Thursday, 25 January 2018 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great occasion in the history of our faith. In the history of the Church, as recording in the Scripture passages, we heard of the moment when a great enemy of God and His faithful ones, Saul, was converted to the faith, renouncing his former life and sinful past, and embracing the Lord as his Master, he eventually became a great defender and champion of the faith, St. Paul the Apostle.

Today we remember the moment of the conversion of St. Paul, when he was called by God from the depth of the darkness and into the new path in the light as the Lord had shown him. This is the pivotal moment in the history of the Church and our faith, as St. Paul would go on to perform many good works for the sake of the Church, ministering to many of the faithful in many cities throughout his journeys and travels across the Mediterranean, and in his many letters and writings to the faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the calling and conversion of St. Paul is a reminder for each and every one of us as Christians, that all of us at one point in our own lives have also been called by the Lord in the same manner. We might not have experienced such a miraculous occasion as what St. Paul experienced, but surely God has also called all of us to follow Him, and by being Christians, it means that we have responded to His call.

Yet, many of us do not know what being a Christian truly mean. Some of us even went to the point of ridiculing and looking down on others just because they have not become Christians like ourselves. However, we did nothing in order to bring the Lord closer to the people mentioned. In fact, by our actions, our haughtiness and our indifference, we ended up distancing more and more people from God by our own actions.

First of all, we have to realise that God is calling everyone to Himself, to reconcile all those who have been sundered and separated from His love. We are all sinners and unworthy, and we are just like St. Paul who was once a great persecutor of the faithful, and sinned greatly against the Lord. Many other saints were also once great sinners, like St. Augustine, who once fell into a life of debauchery and sin during his youth days, even to the point of fathering a child out of wedlock.

But God called all of them, and they responded to God’s call in various ways. But what distinguished persistent sinners from saints, is the very fact that they allowed God to work His wonders in them, and they turned away from their sinful way of life, embracing a new way as shown to them by the Lord. They were deemed worthy because of their newfound commitment to God and to His people, and that was how they were made saints of the Church.

St. Paul was just one amongst the many other people who have experienced similar experience of conversion, but his is often highlighted simply because of his impact to the Church in its early years, and therefore, his critical importance and significance to the Church and the faithful as a whole. Certainly, no one who have lived during those years and times when St. Paul was still known as Saul, could have imagined that the fanatical and overzealous Pharisee could have become a great champion of God’s people.

Yet, that was what actually happened. And this is therefore an appropriate time for us to reflect on our own respective lives, based on what we know and from what we have heard with regards to the conversion of the great Apostle, St. Paul. It is a reminder that each one of us have also been called to a renewed life, turning away from our waywardness and from our sins.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us, while sinners, can become saints as well, if we are to follow the Lord and put our trust completely in His guidance. It is through our actions and deeds, by which we show our genuine faith in God, that we can draw ever closer to Him, and that we can follow in the footsteps of our forefathers in faith, all those deemed worthy by the Church to be saints and blesseds.

All of us are called to continue the mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and disciples, which is the propagation of the Good News of His salvation, and by calling all to the same repentance and forgiveness, through baptism in the Holy Name of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. This mission is still ongoing, and there are still many people out there, who have yet to receive the Good News, and worse still, many more who have fallen away from the faith.

Let us all therefore do what we can, to follow in the footsteps of St. Paul the Apostle, in his courage and determination to live faithfully, by preaching the Good News of salvation, not only through words alone, but also through deeds, filled with love and genuine care for all of our fellow men. Let us all show love in our actions, by showing our care and concern for all those who are in need, especially those who are in most need of God’s love and mercy.

May the Lord continue to guide us and protect us on our way, that we will always walk faithfully in His path, and that day after day, we will draw ever closer to Him, so that by the end of it all, we may be worthy of sharing the glory of His saints, all those who were once sinners like us, and yet, by their determination and commitment, having received the crown of glory from the Lord, Who blessed them for their wonderful dedication and life consecrated to Him. St. Paul the Apostle, pray for us all sinners, that we may be strengthened by God to be ever faithful to Him. Amen.

Thursday, 25 January 2018 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-18

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Thursday, 25 January 2018 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise YHVH, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Thursday, 25 January 2018 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 3-16

Paul spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here, in this city, where I was educated in the school of Gamaliel, according to the strict observance of our law. And I was dedicated to God’s service, as are all of you today. As for this Way, I persecuted it to the point of death and arrested its followers, both men and women, throwing them into prison.”

“The High Priest and the whole Council of elders can bear witness to this. From them, I received letters for the Jewish brothers in Damascus; and I set out to arrest those who were there, and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But, as I was travelling along, nearing Damascus, at about noon, a great light from the sky suddenly flashed about me.”

“I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me : ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me : ‘I am Jesus, the Nazorean, Whom you persecute.’ The men who were with me saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of the One Who was speaking to me. I asked : ‘What shall I do, Lord?’”

“And the Lord replied : ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there, you will be told all that you are destined to do.’ Yet, the brightness of that light had blinded me; and so, I was led by the hand into Damascus by my companions. There, a certain Ananias came to me. He was a devout observer of the law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who were living there.”

“As he stood by me, he said : ‘Brother Saul, recover your sight.’ At that moment, I could see; and I looked at him. He, then, said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know His will, to see the Just One, and to hear the words from His mouth. From now on, you shall be His witness before all the pagan people, and tell them all that you have seen and heard.’”

“‘And now, why delay? Get up and be baptised, and have your sins washed away, by calling upon His Name.’”

Alternative reading

Acts 9 : 1-22

Meanwhile, Saul considered nothing but violence and death for the disciples of the Lord. He went to the High Priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus that would authorise him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem, anyone he might find, man or woman, belonging to the Way.

As he travelled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute Me?” And he asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus, Whom you persecute. Now, get up, and go into the city; there, you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were travelling with him stood there speechless : they had heard the sound, but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground and, opening his eyes, he could not see. They took him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. He was blind; and he did not eat or drink for three days.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, to whom the Lord called in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Here I am, Lord!” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, at once, to Straight Street and ask, at the house of Judas, for a man of Tarsus named Saul. You will find him praying, for he has just seen in a vision that a man named Ananias has come in and placed his hands upon him, to restore his sight.”

Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, and all the harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem; and now, he is here, with authority from the High Priest, to arrest all who call upon Your Name.”

But the Lord said to him, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument, to bring My Name to the pagan nations and their kings, and the people of Israel as well. I, Myself, will show him how much he will have to suffer for My Name.”

So Ananias left and went to the house. He laid his hands upon Saul and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you, so that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see; he got up and was baptised. Then he took food and was strengthened.

For several days Saul stayed with the disciples at Damascus, and he soon began to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. All who heard were astonished and said, “Is this not the one who cast out, in Jerusalem, all those calling upon this Name? Did he not come here, to bring them bound before the chief priests?”

But Saul grew more and more powerful; and he confounded the Jews living in Damascus when he proved that Jesus was the Messiah.

Thursday, 26 January 2017 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast day of two of St. Paul’s followers and fellow leaders of the early Church, St. Timothy and St. Titus, who accompanied him during certain parts of his apostolic journeys, and with whom he kept correspondences, which are then compiled and become part of the New Testament of our Sacred Scriptures today.

These two were among those whom the Apostles had appointed as the episcopi, overseers or bishops among the people of God. They have been chosen to help in the works of the Apostles, and to be their successors to continue the works that the Apostles had started. From them too, came forth many more successors and bishops, who followed on through time, as those who have given themselves to the service of the Gospel for the sake of mankind’s salvation.

And in the Gospel, Jesus our Lord also appointed seventy-two disciples in addition to the twelve Apostles He had chosen. The seventy-two disciples are those whom God had chosen to assist in the good works which the Lord had appointed them to do. They had been instructed by the Lord to go to every places He was to go, to prepare His way for him, and to bring the Good News to the people in those places.

All of us Christians have also been called to do the same, as Jesus Himself had aptly said, that while the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. The harvest refers to the richness of opportunities in this world for evangelisation and conversion, of many people who have yet to receive the Good News of God, and the many people who are still living in sin and darkness, in the ignorance of the light of Christ.

The labourers of the harvest are all those whom God have called to help gather His harvest, namely those who have answered His call and accepted their new role as the devoted servants of God. They are our priests and bishops, those in the holy orders and religious life, who have given themselves and their whole lives for service to God, in the same manner as St. Timothy and St. Titus, and many other holy saints had been.

There are many things that these servants of God had to do, preaching the Good News, healing the sick and caring for them, as well as for all those who are without hope, downtrodden and rejected by the society. And they will also be accepted in places, but rejected in even more places. There will be many of those who refuse to listen to them, and instead of obeying their precepts, continued to live their old and sinful way of life.

In all of this, we should look upon the examples of St. Timothy, St. Titus and all the holy saints who have devoted their life to God. They went from places to places, ministering for the people who need them, both in physical and also spiritual, but more importantly, they provided for them the sustenance of their faith, showing them examples of how they ought to live their lives in good faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to serve the Lord in our different capacities and opportunities, that as Christians and thus members of the Church, we may be true bearers of the message of God’s Holy Gospels, and awaken in many others, the faith that have laid dormant in their hearts. Let us all inspire one another, and help guide each other on our journey of faith towards the Lord.

May the Lord bless us all, and awaken in us the desire to serve Him, so that some amongst us may be stirred when He calls us, to be His servants, to take up the cross and follow Him, and support and continue the good works of the Apostles and disciples, and their successors. May the Lord help us all and be with us always. Amen.

Thursday, 26 January 2017 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Luke 10 : 1-9

At that time, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place, where He Himself was to go. And He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to His harvest.”

“Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know. Whatever house you enter, first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house!’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid, do not move from house to house.”

“When they welcome you to any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them : ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.'”

Thursday, 26 January 2017 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name.

Proclaim His salvation day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and strength. Give to the Lord the glory due His Name.

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.