Wednesday, 18 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John 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 words of the Scriptures, which remind us of the need for us to remain firmly attached to the Lord, to be connected to Him, the True Vine and the One and only True Lord and Saviour. In our Scripture passages today, we are reminded that as Christians we have to be rooted in Christ, the One in Whom we ought to believe in wholeheartedly and put our full trust in. Otherwise, if we do not do so, then we will easily lose our path and way in life, and we may end up falling into the temptations of worldliness and sin.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles regarding the matter of the confrontation that arose between the ones who supported a much more rigid application of the Jewish laws and traditions and wanting to impose them on all the faithful, and those who were supporting a more relaxed and welcoming stance to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people. Both of these groups had contrasting views on how the Church should act and respond in evangelisation towards the many non-Jewish peoples as well as the expectations to be placed on each Christians.

The divisions that existed between each factions were threatening to split the Church apart and that might also lead to the alienation of those who would have wanted to follow the Lord, especially from among the Gentiles when they had to follow the Jewish customs and practices. That is because many of the Jewish customs and practices were abhorred by the peoples like Greeks and Romans among others, and those customs were seen as incompatible with their own culture and customs. Hence, it would have been difficult for them to be Christians and followers of the Lord if they had to abandon their own ways and customs.

As such, we heard in that same passage from the Acts of the Apostles, the very first gathering of the whole Church, the First Council of Jerusalem, in which the leaders of the Church and the elders all assembled to pray and discuss together the direction that the Church would take in going forward and following God together, as one people and as one Church. St. Peter the Apostle spoke up before the assembly of the faithful, presenting to them the facts and also the message and vision showed to him from God, which told him that the Lord wished for all the people, Jews or Gentiles, to be His followers all the same, and the restrictions of the old and former laws and how they were interpreted should not hinder or become barriers for the ones who wanted to follow Christ.

At that time, the Jews tended to have a lot of judgmental attitude towards the Gentiles, dismissing them as being pagans and being unworthy of God and His grace and love. That was why the faction of those who wanted to impose the strict and harsh requirements of the Jewish customs wanted to impose the same conditions to the Gentile converts to Christianity, because they conflated their attachment to the particular ways that they observed the Law with devotion and faith in God. The Lord Himself has criticised those who were too attached to their flawed interpretation of the Law and wanted them to break free from that path.

Hence, St. Peter highlighted the need for all the faithful to follow the true path as shown by Jesus, the True Vine and the One in Whom everyone ought to believe in. Instead of believing and holding fast to their own beliefs and ideas, all of the faithful must put their faith and trust, and derive their faith from the Lord Himself. And God has entrusted His Church at the hands of the Apostles like St. Peter and others, as well as their successors, that they may arbitrate judgments and decide through the Holy Spirit, the path and way moving forward for all the faithful people of God.

In our Gospel passage today, we are reminded through the parable of the True Vine as mentioned, highlighting to us that just as the branches have to remain connected to the main stem or vine, hence, we have to remain connected to Christ if we are to grow and prosper in faith. If we instead follow particular ideologies and refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit and the Lord speaking to us in the depths of our hearts and minds, then we will end up easily losing our direction and path in life, falling prey to the temptations of worldly desires and ambitions that had seen the downfall of so many people.

Today, just as we are reminded to remain faithful to the Lord, we are presented with the great examples from Pope St. John I, a holy Pope and Martyr who remained firmly faithful in the Lord despite him being caught squarely in the middle of political and theological conflicts at the time. As Pope, Pope St. John I led the Church in the time of great turbulence as the Church in Rome and Italy were under the state control of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, whose ruler, Theoderic the Great was an Arian, following a heresy that was in opposition to the true Christian belief and faith.

Pope St. John I was sent as a delegate to the court of the Roman Emperor in Constantinople by Theoderic with the aim to resolve the political and religious tensions existing between the Romans and the Ostrogoths. The Emperor treated and respected the Pope well, although the embassy was unsuccessful in pursuing the Ostrogoth king’s demands. Upon Pope St. John’s return to Rome and Ravenna, the Ostrogothic capital, Theoderic ordered his arrest and it was there that the Pope eventually died from neglect and poor health, dying a martyr to the true Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the examples of Pope St. John I, the many other saints and martyrs, and all those who have dedicated their lives to serve the Lord, all who have kept themselves close to God and remain firm in their full love and dedication to His way. As Christians, let us all be inspiration to one another, and help each other to be committed to God, and not to fall into the path of sin, or to be swayed by other worldly matters. May God be with us always, and may He, the True Vine, keep us all alive with Him in faith, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 18 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 18 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 18 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the story of St. Paul who was then in Ephesus, speaking among the gathered Church elders and the faithful. At that time we heard St. Paul saying to those assembled how he was led by the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News and the truth to the many peoples all across various parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. And he told those assembled in Ephesus that he would then be going to his suffering and martyrdom, as the Spirit led him on to go to the city of Jerusalem for the final leg of his mission.

St. Paul knew that he would be facing sufferings and trials, and he would have to be led in chains, imprisoned and brought from place to place, as later on he would be brought from Jerusalem to Rome, the capital of the Empire, after he appealed to the Emperor for the charges brought against him by the Jewish leaders and elders. He could have avoided that fate by not going to Jerusalem and staying on amongst those who cared for him like in Ephesus, but he followed and obeyed the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the truth in his last mission, and to bring that truth the city of Rome before he was to be martyred.

The same also happened to the Lord Himself as seen in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord was having His Last Supper with His disciples, and revealed to them how He would be taken away from them, and that He would no longer with them. This was a reference to how He would very soon be arrested, that very night, and would be condemned to death on the Cross and die for the sake of all. Again, here the Lord could have chosen to avoid it all, and if He had wanted to be out of all the trials He had to endure, He could have easily done it, for after all, is He not the Almighty One?

Yet, He willingly accepted His Cross and went on through all the sufferings, so that everything that He has designed and planned for the salvation of all could be fulfilled perfectly, right up to the moment of His death. He did so out of love for us and so that we can also be freed from the slavery to sin and death. If it not had been for His sacrifice on the Cross, all of us would still be enslaved to sin and have no hope or freedom from death. Instead, we have this hope and new light thanks to Our Lord and His love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, being a Christian is not something that is easy or simple, and it often requires plenty of effort, dedication and even sacrifices on our side. And we have to trust in the Lord and follow His guide, through the Holy Spirit that He has given us. We should not be afraid to follow Him, or give in to our doubts and fears. As the Lord Himself and St. Paul had shown us, we should entrust ourselves to the Divine will and providence, and we should allow Him to transform our lives, and how we are to act and do things in life.

Now, as we have received the truth of God, know of the mission that He has entrusted to us through His Church, and heeded His call and will to be Christians, what are we then going to do with our lives from now on? This is what we need to discern carefully from now on as we consider what it is that we all have to do in each and every moments of our lives that we may be good role models and examples for all of our fellow men, our brothers and sisters, that like St. Paul and the other Apostles and saints, we may encourage one another to be faithful and to be more committed and dedicated to God.

Today all of us celebrate the feast of Pope St. John I, one of the great and holy Popes, a faithful servant of God and martyr of the Christian faith that can be one of our great inspirations in how we are to live our lives. He was elected to the position of Pope, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff during a turbulent time in the history of the Church, as conflict between the Arian heresy adopted by the Ostrogothic king of Italy, Theoderic the Great and the Nicene faith of the rest of the Roman Empire came to head.

Pope St. John I, at that time, despite being frail and in poor health when he was elected to the Papacy, he dedicated his time and effort to mediate between both sides, as both were unwilling to give grounds and concessions to the other. In the end, Pope St. John I managed to gain a compromise, only for the Gothic king to arrest him and put him in prison, suspecting the Pope of cooperation and collusion with the Roman Emperor and the Nicene party. He died in prison a martyr not long afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow in the footsteps of Pope St. John I, in his courage and dedication to follow in the path set before him by the Lord. Despite the challenges and the risks he knew that he had to face, much like St. Paul and the Lord Jesus before him, he embarked on the mission entrusted to him nonetheless, and fulfilled faithfully all that he had been called to do, as a true Christian, a true follower and disciple of Christ to the very end.

Are we willing and able to do the same, brothers and sisters in Christ? We are all called to follow in the footsteps of those who had gone before us, and to bear our Christian faith in words, deeds and actions, in even the smallest things we do in life, from now on, if we have not done so yet. Let us hence seek the Lord with renewed zeal and vigour, and with the same energy and strength let us reach out to our fellow men, bearing witness of our Christian faith, at all times.

May the Lord be with us, being our Strength and Guide, through the Holy Spirit He has sent to us, to invigorate and empower us to be ever genuine and faithful Christian, always and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 17 : 1-11a

At that time, after Jesus said all that He had said to His disciples, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to Your Son, that the Son may give glory to You. You have given Him power over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to all those You entrusted to Him. For this is eternal life : to know You, the only true God, and the One You sent, Jesus Christ.”

“I have glorified You on earth and finished the work that You gave Me to do. Now, Father, give Me, in Your presence, the same glory I had with You before the world began. I have made Your Name known to those You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they kept Your word. And now they know that whatever You entrusted to Me, is indeed from You.”

“I have given them the teaching I received from You, and they received it, and know in truth that I came from You; and they believe that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those who belong to You, and whom You have given to Me. Indeed all I have is Yours and all You have is Mine; and now they are My glory.”

“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I come to You.”

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 67 : 10-11, 20-21

Then You gave a rain of blessings to comfort Your weary children. Your people found a dwelling and in Your mercy, o God, You provided for the needy.

Blessed be the Lord, God our Saviour, Who daily bears our burdens! Ours is a God Who saves; our Lord lets us escape from death.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 20 : 17-27

From Miletus Paul sent word to Ephesus, summoning the elders of the Church. When they came to him, he addressed them, “You know how I lived among you from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, how I served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that the Jews caused me.”

“You know that I never held back from doing anything that could be useful for you; I spoke publicly and in your homes, and I urged Jews and non-Jews alike to turn to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.”

“But now I am going to Jerusalem, chained by the Spirit, without knowing what will happen to me there. Yet in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that imprisonment and troubles await me. Indeed I put no value on my life, if only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, to announce the Good News of God’s grace.”

“I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom of God will ever see me again. Therefore I declare to you this day that my conscience is clear with regard to all of you. For I have spared no effort in fully declaring to you God’s will.”

Monday, 18 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we heard the Good News the Scripture and Gospel passages, we are called to trust in God and to follow Him wherever He leads us to. We are called to be true Christians in our lives and our every words and deeds, so that by all of them, people may truly realise, know and understand that we are God’s beloved ones, and that His love will also be extended to them should they choose to follow us and walk down the same path that we have walked.

In our first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard how the Apostle St. Paul and his companion travelled to the land of Macedonia in the northern region of Greece following the vision he has received from God, when he heard the call of some people calling them to the Macedonian lands to preach the Good News and proclaim the salvation of God there. St. Paul preached the word of God, and went to find some of the faithful where they usually gathered, and as we heard, managed to gain the trust of a God-fearing woman, Lydia of Thyatira, and also some others.

They heard the words of the Lord and believed, and gave themselves to be baptised by the hands of the Apostles. It was likely that the Apostles preached with such wisdom and great courage, testifying on whatever they had experienced and encountered during their journey that the people were convinced and turned to believe in God. Most importantly, they must have believed because they were convinced by the genuine words and actions of the missionaries of the faith.

The Apostles, the disciples and the early Christian communities lived according to the way that the Lord had shown them, as beacons of light, hope and truth in the midst of the darkness and wickedness rampant all over the world. Especially in the communities at that time which did not know God or follow His ways, steeped in plenty of hedonism and worldly excesses, immoral and selfish behaviours, the truth of God, His Law and love are bright revelation that in the end, were sought by many seeking truth and meaning to their lives.

This is what the Apostles had been called to do, to bring the love of God into the world, to reveal to them the path of truth and the way towards salvation, and as revealed in our Gospel passage today, to proclaim Christ, the True Vine to all the people of all the nations, calling them to be part of the Vine of the Lord, the Church by which all will be saved. And as shown in the Acts of the Apostles, while there were many who rejected the truth of God, there were also those like Lydia and those who were open to the Lord’s truth who chose to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, to be part of the Vine, that is to follow the Lord, our True Vine means that each and every one of us must draw life and strength from God, as indeed, separated from the True Vine, we shall wither and perish. Many may be wondering how our Christian faith and the Church was able to survive over the past two millennia with all the challenges, trials and troubles we encountered along all those years, but in truth, the answer is really clear, that as long as we are connected and attuned to the True Vine, our Lord, we shall endure and triumph in the end.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on what the Apostles had done, all the efforts of the missionaries in reaching out to the many communities and people who had not yet known God at that time, and did their best to bring God’s truth and salvation to them. They have all sacrificed time and effort to fulfil what they had been called to do, and we will do well to remember their great faith and dedication to God, their commitment to evangelisation and the salvation of many souls.

Now, we are all the successors and inheritors of their many good works, and we are called to dedicate ourselves much as the Apostles and the many faithful servants of God, the saints and martyrs, who had devotion and spent much time and effort to reach out to the ones who have not yet heard of God, His salvation, love and many good works. There are still many things left undone and incomplete in the works of Church, and we are the ones who ought to carry on these missions and shoulder the responsibilities of our Christian calling.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one of these holy predecessors, namely Pope St. John I, a great and courageous leader of the Universal Church and a holy martyr of the Church and the faith. Pope St. John I was the Pope during the turbulent years following the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, and in which time the Arian heresy still had strong influences over some of the barbarian states that took over the rule over parts of the Christendom at that time. Pope St. John I presided over the Church especially in the West, under the reign of the Ostrogoths under King Theodoric the Great, who was a firm Arian in his belief.

King Theodoric charged Pope St. John I with a very difficult task of trying to get concessions for the Arian position and faith with the Roman Emperor in Constantinople, and this was particularly difficult since first of all, Arianism had been condemned as a dangerous heresy, and the relationship between the Ostrogothic Kingdom and the Roman Empire had not been good for the years of Pope St. John I’s Pontificate, and it was getting worse as the religious issues became entangled in the socio-political matters.

Nonetheless, Pope St. John I did his best to accommodate and bridge between both parties, in his role as the Pontifex Maximus or the Supreme Pontiff, in ‘building bridges’ between the communities of the faithful with one another and with God. It is likely that Pope St. John I hoped that by gaining concessions for the Ostrogothic King, eventually the King might be brought to reason and may be more open to accept the true and orthodox Christian faith free from heretical ways and thoughts.

Pope St. John I carried out his mission dutifully and conscientiously despite the challenges he had to endure. He was highly respected by the Emperor and received a grand welcome when he visited the Emperor’s court in Constantinople, the Imperial capital, but he did not manage to get the concessions desired by the Ostrogothic King. As a result, upon his return to Rome, the King arrested the Pope and put him in prison, and it was told that the Pope died a martyr for defending his faith and his Church, remaining true to his mission to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples set by Pope St. John I showed us that even a Pope and leader of the Church also had to endure great sufferings and challenges as part of his ministry and works, in the efforts of evangelisation and the salvation of souls. How can we then ignore our own part and not embrace our own calling to do what the Lord has commanded us to do, that is to proclaim His truth and salvation to all the peoples? Let us reflect on this and discern what we can do with our lives to fulfil our Christian calling and mission.

Let us all turn towards God, our True Vine, the source of all of our lives and our strength, the font of all wisdom and hope that we may remain hopeful even amidst these difficult times we are living through now. All the Apostles and the holy saints and martyrs had put their trust in God and dedicated themselves to Him. They were able to persevere through the challenges and trials because of this trust and faith, which we also now need to have with us. Are we able then to commit ourselves to the Lord with a renewed faith and with zeal?

May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey, and may He strengthen each and every one of us that we may remain steadfast and firm in our conviction to love God and our fellow brothers and sisters in every opportunities in our respective lives. May God bless us all and may He bless our good works and endeavours, now and forevermore, and may Pope St. John I and the holy Apostles, God’s saints and martyrs pray for us sinners. Amen.

Monday, 18 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 15 : 26 – John 16 : 4a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “From now on the Helper, the Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I have told you.”

“Peace be with you! I give you My peace; not as the world gives peace do I give it to you. Do not be troubled; do not be afraid. You heard Me say, ‘I am going away, but I am coming to you.’ If you loved Me, you would be glad that I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

“I have told you this now before it takes place, so that when it does happen you may believe. It is very little what I may still tell you, for the prince of this world is at hand, although there is nothing in Me that he can claim. But see, the world must know that I love the Father, and that I do what the Father has taught Me to do. Come now, let us go.”

“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.”