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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 49 : 5-6, 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

I lie prostrate in the midst of lions that greedily devour people; their teeth are pointed spears and arrows; their tongues, sharpened swords. Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Your glory be over all the earth!

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Micah 6 : 1-4, 6-8

Listen to what YHVH said to me, “Stand up, let the mountains hear your claim, and the hills listen to your plea.” Hear, o mountains, YHVH’s complaint! Foundations of the earth, pay attention! For YHVH has a case against His people, and will argue it with Israel.

“O My people, what have I done to you? In what way have I been a burden to you? Answer Me. I brought you out of Egypt; I rescued you from the land of bondage; I sent Moses, Aaron and Miriam to lead you.”

“What shall I bring when I come to YHVH and bow down before God the Most High? Shall I come with burnt offerings, with sacrifices of yearling calves? Will YHVH be pleased with thousands of rams, with an overabundance of oil libations? Should I offer my firstborn for my sins, the fruit of my body for my wrongdoing?”

“You have been told, o man, what is good and what YHVH requires of you : to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

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.