Saturday, 20 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of the promise of God’s salvation and His ever present loving kindness in our midst, because we are all so fortunate to have been beloved by God. Each and every one of us are precious in the sight of God, without any exception. God is generous with His love and He will always be faithful to the Covenant He has made with us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord guiding His people Israel as they went in hurry out of the land of Egypt right after their very first Passover celebration, when the Pharaoh finally let the Israelites go free after the Lord sent the last Great Plague on the Egyptians, killing all the firstborn children of Egypt. God brought them and provided for them, and asked them to bring unleavened bread along with them as sustenance along the journey.

In the Gospel passage, we heard yet another time when the Lord revealed His salvation and great love for His people, through none other than the Saviour He Himself has promised, in Jesus Christ, His own Begotten Son, through Whom the whole race of mankind was to be saved from eternal damnation and from the fate of sure destruction. The Lord Who has once saved His people, now committed Himself to save all of them from certain death.

The liberation of Israel under the leadership of Moses in the Old Testament was indeed the prefigurement and prelude to the true liberation of not just Israel, but that of all mankind under the leadership of Christ. Just as the Israelites suffered under the tyranny of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians, all of us mankind have suffered greatly under the bondage of sin, which corrupted us and brought us closer to eternal damnation.

God, Who loves each and every one of us, does not want destruction to be our fate, and therefore, He sent us the promised salvation through Christ, His own Son, by Whose wonders and works, He revealed the true extent of His love and generous mercy towards us, His own beloved people. Even though we have sinned against Him, constantly being stubborn and rebelled against Him, He still loves each one of us nonetheless.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, if God has loved us so much that He has been willing to show us all these wonderful love and blessings, shall we not then strive to show Him the same kind of love and commitment? Shall we not devote our time, effort and attention to He Who has been so generous and kind to us? Let us all think about this even as we carry on living our lives faithfully as Christians.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Apollinaris, a holy bishop and martyr, whose example in faith and whose dedication to the Lord can be a source of inspiration for us in how we should live our own lives with faith and dedication to the Lord. St. Apollinaris was one of the earliest bishops of the Church, successor to the holy Apostles of Christ. He was appointed as the first Bishop of Ravenna in what is today Italy, near the capital of the Roman Empire.

He was persecuted and suffered greatly with his flock during the persecution of Christians by the early Roman Emperors, but he continued to evangelise to the people and preach the Good News regardless, performing many miracles and wonders before the people. He was oppressed and made to suffer and it was told that later on he was arrested and persecuted as the leader of the Church in Ravenna, and yet, despite all these, he did not give up his efforts.

Instead, he continued to serve the Church faithfully and ministered to the people of God to the best of his abilities, which showed his dedication, commitment and love for God, as such courage and dedication would not have been possible without a heart that is so filled with genuine love for God and with true faith in Him. God has a centre part in his life, and this is what each and every one of us as Christians should be doing as well.

Let us all therefore contemplate and strive to do our best from now on, to become ever better Christians, through our own words, actions and deeds. May the Lord continue to guide us down the path to salvation in Him, and bless us all in our every good endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 20 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 12 : 14-21

At that time, the Pharisees went out, and made plans to get rid of Jesus. As Jesus was aware of their plans, He left that place. Many people followed Him, and He cured all who were sick. But He gave them strict orders not to make Him known.

In this way, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled : Here is My Servant, Whom I have chosen; the One I love, and with Whom I am pleased. I will put My Spirit upon Him; and He will announce My judgment to the nations. He will not argue or shout, nor will His voice be heard in the streets. The bruised reed He will not crush, nor snuff out the smouldering wick until He brings justice to victory, and in Him, all the nations will put their hope.

Saturday, 20 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 135 : 1, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 23, 24

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, His kindness endures forever.

He slew the firstborn of Egypt, His kindness endures forever.

And brought Israel out, His kindness endures forever.

With strong hand and outstretched arm, His kindness endures forever.

He splits the Sea of Reeds, His kindness endures forever.

And made Israel pass through it, His kindness endures forever.

Drowning Pharaoh and his army, His kindness endures forever.

He remembered us in our humiliation, His kindness endures forever.

And freed us from our oppressors, His kindness endures forever.

Saturday, 20 July 2019 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Exodus 12 : 37-42

The Israelites left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand of them on the march, counting the men only, and not the children. A great number of other people of all descriptions went with them, as well as sheep and cattle in droves.

With the dough they had brought with them from Egypt, they made cakes of unleavened bread. It had not risen, for when they were driven from Egypt they could not delay and had not even provided themselves with food. The Israelites had been in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years. It was at the end of these four hundred and thirty years to the very day that the armies of YHVH left Egypt.

This is the watch for YHVH Who brought Israel out of Egypt. This night is for YHVH, and all the Israelites are also to keep vigil on this night, year after year, for all time.

Friday, 20 July 2018 : 15th 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 listened first of all to the exchange between the prophet Isaiah and Hezekiah, the king of Judah. At that time, king Hezekiah fell very ill and was about to die, even during the peak of his years, still relatively young by the standard of that age and time. King Hezekiah was desperate and he turned to the Lord for help, through His prophet Isaiah.

King Hezekiah lamented that even though he has been faithful to God, and that he had led the people to return to the true worship of the Lord, abandoning their former pagan idols, but he was soon to die and perish due to his illness. He prayed to the Lord with tears and regret, asking Him to keep in mind whatever good things he had done in his life. And God heard his prayers, extending his life.

In this, and in what we have seen through the Gospel passage, in which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised the Lord Jesus severely because He allowed His disciples to perform what was supposedly forbidden during the day of the Sabbath, we can see what the Lord’s true intention is for each and every one of us as Christians. As mentioned, He wanted mercy and not sacrifice.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that the Lord wants from us true and genuine love, dedication and commitment. He does not want faith that is just a formality or a faith which is just for show to others. For example, king Hezekiah of Judah has indeed steadfastly loved the Lord, casting aside the idols that had been worshipped throughout Judah until then, and restoring the worship of God back to the people.

This is the kind of love and commitment which the Lord wants from each and every one of us, and not the kind of superficial love which the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law has often shown. Many of them wanted to be praised and seen in the fulfilment of the obligations of their faith, and hence, they ended up subverting the Law itself to suit their own misguided and wicked agenda.

The Lord Jesus is reminding us through these passages of the Scriptures, that ultimately, God made His laws and revealed them to His people for a singular purpose, and that is, to bring them all back to His loving embrace. The Law was meant to reconcile mankind to God, and not to push away man from His salvation. That is why, the Law was meant to turn mankind’s heart back to God, and God sought the love and faith in each and every one of us.

In the end, as long as we cling on to the Lord, and put our trust in Him, we shall not be disappointed, for He will be with us and will protect us. He will not withhold His grace from us, and we shall be truly satisfied. Of course, there will be trials, challenges and tribulations, but ultimately, in the end, what awaits all of us who remain faithful to God will be eternal glory and true joy with God.

And God remembers and knows all that we have done in life, whether it is good deeds or wicked deeds. He remembered the deeds of king Hezekiah, and blessed him and gave him new lease of life according to His will, as He was pleased with what Hezekiah had done. He did not forget those who have been faithful to Him, but remembering them to the time when He will grant them His inheritance.

Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we celebrate the feast of St. Apollinaris of Sweden, one of the early Church fathers, bishop of Ravenna and martyr of the faith. He was a truly dedicated servant of God, dedicating his whole life for the good of the flock entrusted under his care. St. Apollinaris endured many persecutions and hardships throughout his life that ended up with his martyrdom.

Yet, St. Apollinaris remained firm in his faith and conviction to serve the Lord and His people. He went through all the troubles and trials with faith, entrusting everything to God, in Whom he had complete and total faith in. This is a role model of the faith which all of us the faithful should adhere to, in all of our ways. Are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Apollinaris of Ravenna?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on our lives, and think of how our lives have been influenced by our faith. Have our faith been genuine and filled with true love for God, or have we rather allowed ourselves to be overcome by our attachments to the world and ended up sidelining God, and having a life that was not centred on God? Let us all think about this, and see what we can do in the time to come, to be ever more faithful and committed, to be ever more true in our faith.

May the Lord be with us and bless our efforts and works, that in everything we say and do, we will always do them for the love of God, and also for the love and concern of our fellow men, as St. Apollinaris of Ravenna had shown us. May God be our strength and be our Light, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 20 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 12 : 1-8

At that time, it happened that, Jesus walking through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry; and they began to pick some heads of wheat, to crush and to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at Your disciples! They are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!”

Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did, when he and his men were hungry? He went into the House of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, though neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the law, how, on the Sabbath, the priests in the Temple desecrate the Sabbath, yet they are not guilty?”

“I tell you, there is greater than the Temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words : It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. Besides, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Friday, 20 July 2018 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Isaiah 38 : 10, 11, 12abcd, 16

Once I said : In the noontime of my life I go; I am sent to the land of the dead, for the rest of my years.

I said : Never again shall I see YHVH in the land of the living; never again shall I see the inhabitants of the earth.

Like a shepherd’s tent, my dwelling has been pulled down and thrown away; like a weaver, You rolled up my life and cut it from the loom.

O Lord, give me back my health and give me back my life!