Friday, 29 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Sacred Scriptures the moment when St. Paul was about to embark to Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire after he appealed to the Emperor against judgements and charges set up against him by the Jewish authorities. We heard the conversation between king Agrippa, one of the rulers of the Jewish lands and Festus, the procurator or governor of Judea regarding the matter.

In that occasion, king Agrippa went through with Festus the background of the conflict between St. Paul and the Jewish Council, while as we heard in today’s portion, Festus recalled his frustration as the Jewish leaders wanted St. Paul to be condemned to death, although to the Roman governor, St. Paul did not do anything wrong at all, and less still, deserve anything that resemble a punishment, for it was considered religious disagreements and bickering among the Jews.

But the Jewish leaders insisted, and when Festus was caught in quandary, St. Paul as a Roman citizen, a very great privilege and position at that time, made use of his privilege to be tried in Rome before the Emperor and let the Emperor to be his judge. This was to be St. Paul’s last missionary journey, as God had called him, to be the bearers of the Good News to the people in Rome, and it was in Rome that both St. Paul and St. Peter, who had been in Rome earlier as the first Bishop of Rome and Pope, would be martyred.

In what we have heard today on the case and trial of St. Paul, we may feel a great sense of familiarity, as we surely can relate what had happened to St. Paul with what the Lord Jesus Himself had faced, as He stood before the Sanhedrin, being accused of the faults and crimes He did not commit, and given false accusations and testimonies by false witnesses. Like his Lord and Master, St. Paul faced the same trial and challenge, and eventually, he too would follow Him into his own death for the sake of glorifying Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord calling His Apostle St. Peter by the lake of Galilee, after the moment when He appeared to His disciples shortly after His Resurrection as promised. The disciples were out fishing in the lake and gained nothing, and when the Lord told them to follow His instructions, immediately they gained so many fishes, and they recognised the Lord. Then, the Lord spoke to St. Peter as we heard in our Gospel today, commending to him the care and guardianship over His Church and His flock.

Earlier on, before His suffering, crucifixion and death, the Lord had entrusted to St. Peter the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and said to him how he would be the ‘Rock’ on which He would establish His Church. And then, with His threefold questions to St. Peter, it was symbolic of not just that the Lord had forgiven him for his threefold denial at the moment of His arrest and suffering, but also that, the Lord reaffirmed His entrustment of His Church and His flock at the hands of St. Peter, the first Pope and leader of the entire Universal Church.

St. Peter was also called to a great ministry that he would fulfil faithfully over many years and decades, which ended in the city of Rome like St. Paul. St. Peter also established the important Church in Antioch, becoming its first Bishop, before heading to Rome and establishing the Church there as its first Bishop as well. In the end, as the Lord Himself had told him, in St. Peter’s old age and end of ministry, he would be chained and arrested, and eventually martyred under the Roman Emperor Nero during one of the brutal early Christian persecutions.

Today then we also celebrate the feast of one of his successors as the Pope and Supreme Pontiff, as Bishop of Rome and leader of the entire Universal Church, Pope St. Paul VI, born Giovanni Batista Montini, formerly Metropolitan Archbishop of Milan. He was renowned as a holy man and dedicated servant of God who was committed to the care of the flock entrusted under his care, from the early days of his priesthood ministry, to his days as the Archbishop of Milan, and finally in his fifteen years Pontificate.

Pope St. Paul VI also encountered tremendous challenges from outside and from within the Church. He was tasked with bringing the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council began by his predecessor, Pope St. John XXIII into a successful conclusion. Often he had to tread the middle ground between those who advocated strict adherence to the ancient customs and ways, from the extremists who sought to disband and dismantle much of the Church teachings and tenets.

Pope St. Paul VI was also instrumental in continuing the efforts of his predecessors in restoring Church unity that culminated with the Common Declaration with the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church in annulling the common declarations of anathema and excommunication that happened between the Churches East and West over nine centuries earlier in the Great Schism of the year 1054. Both leaders faced criticism and opposition for these works.

Pope St. Paul VI was also known for his great encyclicals, most well-remembered one is the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, on the sanctity of all human life, opposing all those, both within and outside the Church who tried to impose and influence the Church and the faithful to adopt contraception and artificial reproductive methods like birth control that are against Church teachings and violating human rights and the sanctity of life. Pope St. Paul VI again faced bitter opposition and ridicule from not just many in the world, but even from among his own flock.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard in today’s readings, as well from the lives of the saints, we can clearly see that to follow God will often require us to give our all and often we have to endure suffering and challenges as well along the way. If we want to commit ourselves to the Lord, then we should not be half-hearted or be lukewarm about it. Instead, following the examples of our holy predecessors, we should be willing to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly from now on.

May God be with us always throughout this journey, and may He help us in our way, that we may remain firm and faithful, filled with conviction and dedication to serve God with all of our hearts despite the challenges and trials we may face along our journey. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 29 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 21 : 15-19

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”

Friday, 29 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 11-12, 19-20ab

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

The Lord has set His throne in heaven; He rules, He has power everywhere. Praise the Lord, all you His Angels.

Friday, 29 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 25 : 13b-21

As King Agrippa and his sister Berenice were to stay in Caesarea several days, Festus told him about Paul’s case and said to him, “We have here a man whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews accused him and asked me to sentence him.”

“I told them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over a man without giving him an opportunity to defend himself in front of his accusers. So they came and I took my seat without delay on the tribunal and sent for the man. When the accusers had the floor, they did not accuse him of any of the crimes that I was led to think he had committed; instead they quarrelled with him about religion and about a certain Jesus Who has died but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”

“I did not know what to do about this case, so I asked Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem to be tried there. But Paul appealed to be judged by the Emperor. So I ordered that he be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.”

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures we are called to be generous to one another just as our Lord Himself has first been very generous to us from the beginning. He has always been generous to us, in providing for us all that we ever need in life and in giving us first of all the gift of life as well as then many opportunities for us throughout life to be reconciled to Him.

Despite our constant and persistent disobedience, rebelliousness and wayward behaviours, we have always received the fullness of God’s mercy and compassion, as He loves us all very much and wants us to be saved and freed from our fated destruction. By our sins we have been made unworthy of God and we should have faced destruction and eternal damnation if not for God’s enduring love for us.

In our Gospel passage today we then heard the Lord exhorting His disciples and the people to be generous in giving, to be kind and loving to one another, by using the analogy of giving a feast or dinner, in which the custom of that time and I am sure which we are still doing today is that we invite all those who are close and dear to us, and we expect our invitation and kindness to be repaid in kind.

Take for example our current wedding and feast traditions. When we are hosting a banquet, in quite a few cultures and traditions we are expecting the guests to bring gifts or put in their monetary contributions to show that they are contributing to the expenses that we have incurred in hosting and preparing for the banquet and celebrations. But then, if our guests do not give us as what we expect them to give, we then end up feeling bitter and unappreciated.

Then this precisely brings us to wonder about why we even bother to invite the guest we have invited in the first place. Did we invite them because we care about them and we also know that they care about us too and are important to us? Or have we instead thought of our guests and invitees as mere means to an end, or as a return in investment and as something that we can gain from for our own benefits?

That is why many of us mankind failed in building up good and meaningful relationships in our lives. We often do not realise that we have put our selfish desires, our pride and greed ahead of the needs of others. That is why many of us have not been sincere in living our lives with faith, and many of us have hurt one another, or manipulated each other just so that we can benefit and gain from whatever we want.

This is where we need to look at the Lord’s generosity again as He continues to give and very generously give, even after He has already given so much for us all these while. And we must not forget that He has given us the ultimate gift in His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Whom He sent into this world in our midst, that He willingly bore the heavy burden of our sins and suffered for our sake on the Cross, that by His suffering and death, by His ultimate loving sacrifice, He can give us the everlasting reprieve from sin and death.

Today, we also should reflect on the example and life of St. Charles Borromeo, whose feast we celebrate this day. St. Charles Borromeo was a holy man, a dedicated bishop and Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church who as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Milan and one of the most prominent and important leaders of the Church of his time was a crucial and very important figure in the Counter Reformation and also the reforms of the Church and the faithful.

Although he was a very high ranking and influential prelate, St. Charles Borromeo remained humble and dedicated himself to the service of the Church, avoiding the corruptions and scandals that affected many other members and prelates of the Church of his time. In fact, he was known to enforce strictly his reforms aimed at rooting out all the vices and bad practices of the Church within his Archdiocese and encouraging similar developments elsewhere.

St. Charles Borromeo gave his all in service both to God and also to the flock whom he had been entrusted with, dedicating himself, his time, energy and efforts to care for the needs of the faithful and in purifying the Church from all sorts of corruptions and wrong practices. He shows us just what a faithful Christian can do, in being generous with his efforts to love God, just as God has generously loved us first.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we willing to be generous in using our time and efforts for the good purpose of the Lord? Are we willing and able to dedicate ourselves with faith, doing our best to serve Him and be generous with our love towards one another? Let us all challenge ourselves to love ever more and to be more faithful all the days of our lives from now on. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 14 : 12-14

At that time, Jesus also addressed the man who had invited Him, and said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives, or your wealthy neighbours. For surely they will also invite you in return, and you will be repaid.”

“When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Fortunate are you then, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the upright.”

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 68 : 30-31, 33-34, 36-37

But I myself, am humbled and wounded; Your salvation, o God, will lift me up. I will praise the Name of God in song; I will glorify Him with thanksgiving.

Let the lowly witness this, and be glad. You who seek God, may your hearts be revived. For YHVH hears the needy; and does not despise those in captivity.

For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. His people shall dwell in the land and possess it. The children of His servants shall inherit it, and those who love His Name will dwell in it.

Monday, 4 November 2019 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Romans 11 : 29-36

Because the call of God, and His gifts, cannot be nullified. Through the disobedience of the Jews, the mercy of God came to you who did not obey God. They, in turn, will receive mercy, in due time, after this disobedience, that brought God’s mercy to you. So, God has submitted all to disobedience, in order to show His mercy to all.

How deep are the riches, the wisdom and knowledge of God! His decisions cannot be explained, nor His ways understood! Who has ever known God’s thoughts? Who has ever been His adviser? Who has given Him something first, so that God had to repay him? For everything comes from Him, has been made by Him and has to return to Him. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard that familiar word from the Gospel, “Come to Me all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” And also another one, “For My yoke is good and My burden is light.” In this we see God as One in Whom we can find rest and succour amidst our burdens of life and amidst the challenges and difficulties we often encounter in this world.

However, the problem lies in the fact that the devil is never tired of trying to pull us away from God’s salvation, by presenting to us temptations and persuasions, making it seems as if his way is more attractive and a better option for us, because it seems to be less challenging, lighter and easier on us as compared to the way that God offers to us.

As human beings, it is in our nature to be lazy and to be slothful, preferring the easier way out than the difficult ones. We tend to seek the path that is favourable to us, and most beneficial to us. But what we have to take note of is the outcome at the end. Are we going towards eternal life and salvation, or are we instead heading to damnation in hell for eternity?

The path of the Lord is light and yet we often perceived as difficult and troublesome, because we are often focused on the sufferings at the moment. We tend to focus on the challenges we encounter as a follower of the Lord, as His disciples and bearers of His Good News. We think that it is too difficult for us to carry on when we are faced with ridicule, rejection and even persecution because of our faith and because of what we believe in the Lord.

And therefore, there are several ways we can go ahead with this, that is either we conform with the expectations of the world, meaning that we choose instead the path other than the path God has provided us with, following instead what the world expects us to do, enjoying ourselves and living without restraint from sinning, or we can also pretend not to know the way of the Lord, which was exactly as what St. Peter did when he was asked three times by the bystanders on whether he knew the Lord. He denied Him all the three times.

The other way is for us to endure the path of the Lord, by being true to our faith despite the challenges and difficulties. This is the path followed by the saints and the martyrs, all those who have remained true to the Lord despite of the persuasions to do otherwise. They chose to remain true because they know that, while there are difficulties to be faced at present, what awaits them is an eternity of joy and happiness with God. The current challenges are only temporary.

The way that the devil offers us seems to be easier, less difficult to be done, with no opposition and challenge to us. However, if we follow this path through sinning and disobeying God, while now we enjoy the time and the present moment we have, we are looking forward to an eternity of despair, suffering and torment, when the Lord judges us for our failure to remain faithful to Him, and He will cast us all into hell where we suffer because of that eternal separation from God’s love and grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we have been given an opportunity to reexamine our lives, on our actions and deeds. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord amidst challenges and difficulties? Have we instead chosen to conform to the way of the wicked because we fear the repercussions or because we are ambivalent and lukewarm about our faith?

Today we commemorate the feast of St. Ambrose, the great and renowned Church father and Doctor of the Church from the early days of the Church, who was the Bishop of Milan and one of the most influential leaders of the Church of his time. He was a Roman noble who was renowned for his great piety to the Lord, who was an administrator and governor of the region now known as northern Italy.

But at that time, there was a great discord within the Church, due to the heresy of Arianism, a false teaching proclaiming that Jesus our Lord is mere Man and not God. And many of the faithful were swayed by this false teaching and followed the way of heresy, including even many of the priests and bishops, and also those in power, even the Roman Emperors themselves.

At a time when there was a dispute in the succession of the Bishop of Milan and disagreement of the two parties, the Holy Spirit guided the Church to elect St. Ambrose as Bishop by acclamation, and since then, he devoted himself wholly to the Church and his flock despite his initial doubt and uncertainty. And soon, St. Ambrose promoted the teachings of the true faith among his flock, and encountered many troubles with those in power, those who believe in the Arian heresy.

But St. Ambrose did not give up, and even it was said that he openly rebuked the Roman Empress for her Arian heresy and for her attempt to promote the Arian heretics to positions within the Imperial court and the Church. And later on, when the true faith returned to the leadership of the Empire, St. Ambrose was renowned for his courageous act of formally rebuking and excommunicating the Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great for his involvement in the massacre of the people of the city of Thessalonica.

The Emperor regretted his sins and openly repented for his sins before St. Ambrose and the faithful, and St. Ambrose welcomed the Emperor back to the Church. From all these examples, we see how St. Ambrose is such a great role model for us on how we should live our lives faithfully before the Lord. We must not be afraid to stand up to our faith and indeed, point out to each other so that we may help and guide each other that we may remain strong in our faith and stay on the right track towards our salvation in God.

Let us all ask for St. Ambrose to intercede for us, that he may ask God to strengthen our courage and commitment to Him, and in all that we say and do, we may be able to show all others that we are the disciples and followers of the Lord, and be examples for one another to lead us all towards the Lord. May the Lord bless us and help our endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Matthew 11 : 28-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Come to Me, all you who work hard and who carry heavy burdens, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest. For My yoke is good, and My burden is light.”