Wednesday, 20 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are being reminded that each and every one of us have been called in different ways by the Lord, to follow Him and to commit our lives to a faithful and virtuous Christian living, that each and every one of us may bear rich fruits of our faith and actions. Each one of us are challenged and called to follow the Lord in everything we say, act and do, and through Him, we may do truly wonderful things and impact many others in the way that we may never have thought possible before. All these are possible if we let the Lord guide us in our way and journey.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah of the calling of this prophet whom God had called to be His servant and messenger to the people of the kingdom of Judah. At that time, the people of Judah had slipped once again into the path of sin and evil, disobedience and wickedness, and hence, God called Jeremiah to be His instrument and as the one to deliver His will and His words to those same people, and He reassured Jeremiah that He would guide him and show him the way, giving him the wisdom and strength to persevere through whatever challenges that he would have to face when Jeremiah was doubtful and unsure about his calling.

Jeremiah was lacking in confidence because he was still relatively young and inexperienced, but by obeying God’s call and doing what the Lord had told him to do, Jeremiah would go on to become one of the greatest of the prophets, enduring a lot of trials and challenges for the sake of the Lord and His people, and patiently enduring them and continuing to do the work of God despite all that he had to go up against, all because God was with him and that God gave him the strength, wisdom and courage to endure even the worst of persecutions. Through this example, we can see how God was always faithful to the promises He made and how He was always with His faithful ones, and what a faithful servant of God can do with God’s guidance and strength.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the story of the Lord telling His followers the famous parable of the sower. In that parable, the Lord spoke of a sower who sowed seeds that fell on various places, some on the roadside, while others fell amongst the thistles and brambles, and others fell on the dry, rocky ground, while some fell on rich, fertile and good soil. Each of these led to different outcomes in the seeds being sown, as those that fell on the roadside were eaten up by the birds and were destroyed, while those that fell on the rocky ground could not grow roots or gain water and was scorched by the intense sun, while those that fell among the thistles and brambles were choked to death.

Only those seeds that fell on the rich and fertile soil managed to grow well and not only that, produced many more times than its weight and number, as they grew well and bore many fruits, and they became bountiful and great. The Lord would later on explain the meaning and significance of this parable to His disciples, telling them that the seeds represent the Word of God and the gifts that God had given and granted all of the people, such as what He had given to His prophets like Jeremiah and many others, including the Apostles and disciples, the innumerable saints and martyrs, and ultimately, all of us.

In essence, the Lord has given us all the means, the guidance, the gifts and various opportunities that He blessed us with, in our unique circumstances, that through Him and His providence, each and every one of us may find the means to contribute to the good works of the Church, in doing good things and obeying the Law and commandments of God. But this requires active participation on our side, our commitment and time, and our contribution to cultivate the gifts and talents that we have received. If we do not provide the optimal condition for our faith and actions to develop, then just like how the seeds that fell into the wrong places failed to grow, we too shall not be fruitful in faith.

Today, all of us should therefore model ourselves based on the examples set by our holy predecessors, one of whom the feast we are celebrating today, namely St. Apollinaris. St. Apollinaris was the Bishop of Ravenna who was remembered as a very dedicated shepherd to his faithful flock, working tirelessly for the evangelisation of the people, enduring and suffering persecutions for his faith. He suffered several episodes of almost death experience and hardships, and he endured them all with faith. All those did not discourage him from continuing to work hard for the sake of the Lord. His faith and continued dedication became inspiration for many others, including us in the present day.

Let us all therefore heed the good examples set by our holy predecessors, the prophets like Jeremiah and also the many saints and martyrs like that of St. Apollinaris of Ravenna. Let us all dedicate and commit ourselves to the Lord in the same way as our faithful predecessors had done, and strive to be exemplary and inspirational ourselves in our way of life, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 13 : 1-9

At that time, that same day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around Him. So He got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and He spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly, because the soil was not deep. But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots.”

“Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop : some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

Wednesday, 20 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o Lord, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me, turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge, a Stronghold to give me safety, for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o Lord, have been my Hope, my Trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day, little though it is what I can understand. You have taught me from my youth and until now I proclaim Your marvels.

Wednesday, 20 July 2022 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Jeremiah 1 : 1, 4-10

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, of a priestly family in Anathoth, in the land of Benjamin.

A word of YHVH came to me, “Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you; even before you were born I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations!”

I said, “Ah, Lord YHVH! I do not know how to speak; I am still young!” But YHVH replied, “Do not say; ‘I am still young’, for now you will go, whatever be the mission I am entrusting to you, and you will speak of whatever I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you – it is YHVH Who speaks!”

Then YHVH stretched out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put My words in your mouth. See! Today I give you authority over nations and over kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Tuesday, 20 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to reflect on our faith in the Lord and what it means to be Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His own people. He has called us to walk in His path and to trust in Him, and as long as we are faithful, we have nothing to fear, for God Himself will always be by our side. If God has always been faithful even when we have been unfaithful, then how much more blessed we shall be then, if we are faithful?

In our first reading today, we heard the moment when the Lord delivered His people, the people of Israel, from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, as He led them through the Red Sea, safe and sound, walking on the dry seabed as He opened the sea before them. And we heard from the Book of Exodus today, the moment of the final triumph as the Lord delivered the Egyptian chariots and armies into the sea, crushing them before Him.

The sea engulfed and destroyed all those who had pursued the Israelites across the sea, and finally the people of Israel were truly free, as they would no longer be under the tyranny or rule of the Egyptians and the Pharaoh. The Lord Who loved them and had compassion on them had shown them the undeniable truth and proof of His enduring and ever generous love for them. He rescued them from their great sufferings and restored hope to them.

Through this, all of us are yet again reminded of all the great and wonderful things that the Lord had done for our sake. Just as He has blessed and taken good care of the Israelites, thus, He has done the same for us, and will continue to do the same for us. However, it is we ourselves who often disobey Him and disregard Him, ignoring Him and preferring to follow our own paths rather than to trust in the Lord and His path. And in this day’s Gospel passage, we heard the Lord reminding all of us that those who follow the Lord and obey His will, they are all beloved and blessed by God, as those considered to be His own brothers and sisters, as intimate part of the family of the faithful.

All of us are therefore reminded of the need for us all to have faith in the Lord and to walk courageously and faithfully in His path, remembering all that He had done for the sake of His beloved people. We have to keep this faith alive in us, and grow ever stronger in our commitment to the Lord, and be role models for one another in how we are living our lives so that we may help more and more people to turn towards the Lord with renewed faith. Let us all not be easily swayed by doubt or fear, or by any other temptations that often prevented us from truly finding our way to the Lord.

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Apollinaris, a famous bishop and martyr of the faith, who was the Bishop of Ravenna in today’s Italy. According to Church tradition, he was made the Bishop of Ravenna by none other than St. Peter himself, the Bishop of Rome and first Pope. St. Apollinaris of Ravenna was appointed as the shepherd of the growing flock of the faithful in Ravenna, caring for their spiritual well-being and needs, and leading them through the challenging times of the earliest days of the Church there. St. Apollinaris laboured hard for the sake of the Lord and His Church, establishing firm foundation for the Church and the population of Christians under his care grew rapidly.

It was told that the miracles he performed during his ministry inspired many to turn towards the Lord and became Christians. This however also led to fierce opposition by the pagans who viewed the growth in the Christian faith and Church as great threat to themselves. As such, St. Apollinaris and his flock were persecuted, with the bishop himself attacked and made to suffer, enduring difficult trials and challenges, suffering from wounds and torture, sent into exile and prison. Yet, St. Apollinaris endured all these obstacles and strove to do his best to remain firmly faithful to the Lord.

Through to his eventual martyrdom, St. Apollinaris inspired many Christians that came after him, and many others who chose to turn to the Lord because of his examples, which strengthened and encouraged many other Christians to do the same, and become beacons of God’s light among the people of this world. How about us then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we not inspired in the same way as well? Are we not ashamed that while so many others had been inspired and moved by the Lord’s love and by the faith showed from His faithful servants, yet we are still unfaithful and lacking in commitment and love for the Lord?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore turn towards the Lord with renewed vigour and zeal, and rediscover that love and faith that we ought to have in the Lord, and for the Lord. May the Lord bless us all and may He guide us all in our journey, efforts and good endeavours that we may ever be closer to God and conform ever more to the path that He has set before us all. May God be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 12 : 46-50

At that time, while Jesus was talking to the people, His mother and His brothers wanted to speak to Him, and they waited outside. So someone said to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with You.”

Jesus answered, “Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “Look! Here are My mother and My brothers. Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Tuesday, 20 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Exodus 15 : 8-9, 10 and 12, 17

At the blast of Your nostrils the waters piled up, the surging waters stood firm in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, “I will give chase and overtake, I will divide the spoil and make a feast of it. I shall draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.”

A breath of Yours and the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. You stretched out Your right hand; the earth swallowed them.

You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of Your inheritance, the place You chose to dwell in, o YHVH, the sanctuary prepared by Your hands.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Exodus 14 : 21 – Exodus 15 : 1

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. At daybreak the sea returned to its place. As the Egyptians tried to flee, YHVH swept them into the sea. The waters flowed back and engulfed the chariots and horsemen of the whole army of Pharaoh that had followed Israel into the sea. Not one of them escaped. As for the Israelites they went forward on dry ground in the middle of the sea, the waters forming a wall on their right and their left.

On that day YHVH delivered Israel from the power of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. They understood what wonders YHVH had done for them against Egypt, and the people feared YHVH. They believed in YHVH and in Moses, His servant. Then Moses and the people sang this song to YHVH : “I will sing to YHVH, the Glorious One, horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.”

Monday, 20 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the lamentations of the Lord for the unbelief and the stubbornness of many of His people in them not having faith in Him. The Lord through His prophet Micah spoke out His displeasure at the people who seemingly had forgotten the mighty and wonderful deeds by which He has rescued their ancestors and their predecessors, and instead, betraying Him by siding with the pagan gods and idols.

And in our Gospel today, there is yet another example of this stubbornness and lack of faith, as the Lord was confronted by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who doubted Him and wanted to keep on testing Him, asking Him for miracles, signs and wonders. The fact was that they had seen many such miracles and signs as they followed the Lord persistently throughout His ministry, in their futile yet constant attempts to undermine His good works.

They were the most learned and those considered the most intelligent and wisest among all the people, and yet, ironically, they were the ones who were the most stubborn and resistant to accepting the truth of the Lord. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they were blinded and impeded by their own ego and pride, their own ambition and sense of superiority, their own worldly attachments and concerns that tied them down.

No matter how many signs and miracles the Lord performed before them, it would be meaningless unless they get rid from themselves the pride and hubris, the ego and ambition in their hearts and minds. People had sinned and fallen into sin from time immemorial just as the Israelites in the past had sinned because of this great fault and sin of pride, which had ensnared so many people and prevented them from attaining salvation in God.

That is why it is worth noting the Lord’s mention of the city of Nineveh and Jonah, as well as that of the Queen of the South and king Solomon, in the same Gospel passage today. The city of Nineveh was the great capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire that had conquered hundreds of nations and peoples, and yet, when the Lord sent the prophet Jonah to their midst to proclaim their upcoming judgment and destruction, the whole city and the mighty king humbled and lowered themselves, putting on sackcloth and mourning before God.

In the same way, the Queen of the South, also known as the Queen of Sheba, who was a powerful ruler of a rich and influential country in the time of king Solomon, with vast wealth and great wisdom of her own, humbled herself before God and His chosen king Solomon, when she came to behold the greatness of God showed through Solomon, his wisdom, glory and kingdom. She paid homage to the king of Israel and praised God for His wondrous deeds.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in our Scripture readings today therefore, we are reminded that pride and ego, ambition and greed, attachments to the world and material goods will earn us nothing but our own failure and downfall. The path to seek the Lord’s salvation and true happiness is by humility and faith, by love for God and by realising that we all need the Lord and need to put Him at the centre of our lives.

This is why we should also seek the Lord and be inspired by one of His faithful servants, our predecessor, namely St. Apollinaris, a bishop and martyr of the Church. St. Apollinaris was one of the earliest Church leaders and was the Bishop of Ravenna in what is today northeastern Italy. St. Apollinaris by tradition was appointed to his position by St. Peter himself and he was remembered chiefly for his leadership of the Christian people during the time when the Church was persecuted by the Roman authorities.

St. Apollinaris remained firm in his faith despite the persecutions and dedicated himself to serve the flock even in situations of danger. He cared for them and continued to minister among them, and his sufferings, arrest and trials, during which he endured many bitter sufferings and persecutions for the sake of the Lord, all these did not hinder him from giving himself to serve the Church and the faithful people of God, even unto martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are reminded by the faithful and good examples of St. Apollinaris and many other faithful servants of God, and through their great inspirations, all of us are called to follow the Lord and to devote ourselves as much as possible, and to entrust ourselves to the Lord, not to be prideful and filled with ego, but rather be humble and to be filled with the multitudes of God’s love and to have genuine faith and commitment towards Him in life.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, and may He give us all the courage and strength to follow Him faithfully and to devote our time, effort and attention to walk in His path, at all times. May the Lord guide us and lead us into the right path, leading us into His greater glory, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 20 July 2020 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 12 : 38-42

At that time, some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” Jesus answered them, “An evil and unfaithful people want a sign; but no sign will be given them except the sign of the prophet Jonah. In the same way, as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

“At the judgment, the people of Nineveh will rise with this generation, and condemn it; because they reformed their lives at the preaching of Jonah, and here, there is greater than Jonah. At the judgment, the Queen of the South will stand up and condemn you. She came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon.”