Monday, 19 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Sixteenth Anniversary of the Papal Election of Pope Benedict XVI as Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to renew our faith in God and to recall our calling as Christians to be the faithful witnesses of the Lord’s truth and Resurrection, the bearers of the Gospels and the Good News of God’s salvation in our world today, just as St. Stephen, the holy Deacon and Protomartyr had done it during his own ministry, and how the other holy men and women of God, our predecessors, had done it.

In our first reading today, we heard the discourse on St. Stephen, one of the seven first Deacons of the Church appointed by the Apostles in establishing the Order of Deacons to minister to the needs of the people of God. St. Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, and passionately carried out his mission, doing the good works for the Lord and His people, as well as preaching the truth of God and the Gospels, and performing wondrous miracles before many.

It was not long that his efforts met tough resistance from the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council. The same people had attempted to stop the works of the Apostles and restrain them by ordering them not to continue the work in the Name of the Lord Jesus. However, as the works of the Apostles and the other disciples, including that of St. Stephen continued to flourish and grow, the Sanhedrin began to find ways to suppress their works, and what happened to St. Stephen was the result of this.

As St. Stephen went up against his opponents, who publicly challenged him and even those who had been paid to make false testimonies, those who were assembled against him realised that not even those were able to discredit, stop or argue against St. Stephen’s wisdom and power given to him by the Holy Spirit. St. Stephen was there alone in the assembly, as many gathered in opposing him and wanting to stop him and condemn him for his efforts and works. But the Lord gave him the courage to continue to preach the truth, and speaking without fear, even before those who hated and despised him and the Lord.

St. Stephen still in fact patiently ministered to those people who were assembled against him, and he spoke in great detail in the parts after today’s first reading in the Acts of the Apostles regarding God’s plan of salvation and how God had patiently led and guided His people throughout the past with love, and finally gave Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, to be the Saviour of all, that by dying, He has taken up all of mankind’s sins, the sins of those same people assembled against St. Stephen, in order to redeem all of them from their sins and to free them from its chains and bondage of death.

This is the truth that the Lord Himself has also spoken before the people of God as mentioned in our Gospel today when He spoke to the assembled multitudes right after He had fed them all, five thousand men and many thousands more of others, with the miraculous breaking of the bread and the fishes. He spoke of Himself as the One Whom God had sent into the world, and as One Who has given Himself, as the Bread of Life, broken and offered for us, for our salvation.

All of us are witnesses and inheritors of the truth, of God’s amazing love to each and every one of us, His providence and blessings, His ever loving presence in our midst, and all that He has done for us, in loving us and in showing compassion towards us. St. Stephen and the many other saints and martyrs all spoke of this same truth, and many among them suffered and died for this truth. As Christians, we are all called to follow in their footsteps and partake in the effort to reach out to our fellow brethren.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we ready to take up our crosses and follow the Lord wholeheartedly? Are we willing and ready to follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, St. Stephen and so many other saints and martyrs, to stand up for the truth and to deliver this same truth to this darkened world? We have all been called to be the beacons of God’s light in this world, and therefore, let us all commit ourselves thoroughly to serve Him, and to be His faithful and good disciples at all times.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, in each and every moments of our lives. May He empower all of us to be His true disciples, and may all of us grow ever closer to Him, and also grow in faith and love for Him, always. Amen.

Monday, 19 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Sixteenth Anniversary of the Papal Election of Pope Benedict XVI as Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 22-29

At that time, the next day after Jesus fed the five thousand men, the people, who had stayed on the other side, realised that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with His disciples; but rather, the disciples had gone away alone.

Bigger boats from Tiberias came near the place where all these people had eaten the bread. When they saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Master, when did You come here?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, I say to you, you look for Me, not because of the signs which you have seen, but because you ate bread and were satisfied. Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give it to you, for He is the One on Whom the Father has put His mark.”

Then the Jews asked Him, “What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do?” And Jesus answered them, “The work God wants is this : that you believe in the One Whom God has sent.”

Monday, 19 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Sixteenth Anniversary of the Papal Election of Pope Benedict XVI as Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 23-24, 26-27, 29-30

Although princes conspire against me, Your servant will observe Your decrees. Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

When I explained my ways, You responded; instruct me then in Your precepts. Explain to me all Your ordinances, and I will meditate on Your wondrous deeds.

Keep me away from deceitful paths; be gracious and teach me Your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart upon Your laws.

Monday, 19 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Sixteenth Anniversary of the Papal Election of Pope Benedict XVI as Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 6 : 8-15

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.

As they were unable to face the truth, they bribed some men to say, ‘We heard him speak against Moses and against God.’ So they stirred up the people, the elders and the teachers of the Law; they took him by surprise, seized him and brought him before the Council.

Then they produced false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against our Holy Place and the Law. We even heard him say that Jesus the Nazarean will destroy our Holy Place and change the customs which Moses handed down to us.” And all who sat in the Council fixed their eyes on him, and his face appeared to them like the face of an Angel.

Sunday, 24 April 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr, Eleventh Anniversary of the Papal Coronation and Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard the very profound message which St. Paul proclaimed to the faithful during his journeys to many cities across the Eastern Mediterranean region, establishing the foundations of the Church and the Faith in those places, and planting in the believers the seeds of faith in the word of God which he passed on to them.

And this phrase is that “We must go through many trials to enter the Kingdom of God.” It is a phrase which many of us, especially as we live in this world, often tend to forget and overlook, thinking that trials and tribulations are not part of our lives, if we faithfully walk in the path of the Lord. We mankind are so used to living comfortably in this world, that we often would prefer an easier path than one that is more difficult or challenging to follow.

And that is why the Apostles, as shown by St. Paul and his teachings, reminded the people at first that in order to follow Jesus and His way, mankind would have to sacrifice quite a few things, and they may also be needed to give away certain things, especially those which they have indulged in all these while, and reorientate themselves to the service and obedience to God.

And how is this related to what we heard in the Gospel today? Jesus spoke to His disciples in our Gospel today, during the time when He had the Last Supper with His disciples just before He was to suffer on the cross and die. He gave them a new commandment, the commandment to love one another, just as they ought to love Him. And this commandment was given to them on the day when He also instituted the Eucharist for the Church, establishing the Church and the Faith in which we belong now.

What Jesus had said to His disciples was in fact an exhortation for all of us to act, and not just to remain passive or quiet. God called us all to action, and the action which we must show to one another and to Him is love, pure love that comes from the heart and permeates everything else around us. For the reality is that, while we mankind profess to know love, but in reality, true love is something that is often distant for us.

What is love, brothers and sisters in Christ? Is love something that blossomed between people who like each other and then decide that they want to come together as a couple? Well, that is indeed love, but it is only a small aspect of love, and merely just one small example of love. True love is so much more than that, and true love entails so much more than just what we understand about that kind of love.

Love is not something that is just happiness or just as something that is easy to be done. For the feeling of love that many of us are feeling towards another can in fact be said as infatuation or even as lust. These are not true love. And if our love depends on the mutual commitment of one another to fulfil one another’s needs, then it is not true love either, but instead, our human greed trying to fulfil itself by manipulating each other.

Instead, true love can be seen in what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself had done, in His actions in this world, and that is exactly what the Apostles had preached to the people, calling them to practice the same kind of love. And what is that love? Love that knows sacrifice, and love which is selfless and perfect. Love that our Lord Jesus Himself showed us on the cross, when without doubt or hesitation, He allowed Himself to willingly suffer for our sake.

Let us look at it, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as St. Paul himself in another occasion reminded the faithful, that the love of God is so good and perfect. St. Paul mentioned in one of his letters that it is difficult for someone to lay down his or her life for another, even if that someone is a very good person. Indeed, it may be worthwhile for someone to lay down his life for another very good person, but how about what our Lord had done to us?

We are all sinners brethren, and in one way or another, our sins have preceded us, and have grown so great that we should all be ashamed at our sins, all the wicked things which we have done. And yet, our Lord and God, Who loved us all, every single one of us without exception and hesitation, was willing to die not for us all who were righteous, but we who were sinners, great rebels and wicked in the things which we did.

And if God had been so selfless and loving in His love, can we do the same as well? It is not easy indeed, for it is not part of our human nature and habits to give of ourselves to another so willingly. But if we do not try, then we will never know love, and our actions will not have true love. To understand love, we must know how to endure pain and suffering, and be ready to make sacrifices and commit ourselves fully to the one to whom we are showing our love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we go through this Easter season, and as we live our lives in faith, we have to realise that all that we believe in, is precisely about love, and that is the love which God has shown us, the mercy which He showed us, willing and wanting us to be reunited with Him, and to be redeemed from all of our faults and wickedness.

Shall we recommit ourselves to what the Lord had commanded all of us to do? Shall we show love in all of our actions, loving those who are less fortunate and those who have little or nothing, those who are unloved and rejected by the society? Shall we devote ourselves to give our heart and attention to those who need our love?

It will not be easy indeed to walk on this path, and St. Paul himself had warned the people that the path ahead would be arduous. But if we do not walk on this path, then who else would? How can we call ourselves Christians if we do not suffer and endure the cross as our Lord had? Remember that He had done it first, so that He might show us how to love in the same manner as well.

Let us all dedicate ourselves anew to God, and let us all walk the path of our faith from now on, filled with commitment and dedication, and filled with love and devotion, may our faith be living and true, and may everything that we do, will always be based on the love which we have for one another, and ultimately loving the Lord from Whom we have received that love. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 24 April 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr, Eleventh Anniversary of the Papal Coronation and Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 31-33a, 34-35

At that time, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. God will glorify Him, and He will glorify Him very soon. My children, I am with you for only a little while.”

“Now I give you a new commandment : Love one another! Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sunday, 24 April 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr, Eleventh Anniversary of the Papal Coronation and Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 21 : 1-5a

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the Holy City coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.

A loud voice came from the Throne, “Here is the dwelling of God among mortals. He will pitch His tent among them and they will be His people; He will be God-with-them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the world that was has passed away.”

The One seated on the Throne said, “See, I make all things new.”

Sunday, 24 April 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr, Eleventh Anniversary of the Papal Coronation and Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 144 : 8-9, 10-11, 12-13ab

Compassionate and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in love. The Lord is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures from generation to generation.

Sunday, 24 April 2016 : Fifth Sunday of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr, Eleventh Anniversary of the Papal Coronation and Inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 14 : 21b-27

Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra and Iconium and on to Antioch. They were strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain firm in the faith, for they said, “We must go through many trials to enter the Kingdom of God.” In each church they appointed elders and, after praying and fasting, they commended them to the Lord in Whom they had placed their faith.

Then they travelled through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia. They preached the Word in Perga and went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had first been commended to God’s grace for the task they had now completed.

On their arrival they gathered the Church together and told them all that God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the non-Jews.

Saturday, 23 April 2016 : Fourth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the opposition which the Jews and the Pharisees showed to the works of St. Paul and the other Apostles as they went about to preach about the Lord. These people were not happy that the Apostles were preaching their teachings and were gaining plenty on followers, many people who abandoned their old ways and listened to the truth, believing in Jesus and became members of the Church.

And in addition, those Jews and influential Pharisees were also irritated at the fact that St. Paul and the other Apostles, St. Barnabas and others, who preached the faith and salvation also to the non-Jews, or the Gentiles. These people at that time would refer to the Greeks, the Romans and all others whom the Jews regarded as those who did not belong to the chosen race of Israel, and also those who did not obey the laws of Moses as they did.

In order to understand this, we have to understand the dynamics of the society and the communities of the people of God at that time. The people at the time of Jesus, especially in Judea and in some other regions were divided between the Jews and the Gentiles or the non-Jews. The Jewish people, or the descendants of the people of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel kept the laws of Moses faithfully, all the ordinances, rules and laws descended through the generations to them.

And the Jews often kept to themselves and observed those laws strictly, and in many occasions, many of them kept the laws without truly knowing the true intention of those laws as originally intended by God when He gave it to His people through Moses. And in the end, because of the fact that God had chosen them to be His people, they developed the superiority feelings and attitude in their dealings with the Gentiles.

How is this so, brethren? The Jews often treated the Gentiles as those who were not worthy of God’s salvation, and that they alone were worthy to receive God and His grace. And those others were not chosen by God and therefore were heathens and pagans. This is one of the explanation why the Jews were not happy when St. Paul and the other Apostles were preaching that the non-Jews could also be saved by believing in Jesus.

Even within the Church itself at that time, there were Pharisees who believed in God, who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. And yet, if we read through the subsequent parts of the Acts of the Apostles, we will see in some parts, the tension and disagreements between them and St. Paul and the Apostles based on their works with the Gentiles and about their salvation in Jesus.

In all these, we see how mankind often placed their trust in things other than God. Even though the laws of Moses were originally given to the people of Israel by God, but over the many centuries that followed, its true meaning and purpose had been twisted beyond recognition by the many different interpretations and modifications that those people throughout the ages had done to the Law of God.

And these people resisted any change or modification to what they thought was right, and they refused to believe in the truth revealed by God through Jesus His Son. And when the Apostles tried to continue the good works of God, by preaching that same truth to them and to those who have not yet heard of it, they resisted and even persecuted the Apostles and the holy servants of God.

It is a reminder for us all that each and every one of us as those who have believed in God and who have been charged with the same responsibility to preach the Good News to all mankind, will not have it easy for us to live this life in good faith. We will encounter difficulties, challenges and even persecution for enduring to be faithful and remaining committed to God and His cause.

But we should not give up or give in to the world and its demands, just as in the past, St. Adalbert and St. George, the saints whose feasts we are celebrating today, have been devoted to God and were committed to a holy life, and for the salvation of their fellow brethren, even though they were threatened with suffering and even with a painful death.

St. George the Martyr was a great soldier, a soldier in the Roman army, who served during the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was renowned for his particularly oppressive attitude against the Church and all Christians. But St. George did not hesitate at all to resist the Emperor, when he pronounced the persecution of Christians throughout the Empire. And when he ordered all the soldiers to renounce their former gods and offer sacrifices to the Emperor and the pagan gods, St. George refused to do so.

Thus, St. George courageously stood by the faith which he had in the Lord even in the face of suffering and death. He faced his death without fear, knowing that the Lord would be with him, and through his examples, many others would be inspired to remain strong in their faith as well, and thus avoid damnation and destruction which is awaiting all those who refuse to believe in God.

St. Adalbert on the other hand was a renowned bishop of Prague, known also as St. Adalbert of Prague. He was a great servant of the Lord, a faithful worker who spread the Good News among the then still pagan peoples of the region known as Bohemia and Prussia, in what is now northern Germany and western Poland. St. Adalbert continued to minister to the people there despite challenges and opposition, and even when his life was threatened, he did not give up.

And thus, when he was martyred in the midst of doing his works, he did not fear and he was filled with joy knowing that, just as St. George had done before him, and just as many other holy saints and martyrs had done before him, he will be rewarded gloriously for all that he has done for the sake of the people of God, out of love for his Lord and Master.

Let us all also therefore be inspired to live faithfully as these holy saints had lived, and let us all fill our lives with good deeds and commit ourselves to God in all that we do. May this Easter season be a time of renewal for us all, that we may draw ever closer to the Lord our God, and be closer to His saving grace. God bless us all. Amen.