Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, all of us are reminded that each one of us have been called by the Lord to follow Him and to do His will, to wherever that He will lead us to, just as He had done with the Apostles, the many saints and martyrs of the Church, our holy predecessors. Each and every one of us as Christians are expected to live our lives worthily of the Lord and to continue carrying out our activities in accordance with God’s will, doing whatever we can to serve Him and glorify Him at every possible opportunities. We should heed the Lord’s call and love Him as much as we should, just as how He Himself has loved us so much first, that He gave Himself for us that through His loving sacrifice for us, we may all be saved.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles regarding a conversation between Festus, the Governor and Procurator of Judea with King Agrippa, the Herodian ruler of the region, about St. Paul the Apostle, his works and ministry and how the Jewish authorities, members of the Sanhedrin had been accusing him of wrongdoing, and how St. Paul appealed to the Emperor for his case. Through what we have heard here, we are reminded of how God moved things and spared St. Paul from the hands of his enemies in Jerusalem, who no doubt would have wanted him destroyed. Instead, as the Lord Himself had told St. Paul earlier on, that He was sending him to Rome, to the last stop of his long missionary works, where he would evangelise and proclaim the Good News of God at the very heart and centre of the Roman Empire itself.

St. Paul could have chosen to stay away from trouble and from all the hardships facing him, just as the past few weekdays’ Scripture passages from the Acts of the Apostles could show us. St. Paul willingly embraced God’s calling and mission, embarking on this last missionary journey through Jerusalem, and then on to Rome, in which St. Paul would go on to do more great works at evangelisation, stopping by the island of Malta along the way where he laid the foundation of the faith there, and many more. Through the hard work of St. Paul and other early Christian missionaries, the Church grew rapidly amidst the many challenges and hardships that it had to face, persecutions and oppressions that many among the Christian faithful had to endure. Their faith remained strong and firm as the Lord guided and strengthened them, and empowered them through the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the calling of St. Peter the Apostle, and the mission which God entrusted to him as He reaffirmed him as the leader and shepherd of His entire flock, the Church. That happened at the shores of the Lake of Galilee, where after the Lord’s Resurrection, He went and met with His disciples just as He has promised them. And in this private moment mentioned in the Gospel passage today, the Lord asked St. Peter, not once but three times, ‘Peter, do you love Me?’, which St. Peter replied fervently and lovingly with, ‘Lord, You know that I love You.’ And the Lord told St. Peter to take care of His sheep, the flock of His beloved people, to feed them and to take good care of them, as a reminder of the mission which He had entrusted to him earlier as His Vicar, as the leader of the whole entire Church.

And why the Lord asked St. Peter three times? It is symbolic as a response to what St. Peter had done earlier on at the beginning of the Lord’s Passion, where as we all know that St. Peter denied knowing the Lord and denied Him a total of not just once but three times. St. Peter was likely driven by fear, the fear for suffering and for being persecuted and hence, in his moment of folly, he abandoned and denied the Lord back then. But the Lord, through this threefold questioning of St. Peter was showing that He loved him, forgave him from his past mistakes and lack of faith, and entrusted to him anew what He has entrusted to him, the guardianship and leadership over His whole entire Church. St. Peter was also told of the kind of suffering and martyrdom that he would have to endure for the sake of the Lord, and to the very end, St. Peter would remain firmly faithful to his calling and mission.

Today all of us are reminded that as Christians all of us are called from the world, from among the ordinary people to become extraordinary in the Lord. Often we are reluctant to follow the Lord or to do as He has commanded us to do because we thought that we are incapable of doing all the things like our predecessors had done. But as we all have seen and discussed, the Lord’s own disciples are those who have come from ordinary background, and were people who were imperfect and even weak in their faith at first. St. Paul himself was a great persecutor and enemy of the earliest Christians, and had a part in the sufferings and martyrdom of many among the faithful. St. Peter as we knew, abandoned and denied the Lord three times. Yet, all of them had a change of heart and mind, and committed themselves thoroughly to the Lord for the rest of their lives.

Today the Church also mark the feast of one great saint whose life and works may be great source of inspiration to all of us as we carry on living our lives as Christians in our world today. St. Philip Neri was known as a great priest and servant of God, known as the ‘Second Apostle of Rome’ after St. Peter himself, for all the efforts he has done for the glorification of God and for the spreading of the Good News of the Lord and His salvation. He founded the Congregation of the Oratory, which still remained busy and active to this very day, and he contributed a lot in his mission to reach out to the least fortunate and to many of those who have fallen into sinful ways in the community back then. He ministered to prostitutes and those who were often shunned by others, and many were inspired to follow his examples, and not few became followers of the Lord because of his efforts. He established a growing community of believers both within and beyond his Oratory Congregation, and brought many closer to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all thus be inspired to follow the Lord ever more faithfully following in the footsteps of St. Philip Neri and the other Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as many other among our holy predecessors, whose examples in faith and way of life should inspire each one of us to carry out our lives most worthily as Christians, that is as the disciples of the Lord. Let us all seek the Lord ever more faithfully and show greater commitment to Him, and entrust ourselves to Him and to His providence from now on, that we may always be worthy in our way of life and actions, and be inspiration for many others who desire to follow the Lord as well. May the Risen Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith and commitment. Amen.

Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 21 : 15-19

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”

Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 11-12, 19-20ab

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

The Lord has set His throne in heaven; He rules, He has power everywhere. Praise the Lord, all you His Angels.

Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 25 : 13b-21

As King Agrippa and his sister Berenice were to stay in Caesarea several days, Festus told him about Paul’s case and said to him, “We have here a man whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews accused him and asked me to sentence him.”

“I told them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over a man without giving him an opportunity to defend himself in front of his accusers. So they came and I took my seat without delay on the tribunal and sent for the man. When the accusers had the floor, they did not accuse him of any of the crimes that I was led to think he had committed; instead they quarrelled with him about religion and about a certain Jesus Who has died but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”

“I did not know what to do about this case, so I asked Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem to be tried there. But Paul appealed to be judged by the Emperor. So I ordered that he be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.”

Friday, 19 May 2023 : 6th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each one of us are reminded of the hope and strength which we have in the Lord, our God and Saviour, and all of us are called to remain faithful to Him, not to give in to despair and hopelessness because no matter what challenges and trials we may face or encounter along the way, we will always be with the Lord by our side, providing for us and guiding us throughout the journey of our lives. The Lord has always loved us and cared for us, and He has always blessed and provided us with the assistance in various forms and ways. Through all these the Lord has helped His Church and faithful ones to persevere even amidst the most challenging moments throughout history.

In our first reading today, all of us heard from the Acts of the Apostles about the works that the Lord had done through St. Paul, His Apostle in the region of Achaia, which is in today’s area of Greece. St. Paul faced a lot of hardships and obstacles from the people of the Jewish diaspora living there, who accused St. Paul of all sorts of false accusations and with the attempts to discredit and harm him, as they opposed the Apostle’s efforts in proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel and the truth of Christ in their community and also among the Gentiles in the region. St. Paul spoke courageously before the governor against all those who opposed him and accused him of wrong things, and stood by his faith regardless of all these trials and challenges that he had to face. We heard how those people who opposed his efforts were really stubborn and even went to desperate methods to get St. Paul to be persecuted.

Essentially, like what we have heard from the Lord Jesus Himself in our Gospel passage today, that the life as Christians is truly not an easy journey for any one of us. For some of us like St. Paul himself had experienced, there may be even tangible obstacles, opposition and hardships facing us. But most importantly, we should not let all these deter us from following the Lord. The Lord Jesus Himself said that there will be time of sorrow just as there will be time of joy, using the example and analogy of a woman who was going through childbirth as a comparison, in order to bring His point across to us. Those who have gone through childbirth would know that the birthing process is one that is painful, challenging and difficult just as the whole pregnancy period itself may be hard and challenging for many women. However, the moment the baby is born, usually the joy and relief of seeing one’s own baby surpass even all those pain and sorrow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to remember that being Christians do not mean that we are going to have a smooth and enjoyable journey in life, or to have blessings and good things all throughout our lives. Some of us misunderstood and failed to realise this fact, and failed to see the examples and the precedent of the Apostles and the early Christians, who suffered a lot and faced a lot of hardships and tribulations for their faith. Not only that, but even right up to this day, there are still often rampant and continued persecutions against Christians, lest we think that persecutions and hardships for Christians are merely a thing for the past. The Church and Christians around the world often still have to face challenges and trials, even just for remaining faithful and true to the teachings and truth of the Lord, and some faced even greater challenges and have to practice their faith in secret.

As we are reminded of all these things today, we are called to remain steadfast in faith, dedicating ourselves anew to the Lord, and to dedicate more of our time, effort and attention to Him, especially if we have not yet done so. As Christians, it is not enough for us just to go and call ourselves as Christians and do nothing at all, thinking that our baptism alone is sufficient to save us. For as the Lord and His disciples themselves had said, and as the Church fathers had taught us, that faith without good works and all the things done in living out that faith, is a dead faith, and dead faith is nothing better than faithlessness and hypocrisy, and those things will not avail us at all on the day of judgment. Instead, each and every one of us have to be truly faithful to the Lord in all things, and doing whatever we can in order to fulfil what the Lord had called us to do, and had entrusted for us to do in our own lives.

Now, as we carry on living our lives as Christians these days, are we inspired to follow the examples of our holy predecessors, the saints and martyrs in how courageous they have been, how steadfast they were in defending their faith and in living their lives according to the Christian principles and the teachings of the Church? How willing are we to commit ourselves to follow the Lord and dedicate ourselves each day to serve the Lord ever more faithfully in all things? Each and every one of us as Christians are reminded that we should do our part in becoming inspiration, role model and being good examples for one another and for all those whom we encounter so that our actions, words and deeds, our way of life may inspire others and may help others to know the Lord and to find out about His Good News and truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore remain steadfast in faith and commit ourselves ever more wholeheartedly to the Lord, remembering how loving He has been towards us, and how patient He has been in loving us all these while. Let us recall whatever the Lord has called us to do in our lives and in whichever calling we have been called to do, be it as a priest or any other members of the holy orders, as a consecrated men and women in the various religious orders, monasteries and friaries, as members of lay organisations and in our Church ministries, and as members of faithful Christian families, be it as husband and wife, or as parents and children. Each and every one of us have important roles to play in the works of the Church, and we should do our best to fulfil our calling in life as Christians.

May the Risen Lord, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, our most loving God and Good Shepherd, be with us always, be with His Church, and may the Holy Spirit be our inspiration, strength and guide. May the Lord bless our every works and good efforts for His greater glory, and may He help us all to persevere through all the hardships and challenges that we may have to face in this world. May He, the One and only True God, shine the light of His truth and love to the whole of this darkened world. Amen.

Friday, 19 May 2023 : 6th Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 20-23a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. A woman in childbirth is in distress because her time is at hand. But after the child is born, she no longer remembers her suffering because of such great joy : a human being is born into the world.”

“You feel sorrowful now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice; and no one will take your joy from you. When that day comes you will not ask Me anything.”

Friday, 19 May 2023 : 6th Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 46 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

He brings peoples under our dominion and puts nations under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us – the pride of Jacob whom He loves!

God ascends amid joyful shouts, the Lord amid trumpet blasts. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

Friday, 19 May 2023 : 6th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 18 : 9-18

One night, in a vision, the Lord said to Paul, “Do not be afraid, but continue speaking and do not be silent, for many people in this city are Mine. I am with you, so no one will harm you.” So Paul stayed a year and a half in that place, teaching the word of God among them.

When Gallio was governor of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the court. And they accused him, “This man tries to persuade us to worship God in ways that are against the Law.”

Paul was about to speak in his own defence when Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of misdeed or vicious crime, I would have to consider your complaint. But since this is a quarrel about teachings and divine names that are proper to your own law, see to it yourselves : I refuse to judge such matters.”

Then the people seized Sosthenes, a leading man of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal; but Gallio paid no attention to it. Paul stayed on with the disciples in Corinth for many days; he then left them and sailed off with Priscilla and Aquila for Syria. And as he was no longer under a vow he had taken, he shaved his head before sailing from Cenchreae.

Friday, 12 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are called to follow wholeheartedly the commandments of the Lord, to take it to heart and to believe in God most sincerely in all things. We should not forget this call and duty that each and every one of us as Christians have in living our daily lives with commitment and devotion to God. All of us have the calling and the mission entrusted to us to proclaim the truth and Good News of God to all the people all around us. We should do whatever the Lord has told us to do, and live our lives the way that He has taught us, so that by our examples and way of life, we may inspire others all around us to become more committed to the Lord, and to believe in Him as well.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles, of the conclusion of the First Council of Jerusalem, the very first Council of the Church assembled to discuss and discern the decision regarding how the Christian faithful, the people of God ought to carry out their lives, as there was then the controversy and division among the Christian faithful whether the Christian faithful ought to follow the full range of the extensive and often oppressive Jewish laws and customs espoused and championed by those who belonged to the group of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, and who embraced the Lord as their Saviour. To those people, the faithful had to embrace the fullness of the Jewish customs and laws, with all of their strict regulations and practices, in order for one to be saved and worthy of God.

However, the Apostles and the elders of the Church decided, after a period of gathering and discernment, guided by the Holy Spirit, that what is important is obeying the Law of God in its true spirit and understanding, and focusing on the key aspects of the Law of God just as the Lord Jesus Himself has revealed it, and not requiring the faithful people of God to subject themselves to the numerous tenets and often difficult to enforce rules and laws, which had in fact made it difficult for many of God’s people to come to Him, as those laws hindered them and prevented them from coming closer to God. Not only that, but as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law also often used those same rules and laws to discriminate against those whom they deemed to be less worthy and condemned as sinners, it became stumbling block for the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law themselves, who became enamoured with worldly glory, pride and ambition, and were blinded by their fanatical ideals and pursuits of their agenda.

They spent more time worrying about how to satisfy the many different aspects and tenets of the various rites and practices rather than truly loving and honouring the Lord their God through the faithful and proper appreciation, understanding and application of those laws and commandments. They often spent so much time focusing on the minute details that they had made an idol out of their way of observing and practicing the Law, zealously and even fanatically guarding their way of observing and practicing the Law, and not willing to listen to others who told them otherwise, even the Lord Himself Who had rebuked them and criticised them for their pettiness and their excessive emphasis on the ‘letter’ of the Law while forgetting the ‘spirit’ of the Law. The Lord reminded all of us, just as He had said to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that each and every one of us should truly commit ourselves to His commandments of Love, that is to love God our most loving Father and Creator above all else, and then to love one another in the same way.

Unless we have the right focus and motivation, it will likely be easy for us to be distracted and pulled down the wrong path, as like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law themselves have shown us, that we may be externally pious, holy and devout, and yet inside us, within our hearts and minds, it is possible for us not to have space for the Lord at all. Therefore in that case and regard, our faith is no more than an empty and dead faith, one that will not benefit us in our path towards the eternal life in God and in His salvation. Each and every one of us are called to be truly faithful to the Lord, to be filled with generous love like that which our Lord Himself has shown us at every moments. All of us are called to do what He has taught us, to be compassionate and kind towards our fellow brothers and sisters, and to resist the temptations of evil, of pride, greed and worldly attachments.

Today, all of us also can look upon the good examples and inspirations from three among our faithful predecessors, the saints and martyrs, namely, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, and also St. Pancras. Each and every one of them had lived their lives most courageously with faith, and had endured the hardships and trials, the challenges and obstacles they had to go through amidst their journey of faith. All of them had devoted themselves to the Lord to the very end, as they faced death and martyrdom with courage and joy. To start with, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were according to some traditions, eunuchs and chamberlains of the niece of the Roman Emperor Domitian, named Flavilla Domitilla, and they lived through the time of a great persecution of the Church and Christians, as the Emperor Domitian was historically known for his intense persecution of Christians, and attempts to eradicate the Church. According to tradition, they faced martyrdom with courage and faith, and did not give up their faith despite the trials that faced them.

Meanwhile, St. Pancras was a young Roman citizen who was also known as St. Pancratius, who lived through another period of great persecution of the Church and the faithful people of God, by the Roman Emperor Diocletian and the Roman state, which was known for the last great official persecution of Christianity, during which many of the faithful were arrested, suffered greatly and many were martyred for their faith in God. St. Pancras himself was a young man who converted to the Christian faith, and was brought before the authorities for being a Christian. He was forced to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods, but refused with firmness and zeal, and his determination to resist moved even the Emperor himself who tried to sway the young St. Pancras with wealth and power without avail. St. Pancras therefore faced martyrdom, in defending his faith in God to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the examples of the holy saints, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, and St. Pancras, in how they have lived their lives with faith and how they have dedicated themselves to the Lord. Let us all be truly faithful towards the Lord and place Him right at the centre of our lives and existence, and strive to do our best to glorify Him by our lives and by our every good works. May the Lord be with us all and may He continue to guide and strengthen us all in our journey of faith, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 12 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 15 : 12-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This is My commandment : Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are My friends, if you do what I command you.”

“I shall not call You servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learnt from My Father.”

“You did not choose Me; it was I Who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. This is My command, that you love one another.”