Saturday, 21 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the responsibility and mission that each one of us as Christians had been entrusted with, and how as the followers and disciples of Christ, it is bound that we will encounter challenges and trials in our journey and path, as we continue to proceed down this way, in obeying the Lord and His commandments. Sometimes we may even have to make a stand and choose between remaining faithful to the Lord or to conform to the ways and norms of the world at the cost of abandoning our faith and Christian identity.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke plainly before all of His disciples that they were bound to be hated by the world, as the world itself had hated the Lord and tried to suppress Him and His truth. Just as the Lord had encountered a lot of opposition from the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the chief priests throughout His mission in this world, and had His path littered with plenty of disapproval, persecution and ridicule from those who hardened their hearts and refused to believe in His truth, hence, the same things would likely happen to those who walk in the same path that Christ had walked as well.

That was what the disciples would encounter as they went on their mission and works, having been sent by the Lord with the mission to evangelise to the whole entire world. He called on all of them and gave them the mission to go forth to all the nations, and make disciples of all mankind, to baptise them all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and the many other missionaries and servants of God all laboured throughout the history of the Church, proclaiming the Good News of God’s salvation and His truth, and both enjoying great successes as well as enduring the persecution that came in quite a few of their missions.

As we heard in our first reading today, we heard of how St. Paul continued with his missionary journey, bringing St. Timothy, one of his protege with him, who would become one of the first bishops and successors of the Apostles. It was mentioned and indirectly implied how the Apostles were encountering challenges in their journey, and how the Christian missionaries encountered opposition from both the Jewish diaspora and from others who were not receptive of the truth they were bringing to them. If we read on more from the Acts of the Apostles beyond our reading passage today, then we will realise just how much hardships they had to endure.

Thus, as I mentioned earlier, the Apostles both encountered hardships, trials, prison and even death in martyrdom, as well as great successes in gaining many more people who became believers in the Lord. They established firm foundation for the Church, and many people flocked to seek the truth of God. The Church as we know it today would not have existed if not for all the hard work and efforts showed by the Apostles and all the followers of the Lord. This is why it is very important for us to appreciate and realise the importance of our commitment to the work of evangelisation, as without those who commit themselves to the work of the Gospels, the Church would not have grown.

Today, we remember the great examples set by the faithful servants of God, St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions in faith and martyrdom, as they dedicated themselves to the works of the Lord and in defending their faith against those who sought to force them to abandon and betray their Lord and Master. St. Christopher Magallanes was a priest who ministered to the people of God and carried on his works in Mexico during the time of great persecution against the Christian faith, the Church, and especially against the clergy, priests and religious at a time of great suffering and sorrow for the Church.

At that time, the Mexican government was very hostile against the Church and its clergy, as well as to any expression of Christian faith and the faithful. Many of the clergy and the laity had to suffer a lot of persecution, being arrested and tortured, because of the government’s opposition against the Church, and the antipathy and disagreements they held over the missionaries and servants of God like St. Christopher Magallanes and many others, both the clergy and laity alike, many of whom were arrested and put in prison, and many were eventually martyred for remaining firmly true to their faith.

St. Christopher Magallanes himself was arrested and accused of helping the rebellion of the government, which was a false charge, and he was eventually sentenced to death, enduring martyrdom for his love for God. Many others shared his fate, dying from the persecution of the Church and the faithful which lasted for more than a decade and resulting in the destruction of many of the Church’s structures and the deaths of countless people to the persecution by the authorities. That however did not dampen the spirit and courage of many among the faithful who welcomed suffering and martyrdom in remaining faithful to God, becoming great inspiration even for us today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all do our best to serve the Lord faithfully, commit ourselves to the great works entrusted to us by God. May God empower us to walk with faith and to be great role models and faithful witnesses in the same manner that St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions in faith and martyrdom had inspired us all. May God bless us all, now and forevermore, and bring us all ever closer to His throne of grace. Amen.

Saturday, 21 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 15 : 18-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that the world hated Me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you.”

“Remember what I told you : the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted Me, they will persecute you, too. If they kept My word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you for the sake of My Name, because they do not know the One Who sent Me.”

Saturday, 21 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Saturday, 21 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him.

As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 6 : 8-10 and Acts 7 : 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some persons then came forward, who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. They argued with Stephen but they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When the Council heard the reproach Stephen made against them, they were enraged and they gnashed their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared : “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.”

But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying : “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the love and mercy which God shows us all, His people, whom He had created out of love. This is one fact which all of us should not forget, especially as we live our Christian life modelling ourselves on Our God Himself, Who has loved all, despite everyone having betrayed Him, disobeyed Him and He was filled with love and compassion for us.

In the first reading today, we heard about the prophet Elijah chastising king Ahab of Israel for his very wicked act in disposing of Naboth, the owner of a vineyard, whose land was desired by the king. Both the king and his queen, Jezebel, plotted to frame Naboth wrongly of blasphemy against God, and had him stoned. The king was then free to seize the belongings of Naboth, especially his vineyard.

This action, including Ahab and Jezebel’s many other wicked acts, and especially their persecution of the faithful people of God and promotion of the worship of Baal and other pagan gods that led Israel to sin, made God very angry against Ahab and his whole family, that the prophet Elijah pronounced today, the judgment of God on his family. Ahab and his whole family would perish in a tragic manner.

The moment Ahab heard this, as the Scripture mentioned, he immediately tore his royal robes, took it off and wore sackcloth as a sign of mourning and repentance. And God told Elijah that He saw his sincerity at wanting to be forgiven, and He withdrew some of His anger against him and his family. However, He would still mete out the punishment against them despite being postponed to a later time.

In this, as we heard from the Psalm 50 being sung today, we heard of God’s loving mercy and desire to forgive us our sins should we desire to be reconciled with Him. That psalm was the psalm composed by David when he sinned against God and regretted of his sin, and indeed, he repented and turned himself wholeheartedly to God. He was forgiven, and indeed, God’s promise to him was held.

What is the difference between Ahab and David? In David’s case, he was truly repentant, and made every effort to turn himself back to God. However, in Ahab’s case, although he was repentant, but it was likely that he did so out of fear for God’s anger and punishment, as he had experienced before through the prophet Elijah. Yet, Ahab and his family continued to sin and refused to fully repent their wickedness.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people whom He taught, that it is important that as His followers, we must be loving and forgiving just as He has loved us. He taught us to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute and hate us. This is true Christian love, and one that we should be imitating from the Lord, Who Himself forgave His enemies and those who persecuted Him right from the cross.

But of course repentance is important for one to be forgiven, just as we have seen earlier with the contrasting examples of king Ahab and king David. Yet, it is indeed, right for us as Christians, to be generous in our mercy and forgiveness, for the Lord, Our God, Himself generously give us His mercy, and always extends out His hand to welcome us back into His embrace.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Minh and his companions, the holy martyrs of Vietnam, who were persecuted over two centuries by the authorities, similar to how the early Christians were persecuted by the Romans. They were hated, made to suffer, arrested, and forced to abandon their faith on the pain of death. However, the Christians and the missionaries, both foreign and local ones persevered in their faith and continued to spread the Good News despite the dangers involved.

The actions of the missionaries and their love for everyone, including even those who persecuted them became exemplary among many, and in truth, even more people turn to the faith and became Christians, even among those who used to persecute the faithful. Despite the growing persecution against the faithful at that time, local clergy including St. Philip Minh and foreign missionaries alike stood together with the faithful flock entrusted to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the courage and zeal, and the love shown by the holy martyrs of Vietnam should become inspiration to all of us, to live more and more faithfully day after day, and to turn ourselves to God and put Him at the centre of our lives. Let us all be forgiving and merciful, be compassionate in all of our actions and dealings with one another, that God’s love be truly shown in us, and many more would come to believe through us.

May the Lord bless us all, and may the holy martyrs of Vietnam intercede for us always, that all of us sinners still living in this world, may come to the loving embrace of God, and receive the fullness of God’s inheritance and grace. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 11 and 16

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone, have I sinned.

Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offences. Deliver me, o God, from the guilt of blood; and of Your justice, I shall sing aloud.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Kings 21 : 17-29

Then YHVH spoke to Elijah of Tishbe, “Go down to meet Ahab, king of Israel, in Samaria. He is taking possession of the vineyard of Naboth. Say to him : ‘Have you killed and have taken possession at the same time?’ Then give him this word of Mine : ‘Dogs shall lick your blood in the very place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth.’”

Ahab then said to Elijah, “Who better than my enemy, could find me here and now!” Elijah answered, “I have come to you because you have done what YHVH abhors. This is YHVH’s word : ‘I will bring disgrace on you. I will sweep you away and cut off every male of your family, from the lowliest to the greatest. Your family will disappear like the families of Jeroboam and Baasa, because you have offended Me and have dragged Israel into sin.’”

“There is another word of YHVH to Jezebel : ‘The dogs shall devour Jezebel within the territory of Jezreel.’ If anyone of Ahab’s line dies in the city, he shall be devoured by dogs; if in the green country, the birds of the air shall feed on him.”

There was no one like Ahab, urged by his wife, Jezebel, in doing what YHVH abhorred. He did horrible things and ran after unclean idols just as the Amorites had done, from whom YHVH had taken the land to give it to Israel. On hearing these words, Ahab tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. He fasted as he lay in sackcloth and moved around despondently.

Then YHVH said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you see how Ahab has humbled himself? Because of this I will not bring about the disaster during his reign; during his son’s reign disgrace will fall on his family.”

Tuesday, 26 December 2017 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day after Christmas day we always celebrate the occasion of the Feast of the Protomartyr or the first martyr of the Church, namely St. Stephen the Deacon, one of the first seven holy deacons of the Church mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. He was chosen with the other deacons to minister to the people of God in the early Church, in the distribution of goods and care for them.

He was assailed by the enemies of the Church, the chief priests and the Pharisees who were annoyed and felt threatened by his preachings among the people about Jesus the Lord and Saviour and his great wisdom, which none of them could match, because the Lord and His Holy Spirit was with him, guiding his works and words. As we heard in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Stephen spoke courageously with guidance of the Holy Spirit, chastising the people for their lack of faith in God Who has shown them His ways for a long time.

St. Stephen was not afraid to stand up and defend his faith, even though he was alone against a large crowd who were hostile to him, and refused to listen to him earnestly. He preached to them the truth, and pointed out to them how their ancestors had treated the prophets and messengers sent by God to them in the same manner, persecuting them, torturing them and killing them.

And thus, the enemies of the Lord rushed against St. Stephen and stoned him to death. He became the very first martyr of the Church, as martyrs are those who died defending their faith in the Lord, refusing to give up and abandon their faith and their God. There were many martyrs who followed after St. Stephen, having to suffer and die for their faith in God, against the Jewish authorities, against the Roman Emperor and the authorities, and more.

You may be wondering, why is it that on this joyous and festive occasion of Christmas, that we celebrate the memory of a martyr, who died a painful death and was the first among the many holy martyrs of the Church, a memory of the difficult and terrible years of the early Church, when being a Christian could equate with imprisonment, torture, suffering, exile, being ostracised and death?

That is because Christmas reminds each and every one of us as Christians of our true calling and mission, that we ought to proclaim the truth of God, Who was born two millennia ago and celebrated as Christmas, as the Man, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man. Many at that time, and even until this very day, refused to believe in this truth, as they refused to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah or Saviour, while others refused to acknowledge that He is the Son of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is this truth that St. Stephen had suffered and died defending for. He refused to choose life and abandoning his faith in the Lord, but rather, he stood up for the truth and died faithfully in the Lord, defending it. Yet, at the same time, following the example of Christ, he forgave his enemies, and prayed for their sake, that God would forgive him from the sin caused by their murder.

What should all of us as Christians make of this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is a timely reminder for all of us as Christians, that this season of Christmas, while it is a joyful season, we must not be carried away with our celebrations and revelries, without understanding the full meaning of Christmas. As I have often mentioned, what is most important about Christmas, is God’s love for us, which He has given us through Jesus Christ, born into this world two millennia ago.

And as we remember this love which He has given us, then shall we not forget to love Him back in the same manner too? We can do this by devoting ourselves, our time and attention to Him, and while we do not need to go to the extent of the martyrs, who died defending their faith, shall we stand up for our faith whenever it is necessary to do so? Let us be sources of inspiration and strength for each other, in keeping ourselves faithful to the Lord, all the days of our life.

May the Lord, through His blessed servant, St. Stephen the Protomartyr, awaken in each and every one of us a strong zeal and love for Him, inflamed by the Holy Spirit, that we may proclaim His truth to the world, through our actions in life, taken and done while being ever mindful of God’s laws and commandments, that we may be true disciples of His, now and always. May God bless us always. Amen.