Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian official by the Apostle St. Philip when the Apostle encountered the official who was on his way back to his homeland after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. At that time, it had been a thousand years since the coming of Queen of Sheba, who was told to be the ruler of the country at the region later known as Ethiopia, when she visited Jerusalem and paid homage to king Solomon of Israel.

As a result, the relations between the lands of Israel and Ethiopia had been established for many centuries since then, as they were definitely involved in trade and economic cooperation, as well as even religious encounter and exchanges. That was why the Ethiopian official was reading the passage from the prophet Isaiah’s prophecies and records, as it was likely that there were also some Jews and descendants of the Israelites who settled in Ethiopia and based on the history of relations between the two countries, it is likely that the Hebrew Scriptures have been widespread and read by many.

This was where then that St. Philip the Apostle came in, as he came up to the Ethiopian official who was reading the particular passage from the prophet Isaiah regarding the Suffering Servant or the Suffering Messiah. No doubt during that time, as he visited Jerusalem during those days, it was quite likely that he had also witnessed or at least heard about the events that had been happening in and around Jerusalem regarding Jesus the Messiah, Who had been condemned to death and crucified, and yet was told to have been resurrected from the dead.

Thus, St. Philip explained to the official what the passages of the Scriptures and the prophecies of Isaiah truly meant, explaining with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the revelations of God’s truth and also the personal experiences he had when he was travelling and journeying along with the Lord. And thus the Ethiopian official allowed himself to be persuaded and believed in the truth of Christ. He asked to be baptised at a nearby water source, and once he had been baptised by St. Philip, the Apostle was spirited away from him, and the official joyfully went back to his country, likely to be the first Christian among the Ethiopians, and establishing the seeds of the faith in that land that are to remain till to this day.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to the people that He is truly the Bread of Life Who has come down from Heaven itself, the very One Whom the prophets had spoken and prophesied about. And He spoke of His relationship with the Father, how all can only know the Father through Him as He was the only One Who had come down from Heaven, revealing the truth of God into this world and among us all, God’s beloved people. He has come into this world to save us all from certain destruction.

Through what we have read in our Gospel today, we are therefore brought to pay attention to our faith in God, just as Christ has spoken to us all as a reminder that no one can come to the Father except through Him. And all of us have been called by Christ to be His followers as we received His truth through His Church. Like that of the Ethiopian official and many other people of all the various nations and races, all have been called by God to follow Him and to be His people.

Are we appreciative of what the Lord had done for us? Are we able to recognise just how much the Lord had loved us all these while, that even when we are all still sinners, rebellious and indignant in our attitudes, we are all still beloved by Him and God still did all He could to save us, that is by His selfless sacrifice on the Cross. God has called us all to follow Him, and we are all called to be witnesses of His truth, to proclaim this truth to our fellow brethren, through our lives and actions.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by our faithful witness through virtue and love, through real dedication and trust in the Lord. And we should also have a great zeal for the Lord, like that of the Apostle St. Philip, whose conviction and faith, wisdom and devotion persuaded the Ethiopian official to believe in God. The Lord will always be by our side, guiding us and helping us, but we need to trust in Him and open ourselves to His providence, guidance and strength.

Today, all of us should look upon the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Pius V, one of the great Popes and leaders of the Church. At that time, with the Church and Christendom under great threat from both within and without, Pope St. Pius V helped to lead the Church and the Christian faithful through those difficult times. His personal piety, dedication to the reform of the Church and the faith, as well as his leadership and commitment to the Lord allowed the Church and the faithful to endure the worst years successfully.

When the Christian world was threatened by the forces of the infidels and unbelievers under the Ottoman Empire, Pope St. Pius V helped to raise a great alliance of the faithful forces and handed the enemies of the Church and the Lord a great defeat at the Battle of Lepanto. And facing the great challenges of the heresies of Protestantism in much of Christendom, Pope St. Pius V helped to bring the instrumental Council of Trent to a successful conclusion, and helped to enforce the much needed reforms that reinvigorated the Church and the faithful, in a strong Counter Reformation effort that reversed much of the damages in the past decades.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see in the great dedication and efforts put in by Pope St. Pius V, let us all as Christians be ourselves inspired to follow in his footsteps, as well as in the footsteps of the Apostles, to be cheerful and courageous bearers of Christ’s truth and light to all the peoples of all the nations. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us and bless our many good endeavours for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 44-51

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “No one can come to Me unless he is drawn by the Father Who sent Me; and I will raise Him up on the last day. It has been written in the Prophets : They shall all be taught by God. So whoever listens and learns from the Father comes to Me.”

“For no one has seen the Father except the One Who comes from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Though your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, they died. But here you have the Bread which comes from heaven, so that you may eat of it, and not die.”

“I am the Living Bread which as come from heaven; whoever eats of this Bread will live forever. The Bread I shall give is My flesh, and I will give it for the life of the world.”

Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 65 : 8-9, 16-17, 20

Praise our God, o nations, let the sound of His praise be heard, for He has preserved us among the living and kept our feet from stumbling.

All you who fear God, come and listen; let me tell you what He has done. I cried aloud to Him, extolling Him with my tongue.

May God be blessed! He has not rejected my prayer; nor withheld His love from me.

Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 8 : 26-40

An Angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south towards the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert road.” So he set out and it happened that an Ethiopian was passing along that way. He was an official in charge of the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians; he had come on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was on his way home. He was sitting in his carriage and reading the prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and catch up with that carriage.” So Philip ran up and heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah; and he asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” He then invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.

This was the passage of Scripture he was reading : He was led like a sheep to be slaughtered; like a lamb that is dumb before the shearer, He did not open His mouth. He was humbled and deprived of His rights. Who can speak of His descendants? For He was uprooted from the earth.

The official asked Philip, “Tell me, please, does the prophet speak of himself or of Someone else?” Then Philip began to tell him the Good News of Jesus, using this text of Scripture as his starting point. As they travelled down the road they came to a place where there was some water. Then the Ethiopian official said, “Look, here is water; what is to keep me from being baptised?”

And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Then he ordered the carriage to stop; both Philip and the Ethiopian went down into the water and Philip baptised him. When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away. The Ethiopian saw him no more, but he continued on his way full of joy.

Philip found himself at Azotus, and he went about announcing the Good News in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Saturday, 21 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the holy Doctors of the Church, who was also a member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, and also a great priest and champion of the Counter Reformation efforts of the Church. St. Peter Canisius is truly a great inspiration and role model that many of us Christians can look upon as we ourselves progress in our own respective journeys of faith.

St. Peter Canisius lived at the time when the Church and Christendom were at a crossroads, at a time of great challenges and trials for the Church and the faithful, when many of the faithful began to walk away from the true faith at the time of the Protestant reformation, when many different alternative thoughts and teachings brought segments of the faithful to splinter away from the Holy Mother Church.

It was there then that St. Peter Canisius, as one of the earliest members of the Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, was instrumental in the efforts to counter the divisions within the Church, in what was called the Counter Reformation. St. Peter Canisius was one among the Jesuits tasked with the works of re-evangelisation of traditional lands of Christendom such as in what is now Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Nordic countries among others.

St. Peter Canisius was remembered particularly not just for the zeal with which he carried out his mission, but also the love and gentleness with which he performed his works and ministries among the people of God, even in difficult and challenging times. He advocated clarity in doctrine and preaching and discouraged attacks and insults against the Protestant populations, arguing that such methods made the spiritually sick and needy to become incurable.

Instead, spearheading the efforts of the Counter-Reformation and the gradual implementation of the reforms of the Ecumenical Council of Trent which rooted out many of the ills and corruptions then affecting the Church, St. Peter Canisius contributed immensely to the efforts of the Counter-Reformation by his courageous efforts and tireless devotion to serve the Lord by his outreach to those who have separated themselves from the Church, focusing on clarifying the confusion within the Church and explaining more clearly the truth of the Church.

To that extent, St. Peter Canisius wrote and authored the three volumes of what would be known as the Catechisms in the Latin and German language, the language of those who have been most affected by the reformation. This was one of his most renowned contributions to the Church, which was part of the reason why he was canonised as a saint and made as one of the Doctors of the Church in the year 1925 by Pope Pius XI. His contributions in leading the Counter-Reformation in Germany, reclaiming many areas to the Church was also a contributing factor.

And not just that, as St. Peter Canisius was also renowned for his deep devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and his contributions to the area of Mariology which helped to deepen the then developing spiritual devotion to Mary, in which again he is remembered for his lasting contribution of adding the final part of the Ave Maria or the Hail Mary prayer with the final prayer and petition of ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen’.

As we can see, the inspiring examples of St. Peter Canisius in everything he has contributed to the Church and his important role in the renewal of faith especially among those who have lapsed in their ways, should be important reminder for us all as well, in how we ourselves should rediscover our faith in God and deepen our relationship with Him, especially through a deeper relationship with His mother Mary, to whom St. Peter Canisius and many of our holy predecessors had deep devotion for.

As we approach the moment of Christmas in just a few days’ time, it is perhaps timely that today’s commemoration of the memory of the glorious St. Peter Canisius reminds us of the need for us to be reconnected with God, and how as Christians all of us have that obligation and calling to be witnesses for Christ within our own communities, friends and families.

Just as how it was during the time of St. Peter Canisius, when many had fallen away from the faith, there are also today many people who had lapsed from their faith and became wayward in their lives. Have we become like one of them, when we allowed our faith to become lukewarm? We have lost the faith if we have allowed ourselves to treat our faith as merely just a formality, and especially, if Christmas has no further meaning to us than just another holiday.

If this is the case, then there is a need for us to reexamine our lives and reconnect ourselves to God. We need to seek the Lord again with a new love and zeal just as how we heard from our first reading today in the Book of Song of Songs, like that of a lover seeking his or her long lost lover. And once we have regained that connection with God, then our challenge is such that, we need to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter Canisius, and bring others back into the faith just as we have done.

And how do we do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Not through confrontation or by being condescending as what St. Peter Canisius had said, that if we do so, we will end up making those who have rejected God to close themselves against Him even more. Instead, we should be role models of our faith, just as St. Peter Canisius has been a great role model for us. Live our lives full of faith, and practice what we believe in our actions, words and deeds, and in time, all those who see us, hear us and meet us will be touched by our faith.

Let us all seek the Lord with all of our hearts then, and endeavour to love Him more as we are about to celebrate the glorious celebration of Christmas in just a few days’ time. We should not allow Christmas to be just another holiday or festivity, but instead, let us all immerse ourselves in the true meaning and joy of Christmas in our Lord’s coming, and share the love which He has shown us to one another. May God be with us all and with our blessed Christmas preparations. Amen.

Saturday, 21 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

Saturday, 21 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 11-12, 20-21

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

But His plan stands forever, and His heart’s design, through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance.

In hope, we wait for YHVH, for He is our help and our shield. Our hearts rejoice in Him, for we trust on His holy Name.

Saturday, 21 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Song of Songs 2 : 8-14

The voice of my Lover! Behold He comes, springing across the mountains, jumping over the hills, like a gazelle or a young stag. Noe He stands behind our wall, looking through the windows, peering through the lattice.

My Lover speaks to me, “Arise, My love, My beautiful one! Come, the winter is gone, the rains are over. Flowers have appeared on earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard. The fig tree forms its early fruit, the vines in blossom are fragrant. Arise, My beautiful one, come with Me, My love, come.”

“O My dove in the rocky cleft, in the secret places of the cliff, let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice. Your face – how lovely! Your voice – how sweet!”

Alternative reading

Zephaniah 3 : 14-18a

Cry out with joy, o daughter of Zion; rejoice, o people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! YHVH has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. YHVH, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.

On that day, they will say to Jerusalem : Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for YHVH your God is within you, YHVH, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for He has revived His love. For you He will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about.

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the coming of the Messiah, the joy and happiness that are associated with the coming of the One Who has been awaited for so long by the people of God, Whose coming has been prophesied and foretold for many years by many prophets and messengers of God. And today, we heard of that moment when salvation was finally about to come into the world, and the joy that came with it.

The coming of the Messiah was foretold, that He would be born among the people of God, as the Heir of David, to receive the glorious kingdom of His forefather David. His coming would usher a new time and era, where God would renew the Covenant that He had made with His people Israel. His coming would also herald a new time of peace, and the reunion and gathering of all the scattered people of God back to Him.

Thus, everyone was expecting the coming of the Messiah, hoping that He will come to free His people from the tyranny of the Romans and all those who oppressed them. In the idea of some, the Messiah would come as a mighty, conquering King, Who will defeat the Romans and reestablish the glorious and mighty kingdom of Israel as how it was during the days of the great kings David and Solomon.

Who would have expected the Lord, King and Saviour to have come in the form of a Baby, born not as a mighty Prince or wealthy and powerful Ruler, but instead, through a poor, humble and yet devout young virgin, Mary of Nazareth in Galilee? But to those to whom God has given the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, they recognised the presence of the Saviour, as Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and the mother of St. John the Baptist recognised the Lord’s presence in Mary’s womb.

St. John the Baptist, the one foretold to be the one to prepare the way for the Messiah, also recognised his Lord and Saviour. In the other part of the Gospel, we also heard how Simeon the old priest recognised the Lord when the Lord Jesus was brought for His presentation at the Temple, as well as the prophetess Anna. There are many other occasions where the people recognised their Messiah in their midst, but unfortunately, there are even many more who did not recognise Him.

There were those who rejected the truth and the message which the Lord has revealed to them, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Many among the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the members of king Herod’s court, the teachers of the Law and the scribes refused to believe in the Lord, and even considered what He spoke and taught before the people as a heresy and blasphemy before God.

And instead of allowing themselves to listen to the truth which the Lord had brought them, they hardened their hearts and closed their senses and minds from knowing God’s presence and works in their midst. They allowed their pride and haughtiness to get in the way of their own salvation. They thought that they were doing what was right before God, but in reality, as the Lord pointed out, they were only serving their own desires and in trying to satisfy their greed and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, by remembering and reflecting on what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and from what we have just discussed, we are called to reflect on our own lives, and on how we have prepared ourselves for Christmas, that is just a few days away. Have we recognised the presence of God in our midst, He Who loves us so much, that He has given us the perfect and best gift of all, that is Himself?

He gave us His beloved Son, to be one of us, to be in our midst, sharing our humanity, that together, all of us, Who are His brothers and sisters, will be reconciled with our loving Father, through His selfless and perfect sacrifice on the cross, where He gathered willingly all of our sins and faults, and bearing them all on His cross, He suffered and died for our sake, that by His death, we may have a new life in Him.

Have we recognised Him and welcomed Him into our own lives? Or have we been too busy because of the many temptations of our life, that we are unable to recognise Him and His loving works in our midst? Have our Christmas celebrations been so secular and materialistic, as how much of the world celebrates it, year after year, again and again? And have we forgotten the centrality of Christ and His role in our salvation, that is the centre theme and true reason for Christmas?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Canisius, one of the great and renowned saints of the Church, a holy and devout servant of God, who dedicated himself to the work of evangelisation and teaching of the people of God. He was one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus, also better known as the Jesuits, a religious order established by St. Ignatius of Loyola at the time of a great upheaval and challenge for the Church.

During that time, the Protestant ‘reformation’ was in full swing, in response to the excesses and corruption within the Church. With many people quickly falling into the myriads of misguided and false teachings that unfortunately came about during that time of trials and confusion, the Jesuits, including St. Peter Canisius was at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation effort, which was meant to return the purity of the Christian faith, as well as the evangelisation of the masses of people, especially those who have been separated from the Church.

The Ecumenical Council of Trent took place during that time, where discipline and order were reestablished within the Church, with many corrupt practices and clergy being condemned and removed from the Church. And the Jesuits were sent to many places, some to mission areas in Asia, Africa and in the Americas, and some, including St. Peter Canisius were sent to the parts of Europe where there were rampant misunderstandings of the faith.

St. Peter Canisius, through his many works and writings, his courageous and never-ending effort to clarify the truth about the Christian faith in the Church, managed to convince many thousands and more to return to the true faith. Yet, he did this not through coercion or harsh words, but instead, through love and understanding, through patience and compassionate care for his fellow brethren.

His works on the Catechism, as well as his extensive Mariology, were so well received and so important in the maintenance and spread of the faith even amidst difficult times of heresy and misinformations, that they have inspired many throughout the subsequent years, and were used until this very day in catechism and evangelisation. St. Peter Canisius gave everything for God and devoted his whole life to serve Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have discussed today, and also from the life and works of St. Peter Canisius, we ought to ask ourselves, what we can do in order to emulate his good examples in our own lives. Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves to Him just as he has done? Are we able to spend our time, effort and attention to be with God and to do His will as St. Peter Canisius and surely many other holy men and women had done?

This Christmas, let us all have a profound conversion of heart, mind and soul, and let us all celebrate Christmas with new and greater understanding of the true joy and meaning of Christmas, not in excessive pleasure and revelries, but in the greater love we have for God, and also for our brethren, by the giving of ourselves, our time, compassion and attention, our love for especially those who are needy and who cannot rejoice the way that we are capable of.

Let us all be more generous in our giving, and be compassionate this coming Christmas, so that whatever joy we have, we may always share it with each other. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”