Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church commemorates the feast of the dedication of the two Basilicas, of St. Peter and St. Paul, which together with the Cathedral of Rome, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, and the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) form the four Major Papal Basilicas in Rome, the most important churches in Christendom.

And the Papal Basilicas of St. Peter in Vatican and St. Paul Outside the Wall are in particular to the city and the Church in Rome, because both St. Peter and St. Paul were the ones who helped to establish the Church in Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire at that time, and became the important pillars of the early Church. As we know, St. Peter is the Prince of the Apostles, the leader of all of Christ’s disciples and Apostles, and the first Pope and Bishop of Rome. Meanwhile, St. Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, the one who helped the Church to propagate the message of the Gospels to the non-Jewish people.

Thus, these two great Basilicas are tributes and monuments built for the memory of these two most faithful servants of God, who gave their all to serve the Lord, devoting their whole lives to the end, defending their faith and proclaiming Christ the Lord to all men. The sites chosen for the Basilicas were significant places, as where the Papal Basilica of St. Peter was built, was where St. Peter the Apostle most likely encountered his martyrdom, by being crucified upside down, and the site of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was where St. Paul stayed during his time in Rome, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.

St. Peter as the first Bishop of Rome worked among the faithful, preaching the Gospels and the messages of Christ, which brought about the conversion of many to the faith, together with St. Paul the Apostle, who came to Rome after being persecuted in Jerusalem and throughout his journeys. Both of them led the Christians in Rome, amidst a difficult and turbulent time, culminating in the great persecution under the Emperor Nero.

The Christian population of Rome was accused and scapegoated by the Emperor, blamed for causing the fire that burnt much of the great city. As such, many Christians were tortured and arrested, pursued and had their lives made very difficult. St. Paul himself was martyred in this condition, beheaded for his faith during this great tribulation, and yet he gladly laid down his life for the Lord.

St. Peter was also martyred a few years after this, as the persecution of Christians continued. He was crucified by the Roman authorities at the Vatican hills, as mentioned, where now stands the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican. But St. Peter felt that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and therefore, asked to be crucified upside-down instead. That was how St. Peter glorified God by his faith and steadfastness to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of these great Houses of God dedicated to His beloved two saints, the main pillars and foundations of His Church in this world, St. Peter and St. Paul, let us remember that their works and missions are still far from over. There are still many things that are not yet done, and there are still many more areas that require our attention.

We are the modern day successors of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, and the same commands which Our Lord had given to His Apostles to reach out to all the peoples of all the nations, preaching the Good News of God’s salvation and calling them to Him have therefore been passed on to us. Now, what matters is, for us to do what the Lord expects from us to do, that we walk in the path of the Apostles, particularly the glorious and faithful St. Peter and St. Paul. Pray for us, o Holy Apostles! Amen.

Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Luke 18 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told them a parable, to show them that they should pray continually, and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain town there was a judge, who neither feared God nor people. In the same town there was a widow, who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Defend my rights against my adversary!'”

“For a time he refused, but finally he thought, ‘Even though I neither fear God nor care about people, this widow bothers me so much, I will see that she gets justice; then she will stop coming and wearing me out.'”

And Jesus said, “Listen to what the evil judge says. Will God not do justice for His chosen ones, who cry to Him day and night, even if He delays in answering them? I tell you, He will speedily do them justice. But, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul)

Matthew 14 : 22-33

At that time, immediately, Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by Himself, to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it.

At daybreak, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that it was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once, Jesus said to them, “Courage! Do not be afraid. It is Me!” Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid, and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”

As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God!”

Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Psalm 104 : 2-3, 36-37, 42-43

Sing to YHVH, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds. Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek YHVH rejoice.

Then He smote all the firstborn, the first fruits of their manhood. He led Israel out of the alien land, laden with silver and gold, and none were left behind.

For He remembered His promise to Abraham, His servant. So He led forth His people with joy, His chosen ones with singing.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, YHVH!

Saturday, 18 November 2017 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter and Papal Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Wisdom 18 : 14-16 and Wisdom 19 : 6-9

While all was in quiet silence and the night was in the middle of its course, Your Almighty Word leapt down from the royal throne – a stern Warrior to a doomed world. Carrying Your fearful command like a sharpened sword and stretching from heaven to earth, He filled the universe with death.

All creation in its different forms was fashioned anew at Your command, in order to protect Your people. The cloud covered the camp with its shadow, dry land emerged where water had been. A safe passage was opened through the Red Sea, the tempestuous flood became a green plain where the whole nation of those protected by Your hand passed across, witnessing Your astounding deeds.

They were like horses led to pasture, or like frolicking lambs, praising You, their Lord, Who had delivered them.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul)

Acts 28 : 11-16, 30-31

After three months, we boarded a ship that had spent the winter at the island. It belonged to an Alexandrian company, and carried the figurehead of Castor and Pollux as insignia. We sailed for Syracuse, staying there for three days; and, after circling the coast, we arrived at Rhegium.

On the following day, a south wind began to blow, and, at the end of two days, we arrived at Puteoli, where we found some of our brothers, who invited us to stay with them for a week. And that was how we came to Rome. There, the brothers and sisters had been informed of our arrival, and came out to meet us as far as the Appian Forum and the Three Taverns.

When Paul saw them, he gave thanks to God and took courage. Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor, but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house, with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul stayed for two whole years, in a house he, himself, rented, where he received, without any hindrance, all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God, and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, the remembrance of the moment when St. Paul was called by God to become His follower and Apostle. St. Paul the Apostle was once known as Saul, the Pharisee and a highly educated member of the Jewish elite who was a great enemy of Jesus and His teachings, a great persecutor of the faithful and the Church, and a terror in the hearts of many of the earliest Christians.

And therefore, he was indeed one of the least likely of those who would one day become one among the greatest champions of the faith, and as one of the greatest defenders of the faithful. Certainly no one would have expected someone who have committed so many great sins, caused so much sufferings against the faithful and the Church would become one of its own, and less so as one of its greatest servants and members.

But it is in this that we can see the great loving and merciful heart of our God, as He showed His tender mercy to all those who have been willing to repent and change their ways, by opening the way for them to approach the throne of His mercy and to accept His grace and love. God is willing to welcome back all those who have gone wayward and then later on desiring to return to Him.

In fact all those who have become saints and considered great in the sight of the Church and the faithful, all of them were also sinners at one point in their respective lives. This was just indeed as all of mankind were born as sinners, susceptible to sin, and also predisposed to sinful activities. It is in our nature to be tempted and persuaded to disobey the Lord and to do things that are against the will of God, and therefore to sin.

No one escaped from this reality, except for Christ Himself, Who was born into this world without any taint of sin, for He is God Who is all good, and also for His mother Mary, who alone amongst the sons and daughters of mankind were without any sin. All the rest of us have been sinful, have been wicked and unworthy, corrupted beings and souls before God, unworthy of His love and presence.

And yet, it is from us sinners whom God had chosen His saints and servants, to be those whom He set apart as examples for others, so that they too may be able to follow in the same path that these people had walked on. It was from among the feeble, the sinners, the wicked and the abandoned ones whom God had chosen to be His followers and disciples. We may think that God is really being unpredictable in this matter, but truly, His way is different from our human ways, and is often far beyond our understanding.

God did not choose those who would expect themselves to be chosen, namely those who thought that their abilities, prestige, position, honour and all other worldly parameters would matter, as God sees not in worldly terms and appearances, but instead in terms of what He truly sees in our hearts, in our potential for good and for obedience to His will. He sees through us all, to the deepest depths of our hearts, knowing everything in us, our minds and hearts, for He had created us Himself.

That is why He chose people like Saul, who had faith in God, but was misled by the wrong teachings and subverted by the overzealousness and hot-headedness of his youth into committing grievous errors and crimes against the faithful and God’s Church. But God saw the faith in him, and through him therefore, He wanted to bring His Good News and salvation to many more of His people, using his talents and skills, and thus, calling upon Saul, He called him to turn away from his mistaken path and repent, and then follow Him.

He chose people of various backgrounds, from humble fishermen who were often looked down by many others in the society for their frequently poor background and upbringing, their illiteracy and lack of intelligence. He chose the upright and just people, educated and intellectuals. He chose tax collectors who were reviled by many others for their supposed betrayal of their own people being the tax collectors for the Romans, and also even prostitutes, zealots and even thieves like Judas Iscariot.

He chose all of them with the single intent of calling all of them to change their way of life and to be redeemed from the multitudes of their sins. And hopefully through their repentance, they may set good examples and become inspirations for many others to follow, so that many more people will also change their lives and choose to follow the way of the Lord, and therefore be saved.

Not all whom God had called will be saved. It depends on ourselves, and all those others whom He had called. If people like Judas Iscariot refused to change themselves, and continued down their path of dishonesty, betrayal, wickedness, sinfulness and all the vices they had done before they follow the Lord, then in the end, they will not be made just by all the wrongs they have committed. Instead, they will be judged by those sins they made, unless they genuinely and thoroughly repented from them all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, all of us ought to be like St. Paul, who turned away from his past, sinful life. He made a genuine and complete turnaround, and dedicating his whole life thereafter to God, he courageously stood up for his faith, even to go the extra mile to serve Him and to help spread the Good News by preaching it from town to town, across the seas, and even endured persecutions and terrible sufferings, rejection and humiliation along the way.

We should follow in his footsteps, in his strong conviction and commitment to the Lord, and to the obedience he had shown in following what the Lord had led him to do. This is what each and every one of us as Christians must do, and we have to reflect on this, as we celebrate today’s Feast of Conversion of St. Paul. If Saul had become Paul, from a great sinner to a great saint, then nothing is impossible for us, for we too can be like him.

May the Lord bless us and help us all, so that in our lives, we too may be like St. Paul, to be thoroughly changed and converted in our ways, so that we may also be righteous and just, becoming an inspiration for others to follow, so that they themselves may become inspirations of their own to others who see them, and therefore, through all these, the good works of the Church and the people of God become an unstoppable rippling force, spreading out, touching more hearts and souls, and calling more people to the salvation in God.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our good endeavours, and help us to remain faithful to Him, as St. Paul himself once had been. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Mark 16 : 15-18

At that time, Jesus told the Eleven, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Wednesday, 25 January 2017 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.