Saturday, 2 May 2020 : 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, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded that to believe in God is not really as easy as we may think it is. It is often that believing in God require us to go against the norms and the conventions of this world. Our faith in Christ will require us to go beyond logic and merely worldly forms of understanding and knowledge, for this indeed requires us to have genuine faith to be able to believe in God.

In our first reading today, we heard about the works of St. Peter the Apostle, who went to the city of Lydda during his ministry and travel around in order to spread the Good News of the Lord. In that city, St. Peter performed a great miracle, in which he healed the sick man Aeneas, who had been paralysed and bedridden for over eight years without any hope, until the moment when through St. Peter, the Lord healed this man and made him whole again.

And then, St. Peter went to the town of Joppa and performed yet another great miracle, raising the faithful woman Tabitha from her death, just after she had passed on. Tabitha was restored to life by the grace and power of the Lord through His Apostle St. Peter, and witnessed by many people, who like at the healing of Aeneas in Lydda, all became believers and chose to be baptised as Christians. They believed because they truly saw how God had worked wonders in their midst.

All of these showed us just how the Lord has done things in ways that many would not have been able to comprehend using any of standard and conventional logic or intelligence of this world. Aeneas had been bedridden and paralysed for many years, something that even to this very day are still suffered by some people despite the great advancements in technology and science. None of these could completely heal the sick person in the way that Aeneas had been healed.

Similarly, the even more amazing resurrection of Tabitha defy any known logic and knowledge, as no human knowledge or ability were ever capable of overcoming death or even prolonging one’s life beyond what had been naturally determined by God. This, together with the resurrection of Lazarus and the dead daughter of a synagogue official by the Lord Jesus earlier in His ministry would serve as concrete proofs of how the Lord was truly the One sent by God to be the Saviour of the whole world.

Therefore, if we link these to what we have heard in our Gospel today, which from the sixth chapter of the Holy Gospel according to St. John on the conclusion of the discourse of the Bread of Life by Jesus to the people, then we will see how difficult it was indeed to be a follower of Christ. In fact, as we have heard, many of the followers of Jesus left Him behind after He spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, with many of them refusing to believe Him and saying how can anyone believe in such hard truth and words?

That is the reality, brothers and sisters in Christ, that this faith in Christ, our Christian faith which we have is not something we should take for granted, as we may often find it difficult to remain faithful especially when we are confronted with arguments and realities that are opposite and in contrast to our faith. Yet, at the same time, it is entirely possible for us to continue to be faithful and to dedicate ourselves with all of our hearts for the Lord.

As the Lord Himself had shown us that no one can come to the Father except through Him, there were still some of those who trusted in Him and clung to Him, and these were probably considered as foolish and peculiar by others. Yet, in the end, all those who remained true to their faith in God were not disappointed, for the Lord was with them, guided them throughout their journey, and gave them all the promise of eternal glory for their commitment and faith in Him.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one saint who has been remembered as a great defender of the Christian faith, a champion of the true and orthodox faith of the Apostles and the Church fathers, himself a renowned Church father and elder, namely St. Athanasius, also known as a champion of Christian orthodoxy against various heresies, particularly against the Arian heresy that was then widespread and enjoyed support even among many bishops and the secular leaders.

St. Athanasius was the Bishop and Patriarch of Alexandria, and therefore was one of the most senior and influential leaders of the Church of his time. In response to the widespread Arian heresy both within his See and throughout the Church at the time, St. Athanasius led the efforts to counter the falsehoods of the Arians and tried his best to get rid of the heretical teachings both in his See and beyond. He was the rallying point and centre of the efforts to return to the true and orthodox Christian faith.

St. Athanasius had to endure a lot of trials and challenges for all of his efforts and his dedication to the truth of God, against all those who had chosen to believe in their own misguided and perverse version of the faith, which was how those heresies came to be in the first place. Those heretical teachings altered the truth of God and combined them with falsehoods and lies, which were perhaps more acceptable and palatable than the truth itself, but were wrong in essence and truth.

St. Athanasius had to go against both secular authorities and all those bishops, priests and lay supporters of the Arian heresy among others, and he spent many years in exile from his See of Alexandria, being exiled a total of five times no less. That was how St. Athanasius endured so much for being faithful and committed to the truth of God. St. Athanasius remained courageous and strong even despite all the oppositions against him and despite all the humiliations, attacks and other persecutions he had received.

In the end, St. Athanasius, his tireless efforts, his great personal piety and dedication to the Lord was instrumental as part of the greater effort by many others who also defended the true and unchanging Christian faith as upheld by the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea and the subsequent Ecumenical Councils. Arian heresy was eventually subdued, and the true faith triumphed at last. It did take many, many years before this victory was achieved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Athanasius and be inspired by his faith and courage. Let us all stay firm in our dedication and commitment to the Lord, knowing that we may have to face opposition and challenges in our journey of faith, when our faith may be challenged by the temptations and the falsehoods that lie in this world and all around us, much as St. Athanasius himself had once experienced. Let us not be disheartened, for be assured that God Himself will be with us, and He will guide us through all these.

May the Lord be our help and may He strengthen us all to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on. May God be with us all and may He empowers us all to be courageous in being true Christians from now on. May God bless us all and our many good endeavours from now on for the greater glory of God. St. Athanasius, holy defender of faith and blessed servant of God, pray for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 2 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 60-69

At that time, after the Jews heard Jesus, many of His followers said, “This language is very hard! Who can accept it?”

Jesus was aware that His disciples were murmuring about this, and so He said to them, “Does this offend you? Then how will you react when you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, not the flesh. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

From the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him. So He added, “As I have told you, no one can come to Me unless it is granted by the Father.” After this many disciples withdrew and no longer followed Him. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Will you also go away?

Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We now believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Saturday, 2 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful.

O Lord, I am Your servant, truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s son. You have freed me from my bonds. I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord.

Saturday, 2 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 9 : 31-42

Meanwhile, the Church had peace. It was building up throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria with eyes turned to the Lord and filled with comfort from the Holy Spirit.

As Peter travelled around, he went to visit the saints who lived in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas who was paralysed, and had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!”

And the man got up at once. All the people living in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. There was a disciple in Joppa named Tabitha, which means Dorcas or Gazelle. She was always doing good works and helping the poor. At that time she fell sick and died. After having washed her body, they laid her in the upstairs room.

As Lydda is near Joppa, the disciples, on hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter went with them. On his arrival they took him upstairs to the room. All the widows crowded around him in tears, showing him the clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them.

Peter made them them all leave the room and then he knelt down and prayed. Turning to the dead body he said, “Tabitha, stand up.” She opened her eyes, looked at Peter and sat up. Peter gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the saints and widows and presented her to them alive.

This became known throughout all of Joppa and many people believed in the Lord because of it.

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.