Lord, and they were encouraged and empowered by the knowledge of the love which God had generously given to them and to all mankind. Truly, if God Himself had suffered for the sake of all men, then what was their suffering compared to God’s suffering?

Although St. Simon and St. Jude, Holy Apostles of Our Lord died in martyrdom against those who refused to believe in the Lord, but this inspired only even more people who wanted to follow the Lord through their courageous examples. Now, we are therefore also called to emulate their examples, and to live faithfully in accordance with the will of God. Are we able to devote ourselves in the same way as they have done?

Let us remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that as Christians, we know how much God loves each and every one of us, and as a result, we should also love Him in the same manner. We can do so, by living a virtuous and courageous Christian life and distancing ourselves from sin. Let us all turn to God with a renewed faith and with a new love that comes from within us. May God be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in this journey of life. St. Simon and St. Jude, Holy Apostles of Our Lord, pray for us. Amen.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 10 : 46-52

At that time, Jesus and His disciples came to Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, he began to call out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!”

Many people scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying, “Take heart! Get up, He is calling you!” He immediately threw aside his cloak, jumped up and went to Jesus.

Then Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Master, let me see again!” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way, your faith has made you well.” And, immediately, he could see, and he followed Jesus along the road.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 5 : 1-6

Every High Priest is taken from among mortals and appointed to be their representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. He is able to understand the ignorant and erring for he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he is bound to offer sacrifices for his sins as well as for the sins of the people.

Besides, one does not presume to take this dignity, but takes it only when called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ become High Priest in taking upon Himself this dignity, but it was given to Him by the One Who says : You are My Son, I have begotten You today. And in another place : You are a Priest forever in the priestly order of Melchizedek.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When YHVH brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “YHVH has done great things for them.” YHVH had done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o YHVH, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 31 : 7-9

For YHVH says this, “Shout with joy for Jacob; rejoice for the greatest of nations. Proclaim your praise and say : ‘YHVH has saved His people, the remnant of Israel!’”

“Look, I will bring them back from the land of the north, gather them from the ends of the earth, the lame and the blind, mothers and women in labour – a great throng will return. They went away weeping, they will return in joy. I will lead them by the streams of water, on a level path so that no one will stumble, for I am Israel’s Father and Ephraim is My firstborn.”

Wednesday, 25 July 2018 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of St. James the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus, also known as St. James the Greater, the brother of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. He was counted among those, together with St. Peter and his brother, St. John, whom the Lord always called to be by His side during the important events in His ministry, such as the resurrection of the young daughter of Jairus, the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden.

St. James was among the first if not the first of the Twelve Apostles to face martyrdom in the performance of his work and mission, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. The king Herod Agrippa was recorded as the one who arrested St. James and then brought about his execution as a martyr of the faith. But even before that, St. James had managed to perform his ministry in faraway places where his popularity remains to this very day.

It was told that St. James went to the faraway areas of Iberia, now areas known as Spain and Portugal, which were indeed far away from the land of Judea, from where the Apostles began their missionary journey. He preached the Good News of the Gospel in those regions, establishing the foundations of the Church and sowed the seeds of the faith among the people in that region.

At that place, which is now famous for the pilgrimage of St. James, or the St. James’ Way, culminating at the Cathedral of St. James of Compostela or Santiago de Compostela, it was told that, the Holy Apostle performed his many works, and even had apparition of the Blessed Virgin at that place, now known as Our Lady of the Pillar after the place where the apparition took place.

St. James performed many other, unrecorded missionary works and evangelising activities before he returned to Judea, and under the reign of king Herod Agrippa, as mentioned earlier, was arrested and beheaded as the first Apostle to be martyred. Yet, through his martyrdom, many more Christians took up the cross and followed his examples, doing even more work of evangelisation in many places, calling ever more people to turn to the Lord and accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.

In the first reading today, what we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth was in fact a summary of what we have just discussed. St. Paul himself mentioned how the faithful would be persecuted and be condemned by others, facing difficulties and challenges that would make their life difficult, and yet, in each of them, is found great treasure hidden in our physical existence, which he compared to a treasure hidden in a clay.

And in the same passage taken from the Epistle, we know what this treasure is. It is the Lord Himself Who has come to dwell in us, and share with us His love. All of us who have shared in the Lord through the Eucharist, receiving His Body and Blood into ourselves, and have faith in Him, are those who have been called from the world to be the Lord’s disciples and followers.

To each and every one of us God has revealed His truth, which He preserved through His Church. And through this, we are to share in the cross of Christ, which is the cup that the Lord mentioned in the Gospel passage today. And it is a reminder to each one of us, that we are also called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, to serve the people of God, one another, and to love God with all of our hearts.

Through the Gospel passage today, we are reminded, just as we have been through the life, suffering and martyrdom of St. James the Apostle, that following Christ is not one of seeking personal and worldly glory. The Apostles St. James and St. John came with their mother to the Lord, asking for special favours and positions above and over the other Apostles, at that time still thinking of discipleship in the worldly manner.

Indeed, the same can be said of us as well, those who are in the Church. There are indeed many among us who think about following the Lord and being His disciples in materialistic and worldly manner. But that is not what being a disciple of Christ is truly about. To be a follower and disciple of Christ means that we have to learn to die to ourselves and our ambitions, pride, greed and all sorts of things that prevented us from truly following the Lord in our hearts and minds.

Therefore, let us all pray that today and from now on, each one of us as Christians will be able to carry out our duties and responsibilities as followers and servants of our God. May the Lord also strengthen our resolve to live in faith, and to devote ourselves ever more to Him through all of our actions and deeds. May He inflame in us the spirit of faith and love, and zeal which He has also given to St. James and the other Apostles.

May He continue to empower each and every one of us to live with ever greater devotion to our role as Christians, in loving God first and foremost, and then loving our fellow men and women, at all times. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.