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, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message of the Sacred Scriptures speaking to us about the establishment of the Holy Tent of Meeting, as prescribed by the Law of God and instructed by God Himself. The Holy Tent of Meeting was the precursor of the Temple of God, which was the centre of the entire community of the faithful, where the Altar of God was placed at, and where the whole community revolved around.

The Lord was with His people at all times, gathering them all together, guiding them along the entire journey in the form of the great pillar of cloud at daytime and as a great pillar of fire at night. He was the focal point of the entire journey, and Moses acted as the mediator between God and His people, as he went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with God and to deliver His will and revelations to the people of Israel.

This Holy Tent of Meeting and the community of the people of Israel, if we also then recall what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, on the parable of the kingdom of God represented as a great fishing net gathering many fishes of various kinds, are in fact representations and prefigurements of how our Church today looks like. For the Church of God is just like Israel of old, the community of the entire faithful people of God.

Just as the entire community of Israel was gathered around the Holy Tent and were included within the boundary of the entire camp, thus the whole Church of God is centred and focused on the Holy Presence of God in Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Who is truly present in our midst in His own Most Precious Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist, as the tangible focus of our whole lives, the very centre of our Christian faith.

There is also parallel to what happened in the old times of Israel and our Church today, as while in those days, people who were deemed to be unclean were cast out of the camp into the wilderness until they were able to prove themselves to be clean before they were allowed to join the camp once again, in the Church, we also have what is called excommunication, when this most severe of penalties is reserved for those who have acted in a most unfaithful way, with the intention of helping the person to reflect on his or her errors and repent from his or her sins.

The significance of what we have heard in today’s readings cannot be understated, as the Gospel parable also reminds us that those who are wicked and unjust, unfaithful and evil shall have no part in God’s kingdom and inheritance. They will be rejected and cast out forever just as they have willingly and consciously rejected God and refused to follow His laws and commandments.

Do we want to be included or counted among those who will be condemned to eternal damnation? Or do we rather stay on the Lord’s good side? The choice is completely in our hands, and indeed we have been given many opportunities to make our conscious choice. God has given us the free will to choose between good and evil, between obedience to God and disobedience against Him, between righteousness and wickedness.

Today, all of us celebrate together the feast of the Founder of the Redemptorist religious order, or the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. St. Alphonsus Liguori is a great figure filled with faith, sincerity and devotion to God, who can be a great example to each and every one of us in how we ought to live out our lives with faith, and not just any faith, but a living and genuine faith in God.

St. Alphonsus Liguori was once a great lawyer, but after having spent quite a few years in that profession, he found his true calling in serving God and chose to abandon his former life and embraced the call to priesthood and service. And as a priest, he reached out to the poor and the marginalised in the society, gathering all of them and managed to gain many people to return to the faith.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, his dedication and hardwork, his dedication to the Lord and to the people, his efforts to bring the lost souls and sheep of the Lord are things that can inspire us all to live ever more faithfully as true Christians from now on. Are we able to follow in his footsteps in being good examples of faith for one another? All of us have been given the same mission from the Lord, that is to gather His people, our fellow brethren, in the Church that He has established in this world.

Let us all together as one people, one community of the faithful people of God, one Church, serve the Lord with all of our hearts and believe in Him wholeheartedly from now on. May the Lord bless us all and may He continue to guide us all throughout this journey of life. May St. Alphonsus Liguori also intercede for us all sinners. Amen.

Thursday, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 47-53

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net, let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught. When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish into buckets, but throw the bad away. That is how it will be at the end of time; the Angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just, and to throw the wicked into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth.”

Jesus asked, “Have you understood all these things?” “Yes,” they answered. So He said to them, “Therefore, every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, is like a householder, who can produce from his store things both new and old.”

When Jesus had finished these parables, He left that place.

Thursday, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 83 : 3, 4, 5-6a and 8a, 11

My soul yearns; pines, for the courts of YHVH. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young, at Your altars, o YHVH of hosts, my King and my God!

Happy are those who live in Your house, continually singing Your praise! Happy, the pilgrims whom You strengthen, they go from strength to strength.

One day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be left at the threshold in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Thursday, 1 August 2019 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Exodus 40 : 16-21, 34-38

Moses did this; he did exactly as YHVH had commanded him. The Holy Tent was set up on the first day of the first month in the second year. Moses set up the Holy Tent. He fixed the bases for it, put up its frames, put its crossbars in position, set up its posts. He spread the tent over the Holy Tent and on top of this the covering for the Tent, as YHVH had commanded Moses.

He took the Covenant and placed it inside the Ark. He set the poles to the Ark in place and put the mercy seat on it. He brought the Ark into the Holy Tent and put the screening veil in place; thus he screened the Ark of YHVH, as YHVH had commanded Moses.

Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the Glory of YHVH filled the Holy Tent. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because of the Glory of YHVH that filled the Holy Tent. At every stage of their journey, whenever the cloud rose from the Holy Tent, the people of Israel would continue their march. If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not move their camp until it did.

For the cloud rested on the Holy Tent by day, and a fire shone within the cloud by night for all the house of Israel to see. And so it was for every stage of their journey.

Saturday, 25 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (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 all of us that as God’s people and as His followers, we are called to serve Him and to do His will, and sometimes, throughout our journey and ministry we will encounter challenges and difficulties that may cause us to lose hope or even lose faith, as persecution, oppression and all sorts of difficulties may come in our path.

But regardless of the hardships and the persecutions that the faithful had to encounter throughout their lives, all of those did not prevent them from continuing to love God and to dedicate themselves to Him. Throughout the history of the Church there had been many occasions when the persecution of the Church and the faithful only led to the faith of the people of God to become even stronger.

And that is because the faithful people of God supported each other and comforted each other in times of sorrow and distress, in times of challenges and persecutions, amidst trials and all the obstacles that the world has arrayed against them. The examples and courage of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord in standing up for their faith and for their tireless dedication in service became a great motivation and inspiration for all the faithful.

The courage and steadfastness of the holy martyrs and saints became great inspiration and strength to all those who were suffering because of persecutions and trials of the world, and the fire and zeal the disciples and martyrs had shown inflamed the hearts and minds of all the faithful and became a beacon of hope and guiding light in times of distress and despair.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are also celebrating the feast of several holy saints of God whose lives have been truly exemplary and influential in inspiring the faithful throughout the centuries past, namely that of St. Bede the Venerable, Pope St. Gregory VII and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi. These saints have shown us all how we ought to act and believe as God’s people through their wonderful and loving actions.

St. Bede the Venerable was remembered for his dedication to the field of Christian teaching and contemplative life, having taught many of the renowned Christian authors and preachers of his time, and having dedicated much of his time to the study of the faith, as well as of philosophy and theology. Through his many works and contributions, his tireless dedication and commitment, many people received the goodness of God’s salvation.

Meanwhile Pope St. Gregory VII was meanwhile remembered for the struggle that he encountered in what was known as the ‘Investiture Controversy’ regarding the nature of secular and religious power. At that time, the secular powers of the world tried to gain advantage and influence over the Church and the Holy Roman Emperor then tried to impose his will on the broader Church, by implying that he had greater authority even that of the Pope, who is the leader of the Church.

Despite the challenges and difficulties, Pope St. Gregory VII persevered through the challenging times, resisting the many efforts of the secular rulers who tried to undermine the power and the influence of the Church, putting the interests of the Lord and His Church above that of the interests of the corrupt leaders of the world, both that of the secular powers and also those within the Church who succumbed to the temptations of power and money.

Then, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a renowned religious and mystic who lived her life in total commitment to God, devoting her time, effort and attention to serve the Lord, and so attuned she had been to the Lord, that she experienced series of visions which she related and shared that others might also come to believe in God and in His truth and salvation. Ultimately, all these saints have shown us what it means for us to be true Christians, not just in words but also in actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the examples shown by these three saints, as well as the innumerable examples of the many other saints, holy men and women of God who had shown us how to be true disciples of the Lord in all the things we say and do in our lives. May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to strengthen us all as we continue walking down our lives with a renewed faith and desire to serve Him wholeheartedly. Amen.

Saturday, 25 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.”