Wednesday, 29 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded that there will be difficulties, persecutions and challenges in our way as we seek to be faithful Christians and to obey the Lord in all things. We are not going to have it easy if we choose to follow the Lord’s commandments and walk faithfully in His path. Just as mentioned in our first reading today, even from the earliest days of the Church there had been persecutions against the faithful, and martyrdom as shown by St. Stephen and his martyrdom.

We heard of how Saul, the zealous and misguided young Pharisee, attempted to destroy the then still very young and fledging Church, using force and even violence to strike at the followers of Christ and all who were suspected to be Christians, not sparing even the women and children. There had been many sufferings and trials those early Christians had to suffer, and many had to endure prison and even martyrdom because of their steadfast faith in God.

But despite all of these, we must not lose heart just as those Christians remained strong in their faith, as they still committed themselves to the cause of the Lord and His Church even amidst the persecutions, like what St. Philip the Apostle had done, in preaching the Good News of God and performing his ministry even at the height of the persecution from the Jewish authorities and the vengeful but misguided crusade of people like Saul, the future St. Paul in those days when he was still a great enemy of the Church.

Saul has been a great persecutor of the faithful, but later on, God would call him and in turn he repented and became instead a great champion of the Church and the faith. And this is just how we must truly have faith and put our trust in God, for God will surely be with us, and we do not need to worry, for God has His plans for us. If someone who had been so vicious and so dangerous to the Church as Saul could be converted and had such a total change in his life to be a follower of God, then everything is indeed possible for God, although we may have thought that such a thing is impossible.

All the Apostles, the disciples and all those Christians, our very own predecessors have been able to persevere through those difficult moments, through those persecutions and trials because they truly put their trust in the Lord, their Risen and glorious Saviour. In our Gospel passage today, we continue to hear from what yesterday’s Gospel had told us on the discourse of the Bread of Life. Christ referred to Himself as the Bread of Life, to the disgust of some of His own followers who failed to understand what He had meant properly.

Through His gift of the Eucharist to us, the Lord has strengthened us and make us all to share in His Body and Blood, that all of us who partake in His own Most Precious Body and Blood, are united in this Communion with Him, the whole entire Church together, both all of us who are living in the present in this world, and also all those who have gone before us triumphantly, the same Apostles and disciples and all those who had endured martyrdom for their faith, namely the saints and martyrs, as well as all the holy souls in purgatory waiting for their time to enter the glory of Heaven.

All of us share in this same Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ through Whom we have received the assurance of eternal life if we trust Him and have complete faith in Him. He has called us all from the nations and brought us to Him, that through Him we may find our way to the eternal glory with Him in heaven. That is why we must look forward to this and focus our attention on the Lord, our Hope and our Light, even when we may encounter difficulties and challenges in our lives as Christians.

Today, let us also look upon the good examples of our predecessor, St. Catherine of Siena, a great and renowned saint and Doctor of the Church whose life and contributions to the Church are still felt and experienced even to this very day. She was renowned for her many visions and experiences of the faith with the Lord that she had received from when she was as young as five or six years old, and which she would continue to receive through life.

She devoted herself and her whole life to the Lord, and she wrote extensively about her experiences and her visions, as well as treatises about the faith and the Church. She was deeply respected and honoured for her faith and piety, for her great visions and writings, and she was involved even in the resolutions of conflicts that were common at her time, in what is now Italy, over six hundred years ago. Even Popes and Cardinals at that time sought her advice and help for the issues of the Church.

St. Catherine of Siena truly placed her complete faith in the Lord, the Bread of Life, as she committed herself to an almost daily reception of the Holy Eucharist, living with great simplicity and practiced fasting so often that she had to be reminded to take care of herself. Nonetheless, her faith sustained her throughout her life and missions, her contributions and efforts in rejuvenation of the faith and the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to imitate the good examples of St. Catherine of Siena in her faith and dedication to the Lord? Let us all put more of our trust in the Lord, and be more committed in our faith from now on, and appreciate this most wonderful gift He has given us in the Eucharist? By sharing in the Bread of Life, all of us will be strengthened in faith and in our lives, especially important in these days when things seem so bleak and hopeless all around us.

Let us all share our hope in the Lord, and share this joy of having the Bread of Life, the Christ with us, with one another. May the Lord be with us always and may He guide us through our journey, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 35-40

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me shall never be thirsty. Nevertheless, as I said, you refuse to believe, even when you have seen. Yet all those whom the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me, I shall not turn away. For I have come from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of the One Who sent Me.”

“And the will of Him Who sent Me is that I lose nothing of what He has given Me, but instead that I raise it up on the last day. This is the will of the Father, that whoever sees the Son and believes in Him shall live eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Wednesday, 29 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 65 : 1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a

Shout with joy to God, all you on earth; sing to the glory of His Name; proclaim His glorious praise. Say to God, “How great are Your deeds!”

All the earth bows down to You, making music, in praise of You, singing in honour of Your Name. Come, and see God’s wonders; His deeds, awesome for humans.

He has turned the sea into dry land, and the river was crossed on foot. Let us, therefore, rejoice in Him. He rules by His might forever.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 8 : 1b-8

This was the beginning of a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem. All, except the Apostles, were scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church. He entered house after house and dragged off men and women, and had them put in jail.

At the same time, those who were scattered went about, preaching the word. Philip went down to a town of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. All the people paid close attention to what Philip said as they listened to him, and saw the miraculous signs that he did. For, in cases of possession, the unclean spirits came out shrieking loudly. Many people who were paralysed or crippled, were healed. So there was great joy in the town.

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all of the frustrations as shown in the prayers uttered by the Apostles, St. Peter and St. John, who at that time had just healed the sickness of a crippled man and restored him to full health in the Name of the Lord, and yet, they were oppressed, persecuted and treated like criminals, by the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council who wanted to stop them from performing miracles and teaching in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

They voiced out their frustrations at the stubbornness of all those who refused to believe in God and in His truth, and constantly placed obstacles in the path of the disciples of the Lord. But they trusted in the Lord and believed that He would not abandon them to their enemies. They prayed that God would guide and protect them as they embarked on the challenging and dangerous mission that He has commanded them to do.

And God sent them all the Holy Spirit, Who descended on them and filled their hearts and minds with courage and strength, with the desire and conviction to carry out the mission which has been entrusted to them. And as compared to how they were prior to receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples had undergone a great transformation in action and in their way of life. Where they were once fearful, doubtful and easily shaken in their faith, they became courageous defenders of the Lord from then on.

And this is what the Lord Jesus actually meant in our Gospel passage today, when He discussed with Nicodemus the Pharisee, on the matter of being born again in the Spirit. Nicodemus was initially puzzled when the Lord mentioned that for him to be able to see and witness the kingdom of God, he must be born again in God. He thought that to be born again meant that one had to literally go back into his or her mother’s womb, which was not possible.

But the Lord clarified it for him, and through the examples of the Apostles, all of us have also received the truth about what being born again truly means for each and every one of us. It means that each and every one of us must go through that profound change in our lives, that is just so profound and complete, that one must seem to be unrecognisable and transformed by the change, so as to be ‘born again’.

And this happens when we allow the Lord to enter into us, and perform His work through us, by the bestowing of His Holy Spirit and His Real Presence in each and every one of us. The Apostles as we have heard earlier, prayed, and the Holy Spirit was given to the discipled who were gathered with them, so that despite all of the challenges and difficulties that they had to endure, they endured them nonetheless with great courage and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have also received the same gift of the Holy Spirit, and God Himself has entered into our lives, being present in us and with us. However, many among us have not been able to make use of these gifts God has given to us, and we remain aloof and indifferent to the calling and the mission which God has called us to do. This is because of our own inability to recognise God being present in us, and how we have shut ourselves from God and His love.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our own lives, on how we have lived our lives all these while. Are we able to be truly born again in faith, by embracing what the Lord has given to us all in our own respective lives? And this requires us all to be more faithful and to be more committed in our faith in God. And perhaps, we should learn from the experiences and the examples shown to us by our holy predecessors, especially St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast day we are celebrating today.

St. Catherine of Siena was a very renowned saint of the Church, who dedicated herself into a life of sanctity and devotion to God from early on in her life. She did these all despite the oppositions from her family and the many challenges she had to encounter throughout her life. Yet, her commitment to God, her sanctity and great wisdom, in her many writings and letters inspired many others to return to their faith in God.

She was in fact so influential that she even had a crucial role in the ending of the great Western Schism, when rival Popes came to power being elected by the opposing factions and groups in the Church. She exhorted the faithful and the Pope to put their faith and obedience to God’s will as the first and foremost focus in their choice of action. And therefore the Lord showed His wonderful works through this faithful saint, by which many were saved.

Let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of St. Catherine of Siena, holy woman and servant of God, and also the examples of the Apostles and the many other holy disciples of the Lord. Let us all renew our faith and commitment, just as the disciples and St. Catherine of Siena had done, and live up to the calling which God had called us to, to be good and devoted Christians, all those whom God has called to be His own. Amen.

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 1-8

At that time, among the Pharisees there was a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus. He came to Jesus by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God to teach us, for no one can perform miraculous signs like Yours unless God is with Him.”

Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again from above.” Nicodemus said, “How can there be rebirth for a grown man? Who could go back to his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you : No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

“Because of this, do not be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again from above.’ The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 2 : 1-3, 4-6, 7-9

Why do the nations conspire? Why do the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth brace themselves and the rulers together take their stand against the Lord and His Anointed. They say, “Let us break their bonds! Let us cast away their chains!”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord looks at them in derision. Then in anger He speaks to them, terrifying them in the fury of His wrath : “Behold the King I have installed, in Zion, upon My holy hill!”

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to Me : “You are My Son. This day I have begotten You. Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall rule them with iron sceptre and shatter them as a potter’s vase.”

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 4 : 23-31

As soon as Peter and John were set free, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices as one and called upon God, “Sovereign Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, of the sea and everything in them, You have put these words in the mouth of David, our father and Your servant, through the Holy Spirit : Why did the pagan nations rage and the people conspire in folly? The kings of the were aligned and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against His Messiah.”

“For indeed in this very city Herod with Pontius Pilate, and the pagans together with the people of Israel conspired against Your holy Servant Jesus, Whom You anointed. Thus, indeed, they brought about whatever Your powerful will had decided from all time would happen. But now, Lord, see their threats against us and enable Your servants to speak Your word with all boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and to work signs and wonders through the Name of Jesus Your holy Servant.”

When they had prayed, the place where they were gathered together shook, and they were all filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.

Saturday, 29 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we heard first of all, the institution of the office of the deacons in the Church, when in the days of the early Church, there was a great difficulty in ensuring that all the Christian families and the faithful received the distribution of goods equally, as manpower was needed to do the works. And therefore, the Apostles decided to ordain seven men filled with the Holy Spirit, and charge them with the responsibility over those works.

In the Gospel today, meanwhile, we heard about the disciples of the Lord who were crossing the Lake of Galilee when they encountered a vicious storm and saw Jesus walking on the lake towards them. The disciples were frightened because they thought that they were seeing a ghost, and they did not have faith in Him. But Jesus revealed Himself to them, and told them not to be afraid, for it was indeed Him Whom they saw.

In what we heard in these readings from the Scriptures, we saw how God is always with His people, with all of those who have given themselves to Him and committed themselves to His cause. And the seven deacons which had been appointed was filled with the Holy Spirit and full of the faith they themselves showed before the Lord and His people, by their pious actions and commitment, and foremost of all, through their readiness to even lay down their lives for the Lord.

That was what happened to St. Stephen, one of the seven deacons, and one of the first martyrs of the Faith and the Church. We surely are aware of what had happened to him, as recorded in the other parts of the Acts of the Apostles, when the opponents of the faithful contrived against him and plotted to bring about his downfall through the means of false accusations and trials.

But St. Stephen stood up against all the lies and the false accusations levelled on him, and he spoke up about the truth of God, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, revealing to all those who had wanted to arrest him, how God had loved His people and wanted to save all of them, telling them of His exploits throughout history, and how He had ever been faithful, even though His people had not been faithful. And St. Stephen spoke of Jesus our Lord, Whom they rejected, but Who had come to be the Saviour of the world.

In the end, St. Stephen met his end in martyrdom, but he died knowing that God was by his side, and he even forgave all of his enemies, asking that God should not punish them for all that they had done against this faithful servant of God. This is the faith which he had shown through not just his beliefs, but also through his own actions. And all of us should emulate him and the other holy saints of the Lord, all of whom should become our inspiration in living out a genuine, Christian life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of the famous holy woman, the saint of the city of Siena, namely St. Catherine of Siena, one of the great Doctors of the Church, and a truly inspiring persona during her time, and even for long after her passing until this very day. St. Catherine of Siena was a very pious philosopher and theologian, who was known for a very great devotion to the Lord. She experienced visions from the Lord, which she related to others through her numerous writings.

Through her piety and faith in the Lord, she inspired many others to follow in her footsteps and walk in the way of the faith. She had even reconciled many factions and groups in conflict in the society and the community around her, by being intermediary and negotiator for both sides of the groups in dispute. She also took part in the resolution of conflicts and troubles in the community, as well as in the Church, which at that time was filled with conflict and human ambitions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians all of us are called to devote ourselves completely to the Lord, and to commit ourselves to the good works He had started among us. And many of us have different talents and abilities, which we can give for the sake of God and His people. Let us all devote ourselves and our time, our effort and everything that we can do, for the betterment of one another, and for the greater glory of God, following in the footsteps of the holy deacons and Apostles, and also of St. Catherine of Siena, our role models in faith. Amen.

Saturday, 29 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 6 : 16-21

At that time, when evening came, the disciples went down to the shore. After a while they got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the sea, for it was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to them. But the sea was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing.

They had rowed about three or four miles, when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and He was drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but He said to them, “It is I! Do not be afraid!” They wanted to take Him into the boat, but immediately the boat was at the shore to which they were going.