Friday, 26 May 2017 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the message of the Holy Scriptures speaking to us clearly about what to expect if we are to remain true to the Lord and obedient to His truth. If we are to remain as His disciples and are faithful to Him, we will end up facing difficulties, troubles, and sometimes even persecution and sufferings that our predecessors, the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had faced.

Yes, that was the reality of life for the many disciples and followers of the Lord, for most of its earliest history. There were many persecutions and challenges against the faithful, and the Church members were struck with tribulations and arrests. The Lord however was ever faithful to His people, never leaving them behind in their time of need.

Indeed, there would be sorrow and pain, suffering and anguish to be suffered by God’s people, as the Lord Himself had mentioned to His disciples. He did warn them beforehand that in order to follow Him, one therefore must be ready to sacrifice and to give their all if they are to obey the Lord and follow Him, for there surely will be those who would persecute them and challenge them in their faith.

But what the Lord offered us is greater than any other promises, for even though the path of His faithful ones will be painful and filled with sufferings, but at the end of it all, God will reward all those who keep their faith in Him with true joy and satisfaction, for the final victory over evil and death will be theirs. They will then avenge their sufferings and pains caused by their enemies and all those who had persecuted them.

The devil on the other hand, is also always offering us an alternative path, one that seems to be easy and less risky, one that seems to be more lucrative and enjoyable as compared to the path of the Lord. These are the temptations which he had placed in our path, hoping that we will take them and therefore fall into the trap of sin, and thus perish in damnation with him.

When times get difficult, and when challenges come on our way, it is easy for us mankind to end up being distracted and be tempted to leave behind our sufferings, and instead seek for the easy way out. That is indeed when we end up walking in the path of darkness instead of walking in the light of God. This is not what we as Christians should do, for we have to be resolute and strong in our faith, resisting those temptations in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day let us all heed and learn from the examples of St. Philip Neri, a renowned and holy saint who lived during the time of the Counter Reformation, and who was credited and famous with the founding of the Oratory, in order to carry on and continue the missionary works which he had started. He was known for his labours and works among the sick and the poor, serving the most destitute of the people of God.

St. Philip Neri ministered to many sinners, prostitutes and all those who have been abandoned and rejected by the society. Certainly, all of his works did not entail easy or manageable tasks, and many of them required him to devote most of his time to a life of service, both to God and to His people. He encountered challenges and rejections, where people refused to believe in all that he had said.

And yet, St. Philip Neri persevered through all of them, calling many people to repent from their sins, and indeed, they repented and turned away from those sins towards the Lord. Many souls who had once been condemned to damnation, had been saved by the good works of St. Philip Neri, all because of the fact that St. Philip Neri never gave up on the mission which God had entrusted to him, and he placed his complete trust in the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians have to do the same, and following their examples, we should do our best in order to show our love, care and concern for our brethren in need, all of those who have sinned against God, and all those who have been sundered from God’s love. We have our calling, mission and responsibility in order to help our brethren who are still lost to the Lord, that these may find the way to return to our God and His salvation.

May the Lord strengthen our faith, and may He empower us all in order to become ever more faithful in all things, so that we may draw ever closer to God, and find our salvation in His most Holy Name and Presence. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 26 May 2017 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 16 : 20-23a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. A woman in childbirth is in distress because her time is at hand. But after the child is born, she no longer remembers her suffering because of such great joy : a human being is born into the world.”

“You feel sorrowful now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice; and no one will take your joy from you. When that day comes you will not ask Me anything.”

Friday, 26 May 2017 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 46 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

He brings peoples under our dominion and puts nations under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us – the pride of Jacob whom He loves!

God ascends amid joyful shouts, the Lord amid trumpet blasts. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

Friday, 26 May 2017 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Acts 18 : 9-18

One night, in a vision, the Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid, but continue speaking and do not be silent, for many people in this city are Mine. I am with you, so no one will harm you.” So Paul stayed a year and a half in that place, teaching the word of God among them.

When Gallio was governor of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the court. And they accused him, “This man tries to persuade us to worship God in ways that are against the Law.”

Paul was about to speak in his own defence when Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of misdeed or vicious crime, I would have to consider your complaint. But since this is a quarrel about teachings and divine names that are proper to your own law, see to it yourselves : I refuse to judge such matters.”

Then the people seized Sosthenes, a leading man of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal; but Gallio paid no attention to it. Paul stayed on with the disciples in Corinth for many days; he then left them and sailed off with Priscilla and Aquila for Syria. And as he was no longer under a vow he had taken, he shaved his head before sailing from Cenchreae.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we heard about God Who is ever faithful to His beloved people, Who kept to the words of His covenant with them, and He will not abandon them. And when they call out to Him, He shall answer them and deliver them from all of their troubles, if they remain faithful and true in their commitment to Him.

In the first reading today, the three friends and fellow countrymen of Daniel, namely Azariah, or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, got into a great trouble with King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, their master, who have conquered the country of the Israelites and brought the people of God into exile at Babylon. And as they lived in the foreign land and under the rule of foreigners, they were forced to even worship pagan gods and idols, under the threat of death.

Yet, even when they were faced with persecution and the king himself forced them to choose between worshipping his golden statue or death, they stayed true to their faith and defied the orders of the king, knowing that God is always on their side, and will provide for them in all that they need. They knew that everything they had, including their very lives, were all gifts and blessings from God. If it was God’s will that they should perish while keeping their faith, then they would let God’s will be done.

It is this kind of faith which Abraham, our father in faith also once had. He trusted completely in the Lord, following where He wanted him to go to, and giving his all to walk in the path of the Lord. And because of the great faith he had, even to the point of offering his own beloved son, as the Lord asked for, when He tested his faith, God blessed Abraham greatly, to his descendants and to his descendants’ descendants.

But God does not reward the descendants of Abraham by their birth from the line of Abraham alone. That was what we heard in the Gospel today. That is why we all also call Abraham our father in faith. We followed the Lord and believed in Him much in the same manner that Abraham had been faithful, and by that virtue, we have given the same share of the blessings which God had promised to Abraham and to his faithful descendants.

Why is this important, brethren? That is because the people of Israel, even at Jesus’ time, as we saw in the Gospel today, often used their ancestry, their descent from Abraham as something to be proud of, and to belittle and discriminate others. For the same reason, the Jews at the time of Jesus looked down on the Samaritans and the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people, because they looked at themselves as those whom God had chosen to be His people by the virtue of their ancestry, while others do not deserve God’s grace because they do not belong to them.

Yet, Jesus was angry at the Jews, precisely because while they touted themselves as being descendants of Abraham, their actions and deeds were far from being right for those who claim descent from the faithful Abraham. They did not love God as Abraham had loved God, and they did what is wicked and evil in the sight of God and men alike, caring for themselves and their desires only, and not having God living in their hearts. God had often been sidelined in their lives.

Therefore, today all of us are reminded that faith in God will bring us to salvation and righteousness, while if we disobey and sin, our sins will bring us to our downfall. It was mentioned in the book of the prophet Ezekiel, that if a righteous person turns away from his or her righteousness, and commit sin, then the person will perish because of the sins he or she has committed. In the same manner, a sinner who turns to righteousness will be saved because of the righteous deeds the sinner had done.

Let us all during this time of Lent remember that it is our actions and deeds, filled with righteousness and obedience to God, that will bring us closer to God and to His salvation. Let us all not be distracted by pride, by human greed and desire, and let us not be complacent in our faith. There is always something to be done in our lives, and we should always make use of our time well in order to obey the Lord and walk in His ways. 

Let us all follow the examples of St. Vincent Ferrer, a holy priest and Dominican friar who lived during the years of late Medieval era France. He was renowned for his great dedication to the poor and the needy, and he called many people to repentance and forgiveness through his teaching and preaching. St. Vincent Ferrer went to many places, doing good works and helping many people who struggled with their faith and with their lives.

St. Vincent Ferrer showed all of us that we have many things that we all need to do in our lives, which are all the things we are capable of doing, and yet, we are unable to do because of our reluctance and lack of dedication. There are many things that all of us Christians are capable of doing in order to help those who are around us, but we did not do, as we are too busy caring for ourselves and for our own desires.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our commitment to the Lord, as we progress through this season of Lent. Let us all do as St. Vincent Ferrer and the saints had done before us, and as Abraham, our father in faith had lived his life. Let us all be holy as our Lord is holy, so that we may truly be worthy of His grace and blessings. May God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
John 8 : 31-42

At that time, Jesus went on to say to the Jews who believed in Him, “You will be My true disciples, if you keep My word. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered Him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves of anyone. What do you mean by saying : You will be free?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave. But the slave does not stay in the house forever; the son stays forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be really free. I know that you are the descendants of Abraham; yet you want to kill Me because My word finds no place in you. For My part, I speak of what I have seen in My Father’s presence, but you do what you have learnt from your father.”

They answered Him, “Our father is Abraham.” Then Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. But now you want to kill Me, the One Who tells you the truth – the truth that I have learnt from God. That is not what Abraham did; what you are doing are the works of your father.”

The Jews said to Him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God.” Jesus replied, “If God were your Father you would love Me, for I came forth from God, and I am here. And I did not come by My own decision, but it was He Himself Who sent Me.”

Wednesday, 5 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Daniel 3 : 52, 53, 54, 55, 56

Blessed are You, Lord, God of our fathers, be praised and exalted forever. Blessed is Your holy and glorious Name, celebrated and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the Temple of Your sacred glory, Your praises are sung forever.

Blessed are You on the throne of Your kingdom, honoured and glorified forever.

Blessed are You Who fathom the depths, who are enthroned on the Cherubim, praised and exalted forever.

Blessed are You in the firmament of heaven, praised and glorified forever.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Daniel 3 : 14-20, 24-25, 28

King Nebuchadnezzar questioned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden statue I have set up? If you hear now the sound of horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and other instruments, will you fall down and worship the statue I made? If you will not, you know the punishment : you will immediately be thrown into a burning furnace. And then what god can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we need not defend ourselves before you on this matter. If you order us to be thrown into the furnace, the God we serve will rescue us. But even if He will not, we would like you to know, o king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s face reddened with fury as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of his strongest soldiers to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning furnace.

They walked in the midst of the flames, singing to God and praising the Lord. Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : “You have indeed given a just sentence in bringing evil upon us and upon Jerusalem, the Holy City of our fathers. You have acted in accordance with truth and justice, as punishment for our sins.”

Tuesday, 4 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we approach ever closer to the time of the Holy Week, we are reminded of why we do all the fasting and abstinence during this season of Lent. In the first reading today, from the Book of Numbers, we heard what happened to the people of Israel as they journeyed through the desert. They rebelled against God and God sent punishment to them in the form of fiery serpents that killed many of them.

The people of Israel begged for mercy from God through Moses, and Moses implored the Lord to have pity on them. Seeing that they have suffered and that they wanted to end their rebellion against Him, and the sincerity of their repentance, God showed His mercy and instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent placed on a stand so that all those who had been bitten by the fiery serpents, and saw the bronze serpent would not die but survive and live.

And in the Gospel today, Jesus spoke to all those who followed Him about the upcoming persecution and suffering that He would then soon endure during His Passion and death on the cross. He spoke to them that He would be lifted up for all to see, the Son of Man and Saviour of the world, Who was crucified like a criminal even though He was innocent and did nothing wrong.

Through this, we can see how the event in the time of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt is linked to the time of the salvation of mankind through Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. At the time of the Exodus, God brought His people Israel out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land. However, they were unfaithful and they were constantly rebelling and disobeying Him, to the point of making for themselves a golden calf to be their deity and god.

As God was angry at them, for their wickedness and sins, the fiery serpents represent the punishment for all those sins and disobedience, much as how the sins that all of us mankind have done, bring about with it punishment and consequences. And many of the people of Israel died bitten by those fiery serpents, reminding all of us that the consequence for sin is death.

When we were created by the Lord, when Adam and Eve were still walking in the gardens of Eden, God did not intend for mankind to suffer and die, for it was not His intention. But, because they have sinned and disobeyed Him, therefore, they were cast out of Eden, and had to wander in this world in suffering, and death reigned over them. Ever since, all mankind, without exception, met the end of their lives in death.

But God loves each and every one of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. And it is that love which allows Him to show us His mercy when we His people sincerely desire to be forgiven, through our petition and grievances, through our regretting of our sins and wickedness, by our humble submission to His grace and love. And God Who loves us will indeed forgive us our sins if we are sincere in seeking to be forgiven.

That is just as how He gave a new chance to the Israelites by asking Moses to make the bronze serpent to rescue them from their predicament. And while that applied only to the people of Israel who died in the desert, God made the same thing to happen to all of mankind, by the sending of none other than His own Beloved Son, to be the One through Whom He would exercise His mercy and forgiveness.

And Jesus willingly took up upon Himself the multitudes of our sins, our defilements and all the things that had separated us from God and His love. He bore all those sins on Himself, carrying His cross through the way of suffering from Jerusalem towards the hill of Calvary. It was at Calvary where He was raised up for all to see, as the Sign of God’s salvation, forgiveness and grace, a reminder of the bronze serpent that saved the Israelites.

By the cross of Christ we have been saved, a new hope and light had dawned on us. God has given us a second chance, because He loves each and every one of us. But are we willing to be forgiven our sins? Are we allowing God to enter into our hearts and help us to transform ourselves from the creatures of sin and darkness that we were once, into beings of light worthy to be called the children of God?

That is the question we must ask ourselves, and which we must ponder on as we go through this time of preparation in Lent. We need to spend time to reflect on our lives, our actions and deeds in life thus far. Have we been faithful to the Lord, walking righteously in His ways? Or have we been wayward and disobedient like the people of Israel in the past? Have we ignored God’s laws and commandments, by our hatred, our jealousy, our selfishness and human greed?

Let us look upon the cross of Christ, the body that lies hanging on the crucifixes we have, at our homes, at our churches and wherever we are, and at our personal crosses and crucifixes. Whenever we look at Him Who is crucified, let us first of all remember that we are all sinners and should have perished because of them. Then remember how Christ died for all of us, bearing all the burdens of our sins as His own. Remember how He suffered for our sake, taking the punishment on our behalf, that we will not perish but live.

Let us devote ourselves with new commitment, looking at the example of today’s saint whose feast we are celebrating. St. Isidore of Seville was the Bishop of Seville during the years of the early Medieval era, who was credited with the conversion of the kingdom of the Visigoths in present day Spain from the heresy of Arianism into the orthodox and true Christian faith.

St. Isidore lamented the corruption that permeated the society and the people at that time, as morality became ignored and the faith among the people faltered. St. Isidore therefore laboured hard to bring the people of God back to the faith, by preaching to them the truth of the Gospels, and calling them to repentance. He stood firmly against the false teachings of Arianism and by his works, he managed to bring multitudes of souls to salvation.

Inspired by his examples, all of us Christians should endeavour to do the same as well. We should come closer to the Lord and change our sinful ways, repent from all of our past wrongdoings, realising just how much God loves us and wants us to be reconciled with Him. And we need to help our fellow brethren, especially those who are still struggling with sin and with their wickedness.

Let us endeavour to help one another, that each one of us may learn to draw closer to God, so that we may find our way to reconciliation with our God. May all of us learn to be humble, and beg the Lord for His forgiveness, by committing ourselves to change our sinful ways, and walk in righteousness and grace from now on. May God help us all, and may He bless all of us always. Amen.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Isidore, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
John 8 : 21-30

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “I am going away, and though you look for Me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does He say that we cannot come where He is going? Will He kill Himself?”

But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.” They asked Him, “Who are You?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One Who sent Me is truthful and everything I learnt from Him; I proclaim to the world.”

They did not understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of Myself, but I say just what the Father taught Me. He Who sent Me is with Me and has not left Me alone; because I always do what pleases Him.”

As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in Him.