Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the commitment, the hard work, efforts and the challenges that we all may face in the process of us walking faithfully in God’s path as Christians, as those who have chosen to listen the Lord’s call and follow Him. Each and every one of us are reminded that being Christians do not mean that we can be idle or ignorant of our calling in life, the mission that we have in our lives and works, in our everyday living that God has entrusted to us. All of us must be active in living our faith through our actions and works in life, and we cannot be idle and remain aloof of what the Lord has told and taught us to do, in obeying His Law and commandments, and to be role models and inspirations for others.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews that the faithful people of God have to undergo hardships, challenges and trials in the midst of their lives and daily actions. They may have to encounter a lot of tribulations and obstacles as they continue to progress through life and as they encounter others. Yet, they must not allow themselves to be swayed by fear or insecurities, and they should not stop being faithful simply because they were afraid of being rejected and cast aside by the world, or by their communities, and even by their own families and friends. In the past, all these had happened to the faithful people of God throughout history, how the Church and many Christians were persecuted for their faith, and many were martyred for their continued obedience to God.

Yet all that did not dampen the passion and desire of many among the faithful in following God and devoting themselves to Him. They endured a lot of hardships, opposition to their faith and way of life. Many of them remained firm in their commitment to God and chose to suffer and even die rather than to abandon their faith and betray the Lord. Some among them faltered and gave up their faith because of the intense persecutions, and yet even some among those returned back to the faith and were martyred afterwards as well. The Lord has shown them His love and guidance, gave them all His strength and providence, not letting their enemies to have their ways with them. Although they might have to suffer and endure many hardships, but they knew that the Lord was with them and they remained steadfast henceforth in refusing the pressures and demands from the world.

They helped and supported each other in times of distress and persecution, with many risking their lives in order to help and support their fellow Christian brethren. This happened to both the ordained and the laity alike, as we may remember many tales and stories of how many great Popes, bishops and priests dedicated their lives to serve their flock, the people of God entrusted to them, and how they were persecuted and martyred for their faith, and their dedication and courage to the very end became great source of inspiration to other fellow Christians throughout history. Many among the laity themselves were also doing the same thing, risking their lives and placing a lot of effort and good works in contributing to the good works and missions of the Church. Their dedication and great examples were also great sources of inspiration themselves.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples using a parable regarding the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. He was teaching to them and revealing to them how the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven is really like. He compared the Kingdom to a man scattering seeds upon the soil and allowing them to grow well, nurturing them and taking care of them well, and also brought up the example of the mustard seed, which was a truly very small seed barely visible to our eyes, and yet, once grown, the mustard tree is among the largest garden trees around, a truly magnificent and huge increase in size and scale as compared to the humble seed that it was growing from. Through these examples, the Lord wanted each and every one of His disciples and followers to understand what we all need to do to be His disciples in this world.

Linking to what we have discussed through the first reading today, the persecutions and hardships that the faithful are expected to encounter in their lives are just like the challenges faced by farmers in growing their seeds and crops. There are a lot of challenges faced by the growing plant as they germinate and then grow into adult, mature and healthy plants. There are important conditions that the seeds and then later the young plant require in order for them to grow, such as adequate sunlight, availability of water and nutrients, the right temperature and other conditions. By using the parable, the Lord was actually linking to the examples that many among His disciples would be familiar with, as many among them would have been either directly or indirectly connected to the world of agriculture in their daily lives.

Like those seeds and plants, our faith in the Lord need specific conditions in order to grow well, and at the same time, we are likely going to encounter challenges and difficulties as well. But if we continue to be patient and continue to nurture our faith in the Lord, building up our relationship with Him and getting closer to Him, then surely we will grow ever more in faith and we will become ever more faithful and dedicated as Christians. Persevering in faith and enduring many hardships and challenges are never easy, but as long as we remain firm in our faith, and as long as we do our best to follow the Lord and His path, and encourage one another to remain firm in faith, then surely the path forward for us will be clear and straight towards God and His grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we can also follow the examples of our holy predecessor, namely St. Angela Merici, a great saint and holy woman of God, whose life and dedication to God can become a great source of inspiration for us. She was renowned for her great faith and dedication to God, as well as great piety and holy life, having devoted herself thoroughly to God and committing herself to a life of prayer and service to the Lord and His people. She founded the Company of St. Ursula and eventually many young women joined her ideals in developing a thorough Catholic and good education for young girls in particular, reaching out to the many out there who were less privileged and lacking access to basic rights and education among other things.

May the Lord continue to guide us that we may persevere faithfully in our faith, and may He empower each one of us to live ever more worthily of Him in our every moments and in every days of our life. May He bless our every good works and efforts, and may He grant us His grace in all things, in all that we do and act at every moment. Amen.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Mark 4 : 26-34

At that time, Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this : a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself : first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting : the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.”

Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to His disciples He explained everything.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 36 : 3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40

Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and live on it. Make the Lord your delight, and He will grant your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord; put your trust in Him and let Him act. Then will Your revenge come, beautiful as the dawn, and the justification of your cause, bright as the noonday sun.

The Lord is the One Who makes people stand, He gives firmness to those He likes. They may stumble, but they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

The Lord is the Salvation of the righteous; in time of distress, He is their refuge. The Lord helps them, and rescues them from the oppressor; He saves them for they sought shelter in Him.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Hebrews 10 : 32-39

Remember the first days when you were enlightened. You had to undergo a hard struggle in the face of suffering. Publicly you were exposed to humiliations and trials, and had to share the sufferings of others who were similarly treated.

You showed solidarity with those in prison; you were dispossessed of your goods and accepted it gladly for you knew you were acquiring a much better and more durable possession. Do not now throw away your confidence that will be handsomely rewarded.

Be patient in doing the will of God, and the promise will be yours : A little, a little longer – says Scripture – and He Who is coming will come; He will not delay. My righteous one will live if he believes: but if he distrusts, I will no longer look kindly on him. We are not among those who withdraw and perish, but among those who believe and win personal salvation.

Friday, 20 January 2023 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (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 Scriptures, all of us are reminded that we have been called as the disciples and followers of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to help and be part of His mission and work, in leading more and more of the people of God back towards Him, just as He has called on those whom He called the Apostles, and entrusted to them specific missions and ministries, as well as to others whom had been tasked with the evangelisation of the true faith. Each and every one of us are part of this great ministry of the Church, as members of the same Body of Christ, the flock of God’s faithful and as partakers of the same Covenant that God has established anew for the sake of us all, His beloved ones. We are therefore reminded of what we are to do as part of this Covenant with God.

In our first reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard from the author of that Epistle of the role which the Lord Jesus, Our Saviour has as the Mediator of the New Covenant between God and us. This follows after the past few days of readings in which the same author highlighted the role that Christ had in being our High Priest in offering Himself as the Paschal Lamb, the sacrificial Victim on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins. It was through this offering of the perfect and most loving gift of the Lamb of God, slain and sacrificed for us, that each one of us have received pardon from our sins, and have received a new hope through the Lord Himself, and also having this New Covenant being established between us and God, our most loving Father and Creator.

In the past, Covenant was made by a formal pact between both parties, and sealed by the sacrifice and offering to a deity, and in this case, God Himself was one of the parties, in the example of the Covenant made between God and Abraham, the father of nations and the Israelites. The same Covenant was renewed between God and His people at Mount Sinai, as Moses acted as the intermediary between God and the people of Israel, placing sacrificial offerings offered to God and also the blood of the lamb being slain was sprinkled on the entire people as a mark of the sealing and confirmation of that Covenant. Then the same had also happened as the Lord Jesus became a Mediator of the New Covenant between God and His people.

That is because He acted as the same intermediary, as the Mediator between His heavenly Father, and all of the people of God, mankind in this world, past, present and future. We have been sundered and separated from God due to our disobedience and sins, and unfortunately because of that, we could not have returned to the Lord our God, as there is no place for us in His Presence as long as we have been tainted and corrupted by sin. Yet, by His ever enduring love and desire to be reconciled with us, He has provided us with the sure path to deliverance through none other than His Son, Who as our High Priest and Mediator, chose to offer Himself, His own Most Precious Body and Blood to be broken and poured out for us.

Thus, on the Altar of His Cross, Jesus our Lord has made anew the Covenant between God and mankind, and by His Most Precious Blood outpoured upon us, He has marked us all as those whom He had chosen and called to be saved. He gave us this grace and gift through baptism, and then which we affirm further through the gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, as we partake in those very Precious Body and Blood of the Lord. During each time we partake of the Most Holy Eucharist, we are reminded of this same Covenant that the Lord Himself has established and renewed for us by His suffering and death on the Cross. We are truly blessed that the Lord Himself has willingly took upon Himself to reach out to us in this way, and to show us His love in the most amazing and tangible way possible.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the Lord calling and appointing His Apostles, the chief twelve among all of His disciples and followers. They were meant to be the leaders of the Lord’s followers, and together with the other disciples and followers, they were to do the will of God, and carry out whatever mission that the Lord has entrusted to them. Later on, after the Lord has already risen from the dead and then ascended into Heaven, it was the Apostles, leading the other disciples and followers of God, that established the foundations of the Church and carried out extensive and intensive works of evangelisation throughout the world. That same work is still being carried out today to even more places and touching more peoples, as the Church had done for the past two millennia and more.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these words from the Sacred Scriptures today, let us all ponder upon what it means for us to be in Covenant with God. A Covenant is a solemn and formal pact between two parties, and in this case it is between God Himself and each and every one of us. God has always shown us just how faithful He has been to us, in remembering us, caring for us, in His constant reminders for us, and in His care for us, that He reached out even the last and the lost and the least among us. Through Christ, He has shown us His ever enduring love, and fulfils His own words, that there is no greater love than for one to lay down one’s life for a friend, and He laid down His own life for us, suffering for us most grievously so that we may not perish, but have eternal life.

Hence, each and every one of us are expected to do our part in this Covenant as well. We are part of God’s same Church and flock, and we ought to carry out the missions and the many opportunities that God had granted to us in proclaiming His truth and love in this world. What are we going to do about it, brothers and sisters? Are we going to remain idle and refusing to embrace the missions and opportunities provided to us, or are we going to listen to His call and promptings, and finally commit ourselves to the path that He has shown us? Let us all consider carefully our choices and paths in life, and do whatever we can in order to live our lives more faithfully as the ones who call ourselves as Christians, as members of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Today we commemorate the feast of Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian, two great saints and martyrs whose lives hopefully can strengthen and encourage us as well in how we live our lives with faith. Pope St. Fabian lived at the time of great difficulty and challenges for the Church, at the height of persecutions against Christians. Similarly, St. Sebastian was a Roman soldier who lived during the harshest time to be a Christian, under persecution by the Roman state and the Emperors. Yet, each one of them persevered in faith and remained faithful to God all the time. Pope St. Fabian led the Church patiently and faithfully throughout those difficult moments while St. Sebastian carried on his faith even in secret. Eventually both were persecuted, arrested and martyred for their faith, and especially for the case of St. Sebastian, in refusing to abandon his faith in God or worship the Emperor and the pagan gods. They faced suffering and death with great courage, knowing that God was by their side throughout.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our journey throughout life, and may He empower each one of us that we may always strive to live worthily in the path that He has shown us, and resist the temptations to sin and to do whatever is against His teachings and truth. May we be reminded by the examples of the saints and martyrs, in particular that of Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian, among many others. May God be with us always, and may He bless us all in our every good efforts, works and endeavours, all for His greater glory, and also for the salvation of many more souls. Amen.

Friday, 20 January 2023 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, 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, 20 January 2023 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, 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, 20 January 2023 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, 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.

Friday, 13 January 2023 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the faith that we have in God, the faith that we have in His providence and might, in His truth and love, and then what each one of us should do in proclaiming that same truth and faith amongst all the people we encounter in our various respective communities. All of us have the need to believe in God and His truth, and to listen to Him and His words, and do not harden our hearts and minds against Him unlike what many of our predecessors had done in the past, which were highlighted by our Scripture passages today.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Epistle of the Hebrews, the author of this Epistle who directed his writings to the Jewish Christian converts and also to the greater Jewish community, wanted to get them all to heed the Lord’s words and call to them to conversion, and to embrace the truth that God Himself had brought into this world, all through the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all. The author was making references to the past transgressions, disobedience and stubbornness of the people of God in the past, who constantly rebelled against the Lord and refused to believe in Him and His prophets, even after repeated reminders and messages calling on them to turn away from their sins.

The author of the Epistle also likely referred to the attitudes of some among the Jewish community who had consistently and constantly resisted the Lord, His truth and His works, just as one of those examples being highlighted in our Gospel passage today. Essentially, many of the Jewish elders and influential members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council refused to believe in the Lord Jesus, and frowned or even outrightly opposed His actions and works, all because they saw Him as a Rival and even a threat to their own influence and power, and in their pride and ego, they continued to close their hearts up against God and His truth, even when His Wisdom and His miraculous deeds had been shown before their very own eyes in multiple occasions.

Such as what happened in our Gospel passage today, where we heard the account of the Lord Jesus healing a paralytic man brought unto His midst through the roof because the room where He was teaching in was so packed with people. The Lord willed to heal the paralysed man, and told Him that His sins had also been forgiven. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who happened to be present there in that occasion immediately took offence at the Lord’s proclamation, and said imperiously that only God could forgive sins, and that what the Lord had done was no less than a blasphemy against God. Yet, they failed to realise first of all that Christ Himself is the One Whom God had promised to be the Saviour of all mankind, and to Him would indeed be granted the authority over all things, even over that of sins.

Through Christ, Whose actions, works, miracles and wonders had shown the proof of His glorious coming, the truth about Himself and Who He really was, God wants to reveal to us the depth of His most amazing and wonderful love, which persists despite our most terrible and wicked rebellion against Him. Through Christ, God has willingly gathered all of us from the distant corners and edges of the world, leading us back to the grace of God and healing us all from our sickness that is sin, just as He had healed the paralytic man his condition. It is He alone Who can indeed rescue us from the tyranny of sin and death, lifting us up from the darkness that surrounded us and bringing us into His eternal light and grace. And yet, there are still many indeed who refused to believe in His love and kindness, despite having witnessed and heard about them.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because of the excess of human pride, ego and greed, all of which had become great obstacles in our journey back towards God. The pride and ego of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and many of the members of the Sanhedrin had become serious obstacles in the path of their drive towards salvation in God. Those people thought that they were better and superior to others all around them, and would not take the truth of the Lord as the reality that they needed to embrace. Instead, they continued to depend on the flawed and mistaken ideas they upheld, thinking that the messages and words that the Lord Jesus brought into their midst were false and even blasphemous in nature.

Today all of us are reminded not to follow this same path, and instead to follow the Lord wholeheartedly once again, not be swayed by the temptations of worldly power, fame, pride, glory and many other things that had often dragged so many of our predecessors into the path of sin and darkness. We are reminded that we have to be humble in accepting that our ways and thoughts can often be mistaken and flawed, and in God alone we can find the truth and Wisdom which will liberate us from the falsehoods of evil and sin. That is why we are called to reflect upon those passages of the Scriptures and whatever we have just reflected upon earlier so that we may not end up falling into the wrong path of disobedience, stubbornness and rebellion against God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us ought to look upon the good examples and inspirations set by St. Hilary, one of the great Church fathers, also known as St. Hilary of Poitiers, whose love and devotion to God, zeal and faith by which he had lived his life and ministry, can be great source of inspiration for all of us in how we live our own Christian living and faith. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the Bishop of Poitiers who was renowned for his great dedication to his flock and for his opposition to the heretics and all those who had perverted and misused the truth of God for their own selfish purposes. He was particularly energetic and passionate in opposing the then greatly influential Arian beliefs that distorted the truth about Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Saviour of all.

St. Hilary spent a lot of time and effort in reaching out to his flock and opposing those who sought to divide the Church and snatch the faithful from the hands of the Lord’s shepherds, having to endure persecutions and even exile for his courageous struggles for the truth, for the Lord and for the Lord’s beloved flock. He wrote extensively on many aspects of the faith, against the heretical teachings and ideas, which eventually made him proclaimed as one of the great Doctors of the Church for his immense contributions, long after he has passed on from this world. The faith and dedication which St. Hilary has shown us should serve as a good example for us to follow, so that each and every one of us may also follow him in his devotion and efforts in serving and glorifying God, in our own respective lives and actions.

May the Lord continue to guide us through our own journey in life, so that we may draw ever closer to Him, and such that we may ever always be more faithful to Him, and be ever more humble in accepting and receiving Him into our hearts and minds, and being stubborn and hardened in hearts no more. May all of us continue to walk down the path of righteousness and truth, and continue to persevere in faith regardless of the challenges and trials we may have to face for the Lord’s sake. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 13 January 2023 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 2 : 1-12

At that time, after some days, Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that He was in the house, so many people gathered, that there was no longer room even outside the door. While Jesus was preaching the Word to them, some people brought a paralysed man to Him.

The four men who carried him could not get near Jesus because of the crowd, so they opened the roof above the room where Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, He said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the Law, who were sitting there, wondered within themselves, “How can He speak like this, insulting God? Who can forgive sins except God?”

At once Jesus knew in His Spirit what they were thinking, and asked, “Why do you wonder? Is it easier to say to this paralysed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’ But now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And He said to the paralytic, “Stand up, take up your mat and go home.” The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God, saying, “Never have we seen anything like this!”