Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us heard of the Lord’s assurance of a New Covenant that He had made with us all, His beloved people in our first reading today, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews presented the Lord Jesus as the Mediator of the New and Everlasting Covenant replacing the old Covenant between God and His people Israel.

The old Covenant, the old laws and ways, the practices of the past linked to that older pact no longer applied to anyone, after the Lord had revealed and sealed that New Covenant. The New Covenant was sealed by the loving sacrifice of Christ Himself, the Eternal High Priest on the Cross, as He laid His life bare on the Cross, as the Lamb to be sacrificed, the Lamb of God and the Paschal Lamb, by Whose Blood we have been saved.

Through this New Covenant, God had made full His promises to us, His promise to love us all and show His compassion to the very end. Each and every one of us have a share in this love, and the Lord had offered Himself as our High Priest before His heavenly Father, for the atonement and the forgiveness of all of our sins. His suffering and death were meant for us, and all of us have been called to partake in this New Covenant He had made with us.

God had revealed the fullness of His laws, all of His truth to His people as part of this Covenant, as He also sent us all the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth, which He has revealed and passed down to us through His Church, by the sending of His Apostles to be the ones leading the charge in spreading His Good News and the truth He has revealed to us. In the calling of the Apostles, God has also called us all to follow in their footsteps, that we should also serve Him as those whom God had called had done earlier.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Apostles were sent before the Lord to places to preach and to reveal His truth, and they were also given the power to heal and to cast out demons, doing the many good works of God. Their work did not stop with the death and resurrection of Our Lord, but in fact, guided by the Holy Spirit and the commission that God entrusted to them, they went forth to the many peoples of many nations, spreading the Word of God and calling many people to be a disciple and follower too.

They helped to build the Church and were truly its important foundation, and now, all of us who are members of the Church and belonging among Christ’s faithful ones, we have been entrusted with the same responsibility, as part of the Covenant that God has established with us, and which we have received generously through baptism. And therefore we are all called to live up to the Lord’s call, follow Him and dedicate ourselves to Him.

Today, we should reflect on the life and works of St. Vincent, holy Deacon and Martyr, whose examples can be great inspiration on how we can follow the Lord wholeheartedly in each and every moments of our lives. St. Vincent was also known as St. Vincent of Saragossa, one of the Deacons of Saragossa in Spain, the modern day Zaragoza, serving the bishop and local Christian community, occupying a very important position in the Church.

At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian carried out intense persecution against Christians, which caused many martyrs to emerge, and St. Vincent was one of these martyrs. St. Vincent was arrested together with his bishop and was threatened with great torture and suffering, unless he would burn the Sacred Scriptures and publicly repudiate his Christian faith.

St. Vincent spoke fervently and courageously against this and refused any further attempts to turn him and the other Christians away from the Lord in order to save their own lives. And the way St. Vincent spoke, with great courage and wisdom, without fear and anxiety greatly angered his persecutors so much so that he was tortured terribly and martyred by being grilled on a gridiron, which he was to be renowned for. But even in suffering, he remained resolute, firm and calm in adhering to his faith, which touched even his jailer, who became a convert afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the martyrdom of St. Vincent, all of us are shown what it means to be a Christian. As Christians, we need to put God above all else, and foremost before anything else. And our lives must be centred and focused on Him. We should love Him more than anything else, and through our words and actions, we should commit ourselves to Him and not to allow our actions or words to scandalise our faith.

Let us all be true disciples of the Lord from now on, and let us all commit more and more time, effort and attention so that we may be ever closer to God and be ever more worthy of Him, that God will bless us and bring us all into the everlasting inheritance He has prepared for each one of us. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted and they came to Him. He appointed twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘Apostles’. He wanted to send them out to preach, and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 84 : 8 and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Show us, o Lord, Your unfailing love and grant us Your saving help. Yet Your salvation is near to those who fear You, and Your Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Hebrews 8 : 6-13

Now, however, Jesus enjoys a much higher ministry in being the Mediator of a better covenant, founded on better promises. If all had been perfect in the first covenant, there would have been no need for another one. Yet God sees defects when He says : The days are coming – it is the word of the Lord – when I will draw up a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. They did not keep My covenant, and so I Myself have forsaken them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel in the days to come : I will put My law into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be My people.

None of them will have to teach one another or say to each other : Know the Lord, for they will know Me from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and no longer remember their wrongs. Here we are being told of a new covenant; which means that the first one had become obsolete, and what is obsolete and ageing is soon to disappear.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scripture passages we are all reminded of the need for us to put our trust in God and allow Him to lead and guide us through to the right path. We have to do what is right according to God’s will even when at times we will face great opposition and challenges which will make us feel very discouraged at times because we are likely going to face daunting pressures and trials.

This is where we should look at what we have just heard today, from our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel as we continued from the discourse on the works of the prophet Samuel who had anointed David to be the new king of Israel. David was then still in his youth and not physically imposing in stature, and today he went face to face against his great enemy, the renowned Philistine giant and champion, Goliath.

The story of David and Goliath is one of the most well-known stories from the Scriptures as we all know how David beat Goliath despite him being so much smaller and weaker physically compared to the giant champion of the Philistines. David was not even wearing an armour unlike his heavily armoured opponent, and was armed with nothing more than a sling and some stones. David was even laughed at by the king and his advisors when he stood up and said that he wanted to fight Goliath when no one else dared to do so.

David trusted God completely and allowed him to be the instrument through which God worked among His people. When Goliath spouted much blasphemy against God, David allowed God to make use of his sling to strike at the giant, and God guided David in all that he do, such that David was able to defeat Goliath even though no one would have expected him to do so at all. David allowed God to guide him through later as well, when he became the king of Israel.

In our Gospel reading then, we heard of another Man Who had to face tremendous pressure and opposition, none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, Who had to go up against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, very influential and powerful group of people at that time, as they were highly educated and were considered among the elites of the people. And the Lord Jesus was hated and often harassed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law throughout His ministry.

A particular thorny issue that came up between them was on the matter of the law of the Sabbath, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law applied a very strict interpretation of the Sabbath law saying that on the day God had made holy, no one could do anything at all as written in the Law. But the Lord Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, chiding them for failing to understand the true intent and purpose of the Sabbath laws.

The Sabbath was meant for God’s people to refocus their attention to God and to remind them in their daily, busy schedules that God was still central and should be the focus in their lives, and that was why one day was set aside out of the seven days of the week for the purpose of rest and for the time to be spent with God. Instead, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law zoomed in on the technicalities and legalities of the regulations rather than the meaning and purpose of the Sabbath.

And this was done even to the point of condemning good acts and deeds done for the greater glory of God on the Sabbath day when Scriptural and historical evidences clearly had shown the Law has not always been interpreted in the manner the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law interpreted it. And the Lord Jesus went against them nonetheless, healing the man who had been paralysed on the hand, showing God’s love and mercy to him.

All of these are reminders for us that as Christians, that means as all those who believe in Christ as Our Lord and Saviour, and as those who trust in God and love Him, we will likely encounter challenges and trials along the way. Our lives will not be easy and smooth if we want to continue living faithfully according to God’s will. But we must not give up or abandon our faith because of that. Let us instead take note and be inspired by the courage and faith showed by David as he went up against Goliath, and what the Lord Jesus had done in obedience to the will of His heavenly Father.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Vincent the Deacon, a renowned martyr of the faith. St. Vincent, like many other saints and martyrs, had to endure much suffering and trials for the sake of his faith in God and for his ministry in God’s Church. He was also known as St. Vincent of Saragossa, for his dwelling and ministry in his native area now known as Zaragoza in northeastern part of Spain.

At that time, Christians went through a particularly difficult time of persecution by the infamous Roman Emperor Diocletian who ordered all Christians to abandon their faith or else suffer and lose their lives. St. Vincent, as a devoted servant of God and deacon of the Church was also arrested and forced to abandon his faith, and it was told that he would be allowed to go free if only he would burn the Scriptures he had with him and reject the faith publicly.

Like David who stood up against Goliath and trusted completely in the Lord, St. Vincent courageously refused to abandon his faith and chose instead to suffer and die a martyr’s death. His defence of his faith was so vigorous and passionate that it made those who persecuted him and the other Christians to torture him even more, but the holy servant of God welcomed death in his unyielding faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now that we have heard all of these inspiring stories from the Scriptures and from the history of our predecessors in faith, we are then challenged to live our lives faithfully in the same manner as what we have heard just now. Are we able to love God and to be faithful at all times, in every moments and in every parts of our lives? Are we able to give ourselves to God and to trust Him completely as we should?

Let us all contemplate on these and think how we can be better disciples of the Lord from now on. May the Lord continue to guide us and show the path going forward. May God bless us all in everything we do and protect us and deliver us from our trials, as how He once guided David and St. Vincent the Deacon, His holy servants. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 1-6

At that time, again, Jesus entered the synagogue. A man, who had a paralysed hand, was there; and some people watched Jesus : would He heal the man on the Sabbath? If He did, they could accuse Him.”

Jesus said to the man with the paralysed hand, “Stand here, in the centre.” Then He asked them, “What does the Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” But they were silent. Then Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness at their hardness of heart. And He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”

He stretched it out, and his hand was healed. As soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 143 : 1, 2, 9-10

Blessed be YHVH, my Rock, Who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.

My loving God, my Fortress; my Protector and Deliverer, my Shield; Where I take refuge; Who conquers nations and subjects them to my rule.

I will sing a new song to You, o God; I will make music on the ten-stringed harp, for You, Who give victory to kings and deliver David, Your servant.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

1 Samuel 17 : 32-33, 37, 40-51

David said to Saul, “Let no one be discouraged on account of this Philistine, for your servant will engage him in battle.” Saul told David, “You cannot fight with this Philistine for you are still young, whereas this man has been a warrior from his youth.”

David continued, “YHVH, Who delivered me from the paws of lions and bears, will deliver me from the hands of the Philistine.” Saul then told David, “Go, and may YHVH be with you!”

David took his staff, picked up five smooth stones from the brook and dropped them inside his shepherd’s bag. And with his sling in hand, he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine moved forward, closing in on David, his shield-bearer in front of him. When he saw that David was only a lad, (he was of fresh complexion and handsome) he despised him and said, “Am I a dog that you should approach me with a stick?”

Cursing David by his gods, he continued, “Come, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field!” David answered the Philistine, “You have come against me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come against you with YHVH, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. YHVH will deliver you this day into my hands and I will strike you down and cut off your head.”

“I will give the corpses of the Philistine army today to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, and all the earth shall know that there is a God of Israel. All the people gathered here shall know that YHVH saves not by sword or spear; the battle belongs to YHVH, and He will deliver you into our hands.”

No sooner had the Philistine moved to attack him, than David rushed to the battleground. Putting his hand into his bag, he took out a stone, slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead; it penetrated his forehead and he fell on his face to the ground. David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, felling him without using a sword.

He rushed forward, stood over him, took the Philistine’s sword and slew him by cutting off his head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they scattered in all directions.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, telling us the continuation of the story of king David of Israel, how he ascended the throne of Israel after the death of king Saul, his predecessor. Interestingly, what we heard in the Gospel passage today is truly linked to what the story of king David could tell us. In the Gospel passage, the Pharisees slandered and claimed that Jesus performed His miracles by the power of Beelzebul.

At the time mentioned in our first reading today, king Saul had perished in the fight against the Philistines at a place named Mount Gilboa. Meanwhile, the supporters of David raised him up to be the king of Israel, but his authority was only acknowledged in Judah, David’s ancestral tribe and homeland. The other tribes of Israel recognised only the family of Saul as the heir of the fallen king, and thus placed Ishbaal, Saul’s son on the throne.

And thus, a terrible civil war arose between David and Ishbaal for a few years, and many of the Israelites perished during that conflict. Some of the most sorrowful tragedies that happened in Israel occurred during that civil war, as murders and assassinations, trickery and betrayal ended up causing much negative emotions running among the people, including between David and his closest advisors.

It was only after the assassination of Ishbaal by one of his own servants, that the civil war was ended, and peace was once again restored to the kingdom of Israel and to its people. Then, as we heard in today’s passage, all the tribes of Israel finally accepted David as their lord and king, and they ended their dispute with him. Yet, later on, after the reign of David and Solomon, the kingdom would once again be torn asunder into two, into the kingdom of Judah, and the other ten tribes of Israel forming a rebel northern kingdom.

As we can see from that historical example, a civil war is truly a bitter time for everyone involved, and for most of the time when civil war has occurred, they have not led the country or the state into a better condition. Bitter divisions and rivalries often continued even long after the conflict has been resolved. Sometimes not all the issues had been settled, and another bitter civil war might just break out again over a mere small spark, as how it had indeed happened throughout history.

That is why, the words of Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel passage we heard today truly ring true to us, as He rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who wrongly accused Him of working with the devil Beelzebul and using the demon’s power to perform His miracles. He said that a kingdom or nation that is divided among itself, would not be able to survive, as it would surely collapse and fail.

And what the Pharisees had accused Jesus with, was indeed totally wrong, and Jesus was truly very angry at them, not only because they have slandered Him and accused Him wrongly, but clearly they knew, among all the people, being well educated and well versed in the Law and the Scriptures, that there was no one else who could have performed all those miraculous deeds but God alone.

That was exactly what the Lord Jesus meant, when He said that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law have slandered against the Holy Spirit. What does it mean by slandering against the Holy Spirit? It means that someone voluntarily knows about the works of God, and yet, actively and voluntarily denies that the works of God are genuine and real, just as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had been doing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, learning from the historical examples and all that Our Lord has taught us, we should come to realise that it was not Satan and his kingdom that was divided, but instead, it is us mankind, the people of God, who have been divided. The Church itself had been divided and splintered, by those who refused to believe in God’s truth, and as a result, inflicted great pains on the body of the faithful people of God.

That is why, as we happen to be in the midst of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, let us all pray with sincerity and true zeal, for the Lord to bring all of His beloved people together, that everyone who profess to believe in Him will be united once again in the one Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Let us pray that all those who have fallen into heresies and followed the erroneous teachings of man, will repent and return to the loving embrace of the Holy Mother Church, the one and only Catholic Church.

Today we also remember the memory of St. Vincent, a holy deacon and martyr of the faith, who was remembered as an ardent servant of the Lord and a hardworking disciple of Christ, who ministered to the people of the place now known as Zaragoza in Spain, during the time of the great persecutions of Christian under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Vincent was arrested eventually by the authorities, and he was offered safe passage and forgiveness by the government, if he would abandon his faith and burn the Scriptures to show his rejection of the Lord. St. Vincent refused to do so, and he remained resolute in his faith and commitment to the Lord. He stood up for his faith and he preached the truth with such eloquence and passion, that those who heard him were inflamed with anger, and put him to death in holy martyrdom.

May the Lord be with all of us, that each and every one of us as Christians will be able to embrace each other as brothers and sisters, children of the same God, Our Lord, Master and Saviour. May each and every one of us follow in the footsteps of the courageous faith of our predecessor, St. Vincent the deacon and martyr. May God bless us all and bless our Church. Amen.

Monday, 22 January 2018 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 22-30

At that time, the teachers of the Law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is the power of Beelzebul : the chief of the demons helps Him to drive out demons.”

Jesus called them to Him, and began teaching them by means of stories, or parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive. In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished.”

“No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He carries the guilt of his sin forever.”

This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in Him.”