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.