Monday, 2 May 2022 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with the nature of our faith, this faith that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, Our Saviour. Each and every one of us as Christians are called to proclaim the Lord and His truth through our lives and actions, in everything we say and do. We ought to do what the Apostles and all the holy men and women of God had done before us, in proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the One from Whom the salvation of the world had come from.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the time when St. Stephen, one of the seven first deacons of the Church, was confronted by the opponents of the Church, those who refused to believe in God and His truth as revealed through the Lord Jesus and His Apostles. The Sanhedrin and all those who have arrested and oppressed the Apostles tried a lot of effort to suppress the rapidly spreading Christian teachings and faith. And in order to do that, they even chose to employ false witnesses and other methods to try to persecute the disciples of the Lord like St. Stephen.

Hence, St. Stephen encountered great difficulty in going against the plots of those who sought to destroy him, against the authorities with the power to persecute him and who turned the people against him. Yet, he remained firm in his faith and convictions, not fearing the repercussions and threats against himself, but instead, inflamed by the Holy Spirit, encouraged and strengthened, he preached about the Lord and Saviour, openly proclaiming Him before the people, revealing all that God had done to them through His Son, Whom they had recently persecuted and gave to the Romans to be crucified, died and then risen in glory for the salvation of all the people.

Those false witnesses employed against him tried to bring St. Stephen down, and they used increasingly desperate means to discredit him, and yet, the great wisdom and courage that St. Stephen had shown would overpower whatever wicked means and plots arrayed against him. The Lord was working through His servant, and now, many years after his martyrdom, we are still inspired by the great courage and dedication that St. Stephen had shown, in facing even persecution, suffering and death squarely in the face, never once flinching or giving in to his fears and doubts, because he trusted fully in the Lord and His providence.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the interactions between the Lord Jesus and the multitudes of people who had followed Him and tried to follow Him wherever He went. They followed the Lord and He pointed out that they followed Him because of their desires to be satisfied and fulfilled, by the amazing miracles that He performed, particularly that of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and many more. The Lord knew that in the hearts and minds of those people, there were still yet doubts and lacking in genuine faith, and hence, He wanted to convince and persuade them to truly believe in Him and His truth, and not just superficially showing their faith.

This reminds all of us of the very important mission that God has entrusted to us as Christians, that each and every one of us ought to proclaim the Lord, our God and Saviour, His love and compassionate mercy, His kindness and His truth to all the people, to everyone we encounter throughout life. We are all called to be the ministers of God, following in the footsteps of St. Stephen, the Apostles and the many other saints and martyrs, all those who have devoted their time and life, who have often suffered for the sake of the Lord, His Church and His people. We are all called to continue their efforts and works in our own ways.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Athanasius, the great and renowned Church father and Doctor of the Church, who was especially remembered for his dedication in defending the orthodox and true Christian faith and teachings against the dangerous influence and the falsehoods of the many heresies and false teachings that were running rampant during his time and ministry, threatening to destroy the unity and harmony within the Church, and also threatening to mislead countless souls down the path towards damnation. Against this, St. Athanasius persevered faithfully, committing his time and effort to go against those who proclaim those falsehoods, much like how St. Stephen himself had courageously proclaimed the Lord before those who persecuted him.

St. Athanasius was the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria whose tenure of work and ministry happened after the important Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. He led the Church in Alexandria and beyond against the heresy of Arius, the popular preacher who initiated the Arian heresy and controversy, who amassed a large following and support even amongst the bishops and the powerful rulers of the Roman Empire. However, that did not deter St. Athanasius from persevering in his efforts to bring the people of God and the Church out from the erroneous teachings of heretics like Arius among others, and even though he had to endure about seventeen years in various exiles from his See due to the opposition against him, he endured in his faith and struggle to the very end.

In what he would later be well known for, St. Athanasius was credited with the authorship or as the inspiration for the later codified Athanasian Creed, the expanded version of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed that emphasised heavily on the true nature of God, the relationship of the Members of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, against the erroneous heretical teachings, particularly that of Arius and his Arian heresy and which is recited especially on this day, his feast day. St. Athanasius showed all of us, just as St. Stephen had done, what being true Christians is all about, to stand up for our faith and proclaim the truth of God, faithfully and courageously even amidst opposition and oppression.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves in the same way as St. Athanasius, St. Stephen and the many other holy servants of God had done? Are we able and willing to follow the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly, and making use of the various talents, gifts and opportunities that He had provided for us, so that we may glorify the Lord by our lives, by our words, actions and deeds? Let us all reflect carefully on how we can be ever better and more committed disciples of His, from now on. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us that we will remain faithful and true to our calling, and be courageous in proclaiming our faith in our respective lives, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 2 May 2022 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 22-29

At that time, the next day after Jesus fed the five thousand men, the people, who had stayed on the other side, realised that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with His disciples; but rather, the disciples had gone away alone.

Bigger boats from Tiberias came near the place where all these people had eaten the bread. When they saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Master, when did You come here?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, I say to you, you look for Me, not because of the signs which you have seen, but because you ate bread and were satisfied. Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give it to you, for He is the One on Whom the Father has put His mark.”

Then the Jews asked Him, “What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do?” And Jesus answered them, “The work God wants is this : that you believe in the One Whom God has sent.”

Monday, 2 May 2022 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 23-24, 26-27, 29-30

Although princes conspire against me, Your servant will observe Your decrees. Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

When I explained my ways, You responded; instruct me then in Your precepts. Explain to me all Your ordinances, and I will meditate on Your wondrous deeds.

Keep me away from deceitful paths; be gracious and teach me Your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart upon Your laws.

Monday, 2 May 2022 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 6 : 8-15

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.

As they were unable to face the truth, they bribed some men to say, ‘We heard him speak against Moses and against God.’ So they stirred up the people, the elders and the teachers of the Law; they took him by surprise, seized him and brought him before the Council.

Then they produced false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against our Holy Place and the Law. We even heard him say that Jesus the Nazarean will destroy our Holy Place and change the customs which Moses handed down to us.” And all who sat in the Council fixed their eyes on him, and his face appeared to them like the face of an Angel.

Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us reminding us not to dwell in our worldly desires, temptations and the many other things that may distract us and keep us away from the path of God and His salvation, from His righteousness and justice, just as our predecessors had done, in their failure to resist those temptations and instead, allowing those things to cloud their judgment and made them to commit grievous errors and sins.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story from the Book of Genesis in which we were told of what happened to the sons of Jacob, also known as Israel, the ones who would become the progenitors of the twelve tribes of the Israelites. Jacob had a total of twelve sons, born from different wives and from the servants of his wives. The most beloved among all those sons were naturally Joseph and Benjamin, who were born to Jacob through his most beloved wife Rachel.

This led to the preferential treatments that Joseph enjoyed over that of his brothers, which made them to be angry against their younger brother, and all these despite each of them still enjoying the great bounty of the riches of Jacob and his family. They became even angrier when Joseph, who received many visions and dreams began speaking of how his own brothers and even father would come to bow down before him. All these were in fact premonitions of what would happen in the future, but no one, including Joseph knew what they were all about.

Despite the urgings of some of the brothers from restraint, the older brothers of Joseph plotted against him, and planned to have him killed. But at the coming of a Midianite caravan on the way to Egypt, the more moderate brothers managed to persuade all of them to spare his life and sell him to the merchants instead. And that was how Joseph would end up in slavery and then sent up to Egypt, as part of his mission to prepare the path for his family, though no one then knew of this yet.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord spoke using the parable of the evil tenants before the people and the Pharisees who have often made His works difficult, placing a lot of obstacles and barriers in His path. Through that parable, the Lord related a story to all that the greed and wicked desires of the evil and ungrateful tenants had led them to persecute, oppress and even kill the servants of the owner of the vineyard who had every right to remind those tenants to pay their due to him.

In the end, this even led to them killing the son of the owner himself who was sent at long last to remind them. This was in fact a veiled criticism and rebuke by the Lord at the actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, all those ‘tenants’ whom God, represented by the owner of the vineyard, had entrusted with the care of His ‘vineyard’, namely His people, His flock, the people of Israel. They and their ancestors had not been truly faithful to God and instead, they often served their own interests, persecuting those whom God had sent into their midst, and up to and including the Lord Himself.

It was also a premonition of what would happen to the Lord at His Passion, His suffering and death, when by the actions of the same leaders and elders of the people, the Lord would face rejection, condemnation, forced to endure the most humiliating and painful punishment on behalf of all of us, His beloved ones. All that happened because those who condemned the Lord, were all swayed and tempted by their worldly desires, pride, ego and ambition among other things.

That is why, through the examples of Joseph and his brothers, what they had done, and what the Lord had reminded all of us through the example of the parable of the evil tenants, we are all called to remember the importance to resist the many temptations of the world, and to remain true to Him in faith. We must not easily give in to the temptations of the evil ones, and we must not give in to the pressure for us to follow the whims of our desires and the want for pleasure and temporary satisfaction.

Instead, as we continue to walk through this journey of life with faith, particularly through this season of Lent, we are all reminded to follow the good examples of our holy predecessors, one of whom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, whose feast we celebrate today, ought to inspire us with his enduring faith and dedication to the Lord. He was the Bishop of Jerusalem who was remembered for his great love for both the Lord and the people entrusted under his care, as well as his dedication to the truth and the well-being of the whole entire Universal Church then threatened by various heresies and divisions.

He resisted the many oppositions, attacks and pressure from the Arian heretics and all those who supported them, including even the powerful nobles and the Roman Emperors themselves, suffering multiple exiles and persecutions, having to endure many false accusations among other hardships during his ministry. Yet, St. Cyril of Jerusalem remained steadfast in faith and did not give in to those who sought to undermine the unity and identity of the Church, holding his flock firm in his hands, leading them towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all walk in the footsteps of St. Cyril of Jerusalem and the innumerable other saints who had walked faithfully before us towards the Lord. Let us follow them and be inspired by their good examples in how we should live our own lives with faith as well. May God be with us always, and may He continue to watch over us and strengthen us, that we may always be vigilant, and be ready to guard ourselves against any temptations of evil. Amen.

Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 21 : 33-43, 45-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Listen to another example : There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country.”

“When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another and stoned a third. Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way.”

“Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

“Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it.”

“Therefore I say to you : the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will yield a harvest.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realised that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested Him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded Him as a Prophet.

Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

Then the Lord sent a famine and ruined the crop that sustained the land; He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

His feet in shackles, his neck in irons till what he foretold came to pass, and the Lord’s word proved him true.

The king sent for him, set him free, the ruler of the peoples released him. He put him in charge of his household and made him ruler of all his possessions.

Friday, 18 March 2022 : 2nd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 37 : 3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, for he was the son of his old age and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. His brothers who saw that their father loved him more than he loved them, hated him and could no longer speak to him in a friendly way.

His brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the flock at Shechem.” So Joseph went off after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him in the distance and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

They said to one another, “Here comes the specialist in dreams! Now is the time! Let us kill him and throw him into a well. We will say a wild animal devoured him. Then we will see what his dreams were all about!” But Reuben heard this and tried to save him from their hands saying, “Let us not kill him; shed no blood! Throw him in this well in the wilderness, but do him no violence.” This he said to save him from them and take him back to his father.

So as soon as Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his long-sleeved coat that he wore and then took him and threw him in the well, now the well was empty, without water. They were sitting for a meal when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with spices, balm and myrrh, which they were taking down to Egypt.

Judah then said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Come! We will sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother and our own flesh!” His brothers agreed to this. So when the Midianite merchants came along they pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the well. For twenty pieces of silver they sold Joseph to the Midianites, who took him with them to Egypt.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate the feast of St. Timothy and St. Titus, the two followers and friends of St. Paul the Apostle, who were among the first bishops of the Church, as the successors of the Apostles. It was fitting that we celebrate them today as yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, as a reminder for us just how significant the contributions that St. Paul, formerly Saul, a great enemy of the Christian faithful turned a most ardent defender of the faith, had in the early history of the Church.

St. Timothy and St. Titus were close friends and collaborators of St. Paul, and St. Paul wrote his letters and Epistles to them just as he had written to the many other Christian communities out there. St. Paul encouraged and reminded them throughout his Epistles, the beginning of which is our first reading today, to ever be faithful to God and to spread the truth that they themselves have received, and the Spirit of God that they have been given through the laying of the hands by the Apostles.

Just as God has called St. Paul to be His follower and to spread the truth to all the people, therefore God has also called St. Timothy and St. Titus to be His followers as well, to dedicate themselves to His cause and to propagate His truth ever further to many more people throughout the whole world. They had been called to be the ones to continue the good works that the Apostles and the earliest disciples of the Lord had started. They were the ones to continue the building the Church after the firm foundation had been laid by the Apostles through their efforts.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the words of the Lord speaking to the disciples regarding what He was about to do, sending them out in pairs, to be the ones to do His work and precede Him wherever He was about to carry out His ministry. They were to be His assistants and the ones to allow His works and reach to find more people out there, that they might prepare more and more people to find the Lord and that they might come to believe in the Lord as well, as the reason why the Lord entrusted to them this ministry.

However, as the Lord Himself mentioned, they would be like lambs sent to be among wolves, and this means that their ministry and works would not be an easy and smooth-sailing one. On the contrary, it was likely that they would face a lot of opposition and even persecutions. They would face opposition and rejection from the Jewish authorities who have always rejected and refused to believe in the Lord, as well as from the other skeptics in the community, all those who have not come to believe in the Lord and refused to open their hearts and minds to welcome Him.

The Lord has made it clear at the same time, that He would be with them and will guide them and strengthen them along the way. He would not abandon them despite all the challenges that they might have to face for His sake. St. Timothy and St. Titus themselves were martyred for their faith, after many years in dedication to the people of God and to the flock which they were entrusted with. They devoted themselves wholeheartedly much like St. Paul, their inspiration and patron. All of them are themselves great inspiration of faith for all of us.

Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to reflect on our own lives and our own attitudes. Have we followed the Lord and acted as His good disciples all these while? To all of us who have received the gift of baptism and have become a part of the Church, we have all been given the same mission that God has entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, that as mentioned earlier, to continue the works of those who have preceded us in laying the establishment of the Church and its ministry, building upon all that the Apostles, the saints and martyrs like St. Timothy and St. Titus and others had done.

Let us all discern carefully our choice of actions in life and think of what we can do from now on, if we have not yet done so, to be the true disciples of the Lord, not just in name only but also in actions and true deeds. Let us all be inspirations for one another in how we live our lives and in how we devote our time, energy and efforts to glorify the Lord at our every living moments. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 10 : 1-9

At that time, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them, two by two, ahead of Him, to every town and place, where He Himself was to go. And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to His harvest.”

“Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know. Whatever house you enter, first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house!’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house.”

“When they welcome you to any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them : ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’”