Thursday, 26 December 2019 : 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.”

Friday, 6 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture and progress through the season of Advent, we are again constantly being reminded of God and His loving presence in our lives, how He is with us and providing us help for what we need, and how He promised all of His people that the time of His salvation will come, the time when all those who are faithful to Him will be gathered to God’s loving embrace.

In our first reading today, we heard of how the promise of God’s salvation to His people was being revealed as He spoke in the prophecy He relayed through Isaiah, His prophet. We heard of how the prophet Isaiah described clearly the coming of the time when the people of Israel will no longer be ashamed or suffer, those who are righteous will no longer be oppressed, and they will see the salvation of God.

The Lord will also heal His people from their afflictions and sickness, their pains and troubles, and give them the new strength and life in Him, blessing them abundantly as He has always done. It has all been fulfilled then through the Messiah or Saviour, Who is none other than Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. In our Gospel passage today we heard how He healed all the multitudes of the sick who were brought to Him and how He cast out demons from them and blessed all of them.

We heard how He also opened the eyes of the blind, among many others, feats that are impossible for human beings, and only serve to show us all how truly Jesus is the Messiah of God, His own beloved Son sent into the world to save us all, His beloved ones. God showed forth His love and just how wonderful and patient that love has been through Christ, the fullness of God’s love manifested in our world. And through the Lord Jesus, God’s truth and love have been propagated through His disciples.

And we celebrate the memory of one of those who succeeded the Apostles and carried forth the loving examples of God’s love to us, namely that of St. Nicholas of Myra, a holy bishop who lived and ministered to his faithful flock in Myra in what is now Anatolia or Asian part of Turkey in the early century of the Church around the time of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in the early fourth century.

St. Nicholas was also in fact the origin of the now ubiquitous Santa Claus, which arguably had become much, much more famous than his original namesake. Many did not even know of who St. Nicholas of Myra was, or what his life and works had been like, as they were much more aware of Santa Claus, the modern day, sort of secularised and fictional depiction of St. Nicholas, an old man who is generous in giving, delivering gifts to the children and families on the eve of Christmas.

This came forth from the actions of St. Nicholas of Myra, who was remembered for his actions in giving to the children of his flock, caring especially for the poor and the unloved ones. St. Nicholas of Myra however, was also a fierce and courageous defender of the faith, a fact that even many among those who knew St. Nicholas of Myra did not really know. It was told that St. Nicholas punched the heretic Arius in the face when the latter spoke of his heretical thoughts and teachings so blatantly at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea.

The love which St. Nicholas had shown, which inspired the modern story and representation of Santa Claus is a reminder to all of us that as the disciples and followers of the Lord, we must always show love, care and concern in our lives and therefore bring forth the wonderful love that God has brought to us, to our own fellow brothers and sisters. But then, his courageous and fierce defence of his faith is also then a reminder for us to anchor ourselves in the Lord.

This means that, for every actions we do and for every words we utter and for every interactions we make to one another, we are all called to centre ourselves on God and put Him at the centre focus of our whole lives and existences. We are all called to give our very best to love the Lord and to dedicate ourselves to Him, as after all, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages, God has loved us all so wonderfully in the first place.

Let us all pray that we can thus be strengthened in our faith and in our conviction and desire to love God from now on with all of our heart and with all of our strength. Let us all also then show the same love to our fellow brethren without fail as well, showing genuine and tender love in everything we say and do, at all times, following the good examples set by St. Nicholas of Myra and the many other saints whose lives have inspired us. Amen.

Friday, 6 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Matthew 9 : 27-31

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He resurrected the daughter of the official, two blind men followed Him, shouting, “Son of David, help us!” When He was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, Sir!”

Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, “Be careful that no one knows about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about Him through the whole area.

Friday, 6 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 6 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Isaiah 29 : 17-24

In a very short time, Lebanon will become a fruitful field and the fruitful field will be as a forest. On that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see. The meek will find joy and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

For the tyrant will be no more and the scoffers gone forever, and all who plan to do evil will be cut down – those who by a word make you guilty, those who for a bribe can lay a snare and send home the just empty-handed.

Therefore YHVH, Abraham’s Redeemer, speaks concerning the people of Jacob : No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will his face grow pale. When he sees the work of My hands, his children again in his midst, they will sanctify My Name, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who err in spirit will understand; those who murmur will learn.

Saturday, 3 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, “This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.”

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John’s disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Thursday, 2 May 2019 : 2nd 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, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the responsibility which each and every one of us as Christians have, that is to be witnesses and defenders of our faith before all the people, to be walking in the footsteps of the Apostles and all those who have given themselves wholly in the service of God, as we have ourselves heard in our Scripture passages today.

In the first reading today, we listened to the persistence and perseverance of the Apostles in the face of harsh persecution and opposition, as they were faced with fierce opposition from the influential members of the Jewish High Council, the Sanhedrin, who wanted the Apostles to stop preaching, teaching and doing works in the Name of the Lord Jesus, by Whose Name they have performed miracles, healing and called the people of God to believe in the Saviour Who had died for them.

But the Apostles stood by their faith in God and refused to abandon the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them, just as St. John the Baptist in our Gospel passage today testified before the people and before all those who opposed him, that he obeyed the will of God and he preached the truth and the salvation that God has revealed through His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Saviour of all the world.

St. John the Baptist also faced a lot of opposition and challenges, from the same influential members of the community who felt threatened by the influence, charisma and the message which both St. John the Baptist and the Apostles had brought with them and which they preached and taught among the people. That is because God’s truth has come to dispel the falsehoods and the corrupted truths which the enemies and opponents of the Lord had championed.

And in today’s occasion, aptly and most appropriately, we also celebrate the feast day of one of the great servants of God, whose life has also been filled with plenty of challenges and difficulties, and how this holy servant stood by his faith courageously, and became known as the staunch defender of the true, orthodox Christian faith. He is St. Athanasius the Great, Holy Doctor of the Church and great Defender of the Faith.

St. Athanasius was the Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the most important dioceses of the Church, and a great leader of the faithful at a time when the Church and the community of Christendom were bitterly divided between the many heresies and false teachings by false teachers and preachers who spread untruths and heresies that took hold many among the faithful, dividing even bishops against bishops, priests against priests, the Church against each other.

St. Athanasius defended the true faith in particular against the heresy of Arianism, which denied the equality of Jesus Christ, the Son of God with His heavenly Father, and for such, he was known also for his now famous Athanasian Creed, a very comprehensive version of the Christian Creed that is filled with the centre tenets of the faith, especially in the truth of the Holy Trinity, the distinctiveness, equality and yet perfect unity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is something that many of the heresies including Arianism tried to undermine and corrupt.

For his courageous and relentless defence of the true faith, St. Athanasius had to endure much difficulty and sufferings, having endured several exiles and persecutions by his enemies, who sometimes enjoyed the support of the Roman Empire and its institutions. Yet, St. Athanasius did not give up and continued to defend the faith till the end of his life, and he was remembered for his courage and faithfulness, as the true faith eventually triumphed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are also called and expected to stand up for our faith, not through confrontation or violence, but through our courageous and committed desire to live our whole lives being dedicated to God, just as the Apostles, St. John the Baptist and St. Athanasius the Great had done. Let us all be truly faithful, that the love of God will be the centre of our every actions, words and deeds, that we may find true justification in God. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.