Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, we heard of the ‘farewells’ made by two different people, both following the will of God, in fulfilling their part in their calling and ministry, as both were going on to encounter great sufferings and persecutions, which eventually would lead to their respective deaths. Today we heard of the story of St. Paul who was in Ephesus just before he was to depart for Jerusalem to confront his final ministry, and we also heard about the prayer of the Lord Jesus for His disciples which He made during His last moments before He embarked on His Passion.

In our first reading today, St. Paul met with the elders and leaders of the community of the faithful in Ephesus, as he was on his way back from his extensive missionary journey towards Jerusalem, the early centre of Christendom and the capital of the Jewish people at the time. At that time, St. Paul already had received revelation from God that his journey to Jerusalem this time would be his very last one before he was to be tried for his alleged crimes and sent to Rome to appeal to the Emperor, and he would not have the chance to see the elders and the community in Ephesus again.

For someone so dedicated to the cause of the faith, filled with so much enthusiasm in preaching the Good News like that, it must have been difficult for St. Paul to say farewell to all the people, some of whom must have been known to St. Paul for many years during his almost three decades of missionary works, in which he passed through Ephesus quite a number of times. We must not forget that St. Paul also wrote Epistles or letters to the Church in Ephesus, showing that the Church there must have been close to his heart.

But St. Paul was greatly encouraged knowing and believing that God would be with all of them and ensure the continued growth of the Church there even long after he had gone and departed from this world. St. Paul therefore also prayed over the elders and the community of the faithful, praying that God would continue to guide them and remain with them through their good and bad times. And St. Paul also uttered the words to the elders in Ephesus as what he also uttered in another occasion to St. Timothy, for which he is now famous, that, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.’

Our first reading today, as well as even our Gospel today can basically be summarised by that phrase. Both St. Paul and the Lord Jesus had done wonderful works among the people, making countless people to believe in God through them, performed miracles and wonders, and brought God’s truth and salvation closer to many. And that they were both coming to the end of their earthly journey and ministry, both of them thanked God for having been with them throughout, as St. Paul thanked and praised God for His constant guidance, and the Lord Jesus also thanked His heavenly Father for the same.

And most importantly, is that both of them accepted their roles in the works of salvation and what would happen to them as God has revealed to them. St. Paul accepted his eventual martyrdom for the sake of his faith, and willingly went on to Jerusalem to accept the punishment from the Jewish authorities, for which accusations he decided to claim the right for appeal to the Emperor which led him to go to Rome, to be martyred but also with the opportunity to preach and work among the community in Rome. In the same way, the Lord Jesus also accepted the role that He had to suffer and die on the Cross for the salvation of all.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what do all these then show us? It is that as Christ’s followers and disciples, all of us must be ready to detach ourselves from worldly desires and concerns, from the attachments to worldly matters and all the things that prevent us from being able to fully give ourselves to the service and the greater glory of God. Too often we have allowed ourselves be swayed and tempted by all these worldly matters and concerns that we have ended up down the wrong path.

St. Paul could have evaded issues, troubles and sufferings by staying in Ephesus or at other places he was welcomed or having friends in, but he chose to face his challenges, departing for Jerusalem where he knew all his enemies were gathered to give witness to his faith and to proclaim the Lord to more people especially in Rome, to where God had sent him to evangelise. In the same way, the Lord Jesus could also easily have evaded His arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion, but He chose to obey the will of His Father, and devoted Himself to His Passion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what we also have to take note of, that we have to be ready to follow the Lord, to listen to Him and to trust in Him rather than to be distracted, tempted, and pulled down by various worldly desires and concerns. We have to keep our focus clear, to trust in the Lord and the path He has set before, and do our best through whatever He has given us to contribute to the greater good of the Church and for God’s greater glory.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Neri, one of the very famous saints of the Church, famously known as the Second Apostle of Rome who was remembered for his extensive works in establishing important congregations and religious orders, especially the Confraternity of the Holy Trinity and Congregation of the Oratory. St. Philip Neri himself was born into a noble and wealthy family, but he chose to abandon everything after God had called him into a life dedicated to His service.

St. Philip Neri was remembered for his great labours among the poor and the sick in the city of Rome, ministering to even prostitutes and others normally shunned by the rest of the community. All of his hard work and efforts are what made him to be called the ‘Second Apostle of Rome’ as mentioned earlier, following in the footsteps of both St. Peter and St. Paul, who went to Rome, ministered there and were eventually martyred for their faith. St. Philip Neri dedicated himself to the congregations he founded, and was remembered for his intense personal piety.

All of these inspired many others to follow his good examples, and many joined his congregations which grew rapidly and played important roles in the rejuvenation of the faith among the faithful, especially those who have lapsed from their faith. The examples of St. Philip Neri should inspire us all to follow his examples, and to live our lives from now on, following what God has called us to do, and follow Him with zeal and commitment, and with the desire to love Him more and to serve Him faithfully.

Are we willing and able to entrust ourselves to the Lord, and be ever more devoted to Him as our holy predecessors had done? We do not have to abandon the world as what St. Philip Neri had done, or to follow St. Paul into his sufferings and persecutions. Rather, what we are called to do is for us to live our lives as good and devout Christians that in everything we do in our respective areas, in whatever calling and vocations we have been called to, in our families and in our communities, we will always focus our attention on God, and that we do everything for the sake of God and following whatever He has shown and taught us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all live an ever more genuine Christian living from now on, and let us dedicate more of our time, effort and attention to walk in the path of Christ, following the inspiring examples of our Lord Himself, of St. Paul the Apostle, St. Philip Neri and many other holy saints and martyrs of God. May God be with us always throughout this journey of faith in life, and may He strengthen us all that we may follow Him wholeheartedly. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 17 : 1-11a

At that time, after Jesus said all that He had said to His disciples, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to Your Son, that the Son may give glory to You. You have given Him power over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to all those You entrusted to Him. For this is eternal life : to know You, the only true God, and the One You sent, Jesus Christ.”

“I have glorified You on earth and finished the work that You gave Me to do. Now, Father, give Me, in Your presence, the same glory I had with You before the world began. I have made Your Name known to those You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they kept Your word. And now they know that whatever You entrusted to Me, is indeed from You.”

“I have given them the teaching I received from You, and they received it, and know in truth that I came from You; and they believe that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those who belong to You, and whom You have given to Me. Indeed all I have is Yours and all You have is Mine; and now they are My glory.”

“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I come to You.”

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 67 : 10-11, 20-21

Then You gave a rain of blessings to comfort Your weary children. Your people found a dwelling and in Your mercy, o God, You provided for the needy.

Blessed be the Lord, God our Saviour, Who daily bears our burdens! Ours is a God Who saves; our Lord lets us escape from death.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 20 : 17-27

From Miletus Paul sent word to Ephesus, summoning the elders of the Church. When they came to him, he addressed them, “You know how I lived among you from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, how I served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that the Jews caused me.”

“You know that I never held back from doing anything that could be useful for you; I spoke publicly and in your homes, and I urged Jews and non-Jews alike to turn to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.”

“But now I am going to Jerusalem, chained by the Spirit, without knowing what will happen to me there. Yet in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that imprisonment and troubles await me. Indeed I put no value on my life, if only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, to announce the Good News of God’s grace.”

“I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom of God will ever see me again. Therefore I declare to you this day that my conscience is clear with regard to all of you. For I have spared no effort in fully declaring to you God’s will.”

Saturday, 26 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, telling us about the importance for us as Christians, to care for one another, our fellow faithful, our brothers and sisters in the same Lord. St. James told us this, in the Epistle he wrote, that we should pray, pray for our sake and pray for each other.

A good and devout Christian will pray, and pray in order to communicate with the Lord, Our God, the source of our strength, hope and power. And through prayer, we show our concern towards one another, and then, we put ourselves into action, to help lead and guide one another, that each and every one of us are responsible for the well-being of one another in faith.

And this means that, we should not be quick to judge or to cast our brothers or sisters out, just because we think that they were not as faithful as we are, or that they are not doing things the way we want it to be. In the Gospel passage today, we saw how the Lord Jesus rebuked His disciples because they tried to prevent children from coming towards Him. He was angry at them because they tried to impose what they thought was right over others.

And we have to understand this in the context of their actions towards one another. The disciples were often arguing and bickering among themselves on who among them, will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But in doing so, they are trying to undermine each other, and exclude others from God’s grace and love. St. James and St. John went with their mother to the Lord, asking Him to grant them special favours over that of the other disciples.

But the Lord showed them that it is not the way that He wants from each one of His followers and disciples. Rather, He showed that the Church must be welcoming, especially to little children who want to come to the Lord and know Him. This is important because, those children are still innocent, and are willing to know the Lord with genuine intention and faith.

If we prevent them from reaching out to the Lord, then we have committed a great sin, for we have caused their souls to be lost to Him. And then, if we, through our actions have caused them to fall into sin, because we ourselves have not been faithful and committed what is wicked and sinful before God, then we will also be held accountable for the souls of these little children, as well as anyone else that we have misled into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Neri, a famous holy man and devout servant of God, who was an Italian priest remembered for his great dedication to the Lord, for his missionary work and outreach to many of the faithful, calling many people to repent from their sins and follow the Lord. As a result, many people followed the Lord and turn away from their sins. He has done the Church and the people of God a great service.

Now, each and every one of us as Christians should follow the examples of St. Philip Neri and live in the way that he has lived his life, and in how he has served the people of God. Let us all devote ourselves anew to God, and be exemplary in our lives, by truly living them with faith, through genuine actions, by loving one another and by our guidance towards one another in faith. We hope that through all these, we may help to guide each other, to remain true to our Christian faith, and welcome all those who seek the Lord, especially those who desire His love, like those little children who come to Him.

May the Lord be with each and every one of us, and may He continue to strengthen us in faith, that we will grow to love Him more and more, with each and every passing day of our lives. Amen.

Saturday, 26 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 10 : 13-16

At that time, people were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, and the disciples rebuked them for this. When Jesus noticed it, He was very angry and said, “Let the children come to Me and do not stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Then He took the children in His arms and, laying His hands on them, blessed them.

Saturday, 26 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 140 : 1-2, 3 and 8

Lord, I call on You, hasten to help me! Listen to my plea when I call to You. Let my prayer rise to You, like incense; as I lift up my hands, as in an evening sacrifice.

O YHVH, set a guard at my mouth; keep watch at the gate of my lips. But my eyes are turned to You, o God, my YHVH; strip me not of life, for You are my refuge.