Saturday, 14 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to follow through the story of the Apostles and the first years of the Church, as we heard from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, about the time when it was decided that seven men would be chosen as deacons, to serve the growing needs of the then rapidly growing numbers of Christians, as more and more people chose to turn towards the Lord.

The deacons were instituted as an order of consecrated men within the Church, with the intention of assisting the Apostles and their successors in the administration of the Church, taking care of the worldly affairs such as the distribution of goods and taking care of the poor and the needy, so that the Apostles and their successors, the priests and the bishops can focus on their primary mission to care for the souls of the faithful and for the salvation of all peoples.

And the deacons did not have it easy, and challenges immediately faced them right away. Most prominently, in the later part of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we saw how the most well-known of the seven deacons, St. Stephen, was assaulted by the enemies of the Lord, and as he stood by his faith with a very eloquent defence of God by the courage and wisdom given to him by the Holy Spirit, he was martyred by stoning.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us then look at our Gospel passage today, in which we heard about the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, who were in the middle of the lake of Galilee, stranded in a boat battered by heavy winds and storms. The disciples were afraid as the waters were rough and they were concerned that their boat would sink and then they would all perish.

But the Lord Jesus appeared before them on the waters, and the disciples were again afraid, as they thought that they had seen a ghost. He calmed them down and reassured them that He was their Lord and their Master. In another account from the other Gospels, the Lord calmed the seas before them, and the waves and the wind died down, and everything was calm once again.

In all these, we see a very meaningful symbolism linking what we have heard from our Acts of the Apostles passage and the Gospel passage. The boat and the disciples represent the Church of God as together we embark through this journey of life in this world. The storms and the waves represent the challenges and troubles, the oppositions and difficulties we will encounter as those who are faithful to Christ’s ways.

But we should not be fearful or be paralysed by fear, as each and every one of us have also received the Holy Spirit by the virtue of our baptism, and then by the laying of the hands when we receive the sacrament of Confirmation, just as the Apostles laid their hands on the seven men chosen as deacons. And therefore, just as these holy men received strength and encouragement from God, we too share the same gift that they had.

Now, what we all need to do is that we need to continue their hard work and persevere in the challenges we are likely to face as those who are faithful to God. Let us all seek to be wholeheartedly committed to God, and let us all strive to do our very best day after day. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower us and continue to guide us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Saturday, 14 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 16-21

At that time, when evening came, the disciples went down to the shore. After a while they got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the sea, for it was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to them. But the sea was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing.

They had rowed about three or four miles, when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and He was drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but He said to them, “It is I! Do not be afraid!” They wanted to take Him into the boat, but immediately the boat was at the shore to which they were going.

Saturday, 14 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 32 : 1-2, 4-5, 18-19

Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, praise is fitting for the upright. Give thanks to Him on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises.

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

But the Lord’s eyes are upon those who fear Him, upon those who trust in His loving-kindness to deliver them from death and preserve them from famine.

Saturday, 14 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 6 : 1-7

In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the so-called Hellenists complained against the so-called Hebrews, because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

So the Twelve summoned the whole body of disciples together and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God to serve at tables. So, friends, choose from among yourselves seven respected men full of Spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them to this task. As for us, we shall give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”

The whole community agreed and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and Holy Spirit : Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenus and Nicolaus of Antioch who was a proselyte. They presented these men to the Apostles who first prayed over them and then laid hands upon them.

The Word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly and even many priests accepted the faith.

Friday, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the discussion among the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council, at the time when the Apostles began their ministry, speaking about the Lord Jesus and His resurrection from the dead, as told to us by the book of the Acts of the Apostles. The members of the Sanhedrin could not agree on what to do with the Apostles.

Why is that so? That is because, many of the chief priests and the elders who were opposed to the Lord and His teachings, were hard bent to oppose the works of the Apostles as well, regardless of whatever they were preaching to the people. They have closed their ears, their senses, their minds and their hearts from receiving God’s Good News. As a result, that is why they constantly demanded for the severe punishment and even death of the Apostles.

However, there were also quite a few of those who were still open to reason, and some of them in fact were sympathetic to the teachings of the Lord, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who were in fact secret followers of Jesus. These members of the Sanhedrin genuinely considered the miracles performed by the Apostles as the truth, and as signs of God. They accepted their teachings as God’s truth brought unto them by the Apostles.

Then Gamaliel, a respected teacher and elder, and member of the Sanhedrin managed to calm down the situation by explaining how those who were blindly opposing the works of God were unreasonable and unwise, as he related to them the various examples of all those who had claimed to be the Messiah prior to Jesus. All of those false Messiahs failed because ultimately, they were not the true Messiah, and they did not derive their authority from God.

Gamaliel mentioned how if the Apostles have been acting on the base of human authority, they would have eventually failed and they would fade into obscurity and nothingness as all those who followed the false Messiahs had proven in the past. Gamaliel said to the rest of the Sanhedrin that should the Lord Jesus and His Apostles’ teachings truly came from God, and was the truth, then the Sanhedrin would have acted against God and His will.

And ultimately, the works of the Apostles were truly fruitful and blessed, exactly because God was with them, and God was working through them. In the Gospel passage today, again we heard about the miracle that Jesus performed before His disciples and before all the people. He fed a great multitude of five thousand people and more, not counting the women and the children among them.

And He did all these with just five loaves of bread and two fishes. It is indeed impossible in the minds and intellects of man, and no one could have believed that all these could have happened. But what is impossible for man, is perfectly possible for God. And Jesus Himself, is God, and as Son of God, is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, and by that power, He made the food to multiply according to His will, to satisfy everyone gathered at that time.

Because God was with them, and because God was their leader, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Apostles were successful and triumphant, and despite the difficulties they faced and encountered along the way, eventually they would be triumphant and glorious with God, Who promised all those who are faithful to Him, a eternity of true happiness and glory with Him.

Today, we mark the commemoration of a holy martyr and successor of the Apostle, Pope St. Martin, who succeeded the successors of St. Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted His Church. Pope St. Martin was a faithful servant of God and he devoted himself to the care of the flock and the Church entrusted to him. Yet, he was torn between his commitment to the works of the Church and the secular leaders of the Roman Empire at the time, who had fallen into the false teachings of heretics who were opposed to God’s truth.

Pope St. Martin stood firmly in his conviction and in his zealous attempts to oppose the heretics, including against the Emperor and his courtiers and nobles, who tried to pervert the truth. In the end, he was arrested and endured sufferings in prison, and died a martyr of the Church and his faith in God became a great inspiration for many Christians in the numerous generations after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are therefore called to reflect on these things we have just discussed. Are we truly devoted and faithful to the Lord, in all of our ways, and in all of our dealings? Are we able to live faithfully as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had done, and as Pope St. Martin I and many other holy saints and martyrs had done?

Let us all devote ourselves, and let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. May all of our actions and deeds, all the things we say and do, we always do them for the sake of the Lord and for His greater glory. Let us all seek to love the Lord at all times, ever more day after day. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

Friday, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 6 : 1-15

At that time, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.” Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Friday, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 5 : 34-42

But one of the members of the Council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law highly respected by the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin. He ordered the men to be taken outside for a few minutes and then he spoke to the assembly.

“Fellow Israelites, consider well what you intend to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed and all his followers were dispersed or disappeared.”

“After him, Judas the Galilean appeared at the time of the census and persuaded many people to follow him. But he too perished and his whole following was scattered. So, in this present case, I advise you to have nothing to do with these men. Leave them alone. If their project or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand, it is from God, you will not be able to destroy it and you may indeed find yourselves fighting against God.”

The Council let themselves be persuaded. They called in the Apostles and had them whipped, and ordered them not to speak again of Jesus Saviour. Then they set them free. The Apostles went out from the Council rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name. Day after day, both in the Temple and in people’s homes, they continued to teach and to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah.

Thursday, 12 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we continue the discourse from the Scriptures about the testimony of the faith and the courage of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, who despite the constant warning, threat and harm promised by the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, and all those who were opposed to Christ and His teachings, they continued to speak up in the Name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and would not stay silent.

They said courageously that the Lord is risen from the dead, and despite the chief priests and the elders having seemingly been successful in silencing Him by putting Him to death on the cross at the hands of the Romans, at that time many witnesses arose, saying that they saw the resurrected Christ, Who walked in their midst, ate with them and spoke to them, touching them and being with them, as signs that He was not a mere spirit or ghost, but truly Risen in Body and in the flesh.

And in St. John’s Gospel today we heard the words of St. John the Baptist, who proclaimed that all that comes from God, bring forth the truth that is in them. Those who came from the Lord ultimately tells the people what they have received from God, in all the things revealed to them, the truth which they have been told by God, and which God wanted to reveal to all the people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that was what St. John the Baptist and the disciples of the Lord had been saying in their testimonies of faith, before the Pharisees and all those to whom they were sent to, to the people of Israel at first, and later on, to the Gentiles and all the non-Jewish people. They spoke of the truth as revealed by God, and which sinful and proud men have refused to acknowledge or receive.

That is why they hardened their hearts and closed their ears against the Lord’s words and refused to obey their will. As a result, they sink deeper into the quagmire of their sins, and they even resorted to lies and untruths in order to prevent others from coming to believe in the truth that God brought to them. That was why the chief priests, the Pharisees, and all those who were opposed to Jesus, was also opposed to the truth about His resurrection, and tried to silence those who proclaimed it to the people.

But the disciples of the Lord were not deterred by all the threats and challenges, and they continued to speak up, because they knew that they were speaking the truth. They would not allow falsehoods and temptations to speak other than the truth to dissuade them from their mission. God was with them and guided them in their works, and the Church grew, slowly but surely, as more and more people were attracted to the truth and came to believe in God and in His teachings.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, the works of the Apostles were not yet completed. As there were still many people who have not yet heard of the Lord’s truth, or in fact have abandoned that truth, all of us, who call ourselves and consider ourselves as Christians, have to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. We are called to be witnesses of the Lord and His truth, His resurrection and His Good News just as the disciples had done before.

All of us are called to live a genuine Christian life, devoting ourselves and our entire lives to the service of God, loving the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strengths. We are called to carry out our words and actions with God as the primary focus in mind, and we are encouraged to do whatever we can in order to inspire faith to grow among us fellow Christians, and calling many others to accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

Let us all therefore, do our very best to show true discipleship in everything we do, so that by our words, actions and deeds, we inspire one another and help each other that we may grow ever stronger in faith. Let us all seek to be more committed in our faith, and let us all seek to fulfil what we have been commanded to do, as the followers of the Lord. May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to bless us and our endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 12 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 31-36

At that time, John the Baptist said, “He Who comes from above is above all; he who comes from the earth belongs to the earth, and his words belong to the earth. He Who comes from heaven speaks of the things He has seen and heard; He bears witness to these things, but no one accepts His testimony. Whoever does receive His testimony acknowledges the truthfulness of God.”

“The One sent by God speaks God’s words, and gives the Spirit unstintingly. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything into His hands. Whoever believes in the Son lives with eternal life; but he who will not believe in the Son will never know life, and always faces the justice of God.”