Thursday, 25 May 2023 : 7th 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded to stay united with God and to remain firm in our faith in Him at all times, resisting the temptations of worldly ambitions, attachments and other things that may end up misleading us down the wrong path in life. We should not let our desires and the corrupt temptations and attachments to this world lead us astray from the path that the Lord has shown us. As Christians we should continue to keep ourselves attuned to the Lord and firmly continue to uphold the Law and the commandments of God that He has shown us through His Church, amidst and despite the many challenges and trials that we may have to face and endure through as we live our lives faithfully as the followers of Christ.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles, of the time when St. Paul the Apostle was standing before the whole Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, which was composed of the most powerful and influential members of the Jewish community back then, including the Pharisees and the Sadducees among them, as the two most powerful factions among the Jews. Each of these groups were bitterly divided and antagonistic against each other, and was then united only in their common hatred and opposition against the followers of the Lord, especially that of St. Paul, who had performed so many works for the Lord and brought many into the Christian faith. Like what we heard in our first reading today, immediately when St. Paul mentioned that he belonged to the group of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Pharisees began to fight against each other in a massive conflict.

This shows that there was no unity among all those who persecuted St. Paul and the other early Christians, and God also gave St. Paul the wisdom to act in such a manner so as to prevent the Sanhedrin from uniting against him and in doing so, allowing St. Paul to commence his journey towards being put on trial by the Emperor in Rome, hence fulfilling what the Lord had called on him to do, to minister to the faithful and to spread the Good News to the very heart and centre of the Empire. Through his tireless efforts and commitment, and as well as all the time and hard work that he had put into place, St. Paul had shown us all what it means for us to be Christians, in trusting in the Lord and in doing what God has called and entrusted upon us to do. And God is always with us, by our side, just as the Lord Himself reassured His disciples as He prayed over them, as He promised them all that they would all see the true glory and joy through Him. Each and every one of us should be inspired to live our lives most faithfully as good Christians.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of three great saints whose lives and devotions to God in their own way may indeed be great source of inspiration and hope for each and every one of us, in how we can emulate their examples in our own lives. They are St. Bede the Venerable, a renowned priest and monk, and also a Church historian whose works and theological writings made him to be remembered greatly and honoured as one of the Doctors of the Church, and then Pope St. Gregory VII, who reformed the Church and led the Church through a turbulent and difficult moment where divisions and struggles between the religious and secular authorities were at its peak. Finally we have St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, a dedicated virgin and holy woman, whose life as a religious and experience as a mystic inspired many during her lifetime and afterwards.

St. Bede the Venerable lived and was active during the early years of Medieval Britain, in which he was renowned for being a great scholar and monk, with extensive library and collection of writings and works that still inspired so many people many centuries after his time. St. Bede the Venerable was ordained as a priest, and went on several travels and trips across the British isles, visiting many places and communities, which helped him to know and understand better about the local communities, especially the Christian Church there, and placed the foundation for the many works that he was writing, in topics as diverse as history and astronomy, among many others, and of course many of them dealing with the teachings of the Church and the Christian truth, which still inspired many who read his works afterwards. Many others made the works of St. Bede as their inspiration, and the rich diversity of his works continued to inspire the Church.

Meanwhile, Pope St. Gregory VII was the leader of the Universal Church during the height of what is known as the Investiture Controversy, which arose because of the dispute between the Pope and the Church with the secular authorities under the Holy Roman Emperor. In the past few hundred years before the time of Pope St. Gregory, both positions have become the greatest religious and secular authorities respectively, and the dispute arose because the Emperor claimed the right to appoint bishops and to control them within his own dominion, being appointed and supreme over all the secular rulers. On the other hand, the Pope St. Gregory VII represented the culmination of the Church efforts to resist secular influence and control of the Church and the members of the clergy, and stood firmly against any efforts of the Emperor and his nobles and supporters in trying to control the Church. He also carried out many other important reforms in purifying the Church from many corruptions and wickedness of that time.

Then, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a woman who had been attracted and called to a spiritual life from a very young age, and who eventually joined the Carmelite monastery, becoming one of the Carmelite religious sisters. She has begun receiving mystical visions from a young age, and this continued on through her time and experience as a Carmelite religious. Her great piety and dedication to God, her exemplary actions and care for others, as well as her great holiness and the visions she experienced inspired many others to follow her examples in faith and dedication to God. Through her dedication, many have come to seek the Lord and endeavour to follow the good examples that this faithful and dedicated woman had done in her own life. Thus, all of us should also be inspired by the examples of those whose lives and commitments to God we have just discussed.

Let us all therefore seek to glorify the Lord and proclaim His truth, love and Good News through our own works and actions. Let us all be good and faithful disciples and followers of our Lord and God, spending much of our time and effort to do the will of God and to proclaim Him in the midst of all the things that we have dedicated unto Him. Let us all be good role models and sources of inspiration for each other, in how we lead our lives and carry out our every actions, even in the smallest and seemingly least significant of actions and interactions with others around us. May the Lord continue to guide us in all things and help us to remain ever firmly faithful in Him, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 25 May 2023 : 7th 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 17 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in Me. May they all be one, as You Father are in Me and I am in You. May they be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

“I have given them the glory You have given Me, that they may be one as We are One : I in them and You in Me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that You have sent Me, and that I have loved them, just as You loved Me.”

“Father, since You have given them to Me, I want them to be with Me where I am, and see the glory You gave Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me.”

“As I revealed Your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and also may be in them.”

Thursday, 25 May 2023 : 7th 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 (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even at night my inmost self instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

Thursday, 25 May 2023 : 7th 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 (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 30 and Acts 23 : 6-11

The next day the commander wanted to know for certain the charges the Jews were making against Paul. So he released him from prison and called together the High Priest and the whole Council; and they brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul knew that part of the Council were Sadducees and others Pharisees; so he spoke out in the Council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee. It is for the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial here.”

At these words, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the whole assembly was divided. For the Sadducees claim that there is neither resurrection, nor Angels nor spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all these things.

Then the shouting grew louder, and some teachers of the Law of the Pharisee party protested, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Maybe a spirit or an Angel has spoken to him.” With this the argument became so violent that the commander feared that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He therefore ordered the soldiers to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him back to the fortress.

That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Courage! As you have borne witness to Me here in Jerusalem, so must you do in Rome.”

Wednesday, 10 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest 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, each and every one of us are reminded that as Christians, all of us should be truly connected and linked to the Lord, attuned and in tandem with His ways and truth at all times. Unless we keep ourselves connected to the Lord and follow Him wholeheartedly, we may find it difficult to remain truly faithful to Him, and we may easily end up falling away from the path that the Lord and causing us to fall into eternal damnation if we are not careful and vigilant in how we live our lives. That is why we should heed to messages carried in our Scripture passages today so that we may truly know what the Lord has called us to, to a life and existence that is truly blessed and harmonious with His truth and love, to obey Him and to do as the Law and the commandments He had told us to do, with genuine understanding and appreciation of what we believe in.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles of the beginning of the narrative of the moment of time when the Church in its early and very rapidly growing days, began to be pulled into two opposite extremes, as we ourselves heard from the account of the Acts of the Apostles. Back then, the Church grew rapidly with the conversion of many of the Jewish people both in Judea and Galilee as well as in the diaspora, and not few of them came from among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Meanwhile, the Apostles and the missionaries of the Lord had also managed to get great inroads into the Gentile communities throughout the Mediterranean, as many among the Greeks and other local populace, as well as the Romans and many others began to heed the call of the Lord and embraced Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

The Pharisees and the teachers in particular, as mentioned, carried on their past baggage of beliefs and prejudices, as they began to argue and insist that the whole Church and all of the Lord’s believers should follow the full rigour of the Jewish laws and customs, as how the Pharisees themselves had observed and enforced. As we all ought to remember from the Gospels, the Lord Jesus Himself had often rebuked and criticised many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their overly strict interpretation and observation of the Law of God, which happened because of the accumulation of excesses and changes throughout the many centuries since the first time revelation of the Law through Moses during the time of the Exodus from Egypt. The Law of God had been passed down through the generations, and the interpretations of the Law had been changing ever since, with the Law by the time of the Lord Jesus having become excessive and difficult to observe by the people of God.

Not only that, but one of the main criticisms that the Lord laid on the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are the fact of their hypocrisy. This means that while they enforced the very strict interpretation of the Law and forced others to obey and to follow their way of observing the Law of God, but they themselves did not truly obey the Law the way that they themselves had prescribed. Then, in addition, their preoccupation and obsession with the extensive details of the Law and all the rituals and the complicated nature of the laws, rules and regulations had distracted and prevented them and others from becoming true believers, as they made idols out of their own obsession with the Law of God and their own preoccupation with the intricacies of the laws and rules that they had made in their way of observing the Law and the commandments of God.

And it is in idolising their own prejudices and preoccupations with the Law and how it ought to be observed and done that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had ended up separating themselves from the True Vine, that is the Lord Himself, Who manifested Himself through His Son, through Whom He wanted to make us know and understand all these things. In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples using the parable of the vines in order to deliver to them His intentions and teachings, and to remind them to remain firmly faithful to the teachings and truth of the Good News that He has brought upon them, and which has been revealed to them. They should not seek to find other focus or distractions, or put their emphasis and attention upon other things that may end up misleading them down the wrong path, as what many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done.

Through the parable of the vine, as well as by referring to Himself as the one and only True Vine, the Lord wanted all of His disciples and followers to remember that everything and especially all those who belong to the Church of God must be rooted in Him, in His teachings and truth. Anyone who separated themselves from the Lord will not have life or part with Him, and those who profess teachings and beliefs contrary to what the Lord Himself had taught His disciples, were wrong and mistaken, and unless they change their ways and beliefs, they would likely end up being discarded, damned and rejected at the end of days. They also can cause division and harm to the unity of the Church, as what happened back then during the time mentioned in our first reading today, was almost the case. Thankfully, the Apostles and the Church elders, guided by the Holy Spirit, convened the very first gathering of the Church, in what would be known as the First Council of Jerusalem.

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church led by the Apostles resolved the situation and reaffirmed that the Church and all the Christian faithful ought to follow the Law and commandments of God as revealed and explained by the Lord, but not the grievous excesses, abuses and misrepresentations and misinterpretations of the Law as espoused by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Lord, as the True Vine, truly guided and gave help and life to the Church, and as long as the faithful remained firmly attached and faithful to Him, they would indeed be blessed and strengthened in their ways and life, and the Lord would provide for them. Unfortunately, a lot of people tend to prefer to depend on other things, and got distracted by the many temptations of worldly desires and attachments found all around us.

This is why today each one of us should look upon the inspiring and good examples set by our holy predecessors, the glorious saints and martyrs. Particularly as today we celebrate the feast of St. John of Avila, a holy priest and servant of God, let us be inspired by his life, works and devotion to God. St. John of Avila was a dedicated priest and missionary, who was renowned as the ‘Apostle of Andalusia’ for his tireless efforts in reaching out to the people of God, proclaiming the truth and Good News of God, calling on the people to repent from their sinful ways, and also encouraging and calling for the reforms in the Church and also reform in the way how the society and the communities of the people of God lived their lives, which were often full of wickedness and evils back then. He inspired many others to follow his examples in calling the people of God to a renewed life of holiness, and his extensive writings and works eventually led him to be declared one of the Doctors of the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be filled with zeal and faith anew, and be inspired by the good examples set by St. John of Avila and our many other holy and devout predecessors, in staying connected and true to our faith in the Lord, the one and only True Vine of all. May the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, Our King, Saviour and Good Shepherd be with us always, and may He empower each and every one of us with the strength and courage of the Holy Spirit, now and always, that we may be good role models and examples as devout and faithful Christians at all times. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the True Vine and My Father is the Vinegrower. If any of My branches does not bear fruit, He breaks it off; and He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit.”

“You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Live in Me as I live in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but has to remain part of the vine; so neither can you, if you do not remain in Me. I am the Vine and you are the branches. As long as you remain in Me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from Me you can do nothing.”

“Whoever does not remain in Me is thrown away, as they do with branches, and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burnt. If you remain in Me and My words in you, you may ask whatever you want, and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit : it is then that you become My disciples.”

Wednesday, 10 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Wednesday, 10 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 1-6

Some persons who had come from Judea to Antioch were teaching the brothers in this way, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Because of this there was trouble, and Paul and Barnabas had fierce arguments with them. For Paul told the people to remain as they were when they became believers. Finally those who had come from Jerusalem suggested that Paul and Barnabas and some others go up to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the Apostles and elders.

They were sent on their way by the Church. As they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they reported how the non-Jews had turned to God, and there was great joy among all the brothers and sisters. On their arrival in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, the Apostles and the elders, to whom they told all that God had done through them.

Some believers, however, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees, stood up and said that non-Jewish men must be circumcised and instructed to keep the law of Moses. So the Apostles and elders met together to consider the matter.

Tuesday, 2 May 2023 : 4th 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, all of us are reminded of the call and responsibilities that each and every one of us have as Christians in proclaiming the truth of God to more and more people around us, to all those who have not yet heard of Him and those who have yet to know Him. All of us are called to be the bearers of God’s truth and love to the world, through our every words, actions and deeds. All of us ought to proclaim our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, and everything that He had done for us, in bringing us all out of the darkness and into the light, in saving us all from the threat of eternal damnation and death by freeing us from our sins. As Christians, each and every one of us are called and reminded to be good and faithful missionaries through our lives and our good examples.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the continuing growth of the early Church, as there were more and more people who came to believe in the Lord and became believers, were baptised and welcomed into the community of the Christian faithful. It was told how the Apostles sent St. Barnabas to Antioch upon hearing of the vibrant and rapid growth of Christians in those regions, and despite the many challenges, trials, persecutions and hardships that they faced, it was said that the Lord was with His disciples and faithful ones, as He guided and strengthened them, protected and provided them throughout their journey of faith and life. The Apostles through St. Barnabas ministered to the Christian faithful, spreading the Good News of God and proclaiming His truth, calling on many to turn towards the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

The Lord has shown us all His faithfulness and love through this, and through many more examples, as He was with them all through even the most difficult and challenging moments, as a Good Shepherd guiding His beloved sheep in His flock, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. He cared for them, for their needs and provided for them, guarded and protected them, and gave them the love and attention, leading them from the darkness of this world into the true Light of His glory and truth. All of us are reminded that Christ is truly our Good Shepherd, the most loving Lord and God Who has showered and shown us His most generous love and attention, Who knows each and every one of us very well, and Who wants all of us to follow Him and become members of His flock, as Christians, those whom the people of Antioch called as such because of their belief in the Risen Christ.

Now, all of us are reminded today if we have lived our lives as the Lord has taught us to do, and whether we have committed our time and effort to glorify Him by our lives. As Christians, we are all those who have committed ourselves to the Risen Lord, Whom we have taken as our Lord, Master and Saviour. However, if we spend some time to look deep into ourselves and our way of life, very soon we may realise that it was often that we did not act in the way that the Lord has called and expected us to do, and on the contrary, we often acted in ways that were contrary to His teachings and truth. Many of us failed to embrace His path wholeheartedly and not only that, but often through our wayward actions and way of life, we turned people away from the Lord and His Church, because our actions, words and deeds, our way of life were abhorrent and against what our faith truly is.

That is why today all of us are reminded that as Christians all of us must first of all do what the Lord has commanded and taught us to do, to be devoted and committed to Him in all things. Each and every one of us have been given the gifts, grace and blessings, the opportunities and the abilities to carry out our respective parts in doing the work of God, to be faithful and committed in our lives as Christians. All of us should do our best and strive to be good role models, inspirations and examples to one another in our faith and way of life. For we have to realise that it is by our works and deeds, by our words and interactions with others that we may let the world know of the truth and the identity of Our Lord and Saviour, the One Whom we ought to be proclaiming about. But too often we allowed ourselves to be tempted by various temptations, and chose to walk the path of wickedness and evil instead.

Today, let us all be inspired by the great examples shown by the great servant of God, St. Athanasius, a renowned and most faithful disciple of the Lord, a most courageous and fearless defender of the faith, whose feast day we are celebrating on this very day. St. Athanasius was also known as St. Athanasius the Great or St. Athanasius of Alexandria, and was the Bishop of Alexandria, also known as the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, as one of the most prominent leaders of the Church during his time. He led the Church of Alexandria and was involved greatly throughout Christendom for a long period of forty-five years, which was intermittent due to the challenges and trials that he had to face during his ministry, which saw him being exiled and punished several times by those who opposed and oppressed him.

St. Athanasius lived and ministered to the faithful during a time of great change to the Church, as it was the years and decades following after the end of the long state persecution of Christianity by the Romans, with the Edict of Milan by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, ever sympathetic to the Christian cause. However, this joy at the end of the persecution of the Church and Christians was then overshadow by the intensifying divisions within the Church due to various heresies, and most importantly then, was the rapidly rising heretical teachings of the arch-heretic Arius, a very popular preacher that claimed and taught that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Messiah, was not equal to God the Father, but rather subservient to Him and existed after the Father, not Co-Eternal and not Co-Equal, neither Consubstantial with Him.

This heretical teachings gained wide support throughout Christendom and gained the support and belief of even many among the Church leaders and bishops, especially throughout the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, including Alexandria where St. Athanasius himself was Bishop at, with Arius himself hailing from the same region as well. St. Athanasius was very passionate and courageous, hardworking and zealous in his many efforts against the Arian heresy, resisting those who sought to subvert and divide the Church for their own selfish ambitions and desires. St. Athanasius did not give up even when many of the upper echelon of the Roman society and government were swayed by the Arians and some of them even becoming ardent supporters of the Arians and their false faith.

St. Athanasius faced a lot of struggles and hardships, having to endure persecution and even exile from his See of Alexandria, by the order and working of those who were favourable and supporters of the Arians. But he continued to faithfully carry out his works, writing extensively on the matters of the faith, supporting and strengthening all the others who also struggled with the various persecutions, hardships, divisions, heretical teachings and other challenges that they had to face throughout their lives and ministry. Despite the repeated challenges, exiles, hardships and all the other things that he had to endure, St. Athanasius continued to remain faithful to the calling and mission he had as the shepherd of the Lord’s flock, to the very end, and his courage and faithfulness, his persistence and perseverance in carrying out his works and mission should inspire us all as Christians to do the same as well.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by the good examples of St. Athanasius, holy servant of God, our role model and most courageous defender of the Christian faith. Let us all be good role models and inspirations to one another as well, through our every words, actions and deeds, so that we may inspire more and more people to be ever more committed to the Lord and to follow Him. That is our calling and that is what we should be doing in our daily lives as those who truly believe in the Lord. May the Lord, our Saviour and Good Shepherd, be our guide and help and may He empower us all to be like His servants, like St. Athanasius and others in their faith and commitment. May God bless our every good works and efforts, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Tuesday, 2 May 2023 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 10 : 22-30

At that time, the time came for the Feast of the Dedication. It was winter, and Jesus walked back and forth in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him and said to Him, “How long will You keep us in doubt? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I have already told you, but you do not believe. The works I do in My Father’s Name proclaim Who I am, but you do not believe because, as I said, you are not My sheep. My sheep hear My voice and I know them; they follow Me and I give them eternal life.”

“They shall never perish, and no one will ever steal them from Me. What the Father has given Me is above everything else, and no one can snatch it from out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.”