Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us celebrate together the great Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. We may be wondering why is it that we celebrate the feast of a chair, but this chair mentioned here is not just a mere physical object, not just merely a chair, but even more importantly, it is the seat of authority of the Apostle St. Peter, whom God had appointed to be the leader of all of His disciples, and to whom He had entrusted the governance and authority over His entire Church.

The Chair of St. Peter refers to the Cathedra of St. Peter, or Cathedra Sancti Petri, the seat of the Episcopal authority of St. Peter as the first Bishop of Rome. And like that of the other bishops, the seat of the bishop or the Cathedra is the symbol of the authority which has been granted over the bishop over the entire flock in the diocese entrusted to his care. But for St. Peter, this authority granted to him is unique in a sense that as the Bishop of Rome, he and his many successors, that is the Popes throughout the ages have been given the authority not just over the Diocese of Rome, but also over the entire Church.

Thus today’s feast has a special significance, as it reminds us of the unity that all of us Christians have with the entire Church, anchored on the person of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, who is the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, on whom God had established His Church. God had established His Church upon the solid rock foundation of St. Peter, whose name Cephas or Kepha in Aramaic, and Petros in Greek means rock.

We may think that God chose great and intellectual men, people with great capabilities and seemingly superhuman abilities. But that is not the way how God chose His servants and those whom He had deemed to be worthy. Men may have all the plans they prepared, and they may have all sorts of things in their mind, but it was not mankind who chose themselves before God, but God Who chose His people. He called those whom He had deemed to be worthy, not by any human standards, but by His standards.

St. Peter and the other members of the Twelve Apostles of our Lord Jesus were a diverse group of people, hailing from different origins and had different character and upbringing. Yet, most if not all of them are similar in one thing, that they, in the sight and opinion of mankind, are those who we commonly least expect to be those who were chosen for such important position.

Some of the Apostles were simple men, some holding positions that brought little prestige and acknowledgement then, even until today, such as fishermen and poor people of little renown. Most of the Apostles were illiterate and uneducated, a fact which we ourselves read in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, when the Pharisees and the elders were astounded at the great wisdom and eloquence at which the supposedly uneducated Apostles carried out the defence and witnessing of their faith.

St. Peter most important of all was a simple fisherman, who if we read the Gospels, is not a particularly faithful person. At times, there were moments when he faced challenges, doubts and weakness in his faith to the Lord. He was among the first of whom Jesus had called and chosen, and throughout his journey with our Lord, we heard of how, he stumbled when he tried to cross to Jesus walking on the water, as he doubted and his faith faltered, and started to sink before Jesus rescued him.

St. Peter also stumbled at Mount Tabor during the Transfiguration, when he wanted to convince Jesus to remain there on top of the mountain, awed by the glory of the Lord revealed to him there, and not wanting to go down to the lands below, to what Jesus had mentioned that He was to face great persecution, to be handed over to the chief priests and suffer death, and His disciples would suffer with Him.

And certainly all of us knew how St. Peter and the other Apostles fell asleep during the time when Jesus told them to stay on guard with Him at the Garden of Gethsemane during His time of agony and suffering, waiting for the betrayer Judas to come and take Him to the chief priests. He was chided with the other Apostles by Jesus, Who told them that while the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Finally, we all know how St. Peter denied Jesus three times during the time when He was incarcerated in the High Priest’s residence. In his fear, St. Peter denied Jesus not just once, but three times when the people around him accused him of being among those who followed Jesus. At that time, when Jesus had been arrested and were undergoing false charges of blasphemy, it was a very difficult time to be found out as those who followed Him, and St. Peter faltered.

Then all of must be wondering as to why Jesus chose St. Peter above all else, to be the one to whom He entrusted His entire Church, the entire body of all His faithful and beloved people to. Should God not have chosen better? Surely there are many more people who are more worthy of the task? This is exactly where what I have spoken about came to apply. It is not what man sees that God sees, and God sees faith and goodness where we may have failed to see it.

Even though his faith was weak, wavering, unsteady and shaken at many times, God saw in St. Peter, a heart and soul filled with genuine love and dedication, which is a trait also shared by the other Apostles, save that of Judas Iscariot the betrayer. All of them wavered in their faith, and had shaky belief in the Lord, but they all persevered through and did not give up, unlike Judas Iscariot. They showed the same qualities shared by the many other saints and martyrs of our Church.

God saw the goodness in them, and He forgave them their trespasses and failures, just as how Jesus forgave St. Peter three times after He had risen from the dead. It was a clear sign how Jesus had forgiven St. Peter and his denial, and his previous shortcomings. He knew just how much St. Peter loved Him, and just how far he would give himself to stand up and defend his faith in Him.

He gave him and the other Apostles His Holy Spirit, the Helper and strength through which He transformed these humble, uneducated and seemingly inconsequential and insignificant people, into steadfast and solid rocks of faith, the principal one which was the great faith of St. Peter, whom the Lord appointed to be the leader over all of the other Apostles, and by the virtue of that leadership, and the command which Jesus had given him, to take care of all the flock of the Lord.

Through all of these things which we have listened and pondered on this day, all of us can see how, first of all, God chose seemingly ordinary and insignificant man and woman, to be those whom He had chosen and blessed. He chose even sinners and those considered by many to be worthless and wicked, knowing that if these people repent, not only that they would be capable of truly great deeds, but at the same time, more soul would return to the Lord and be reconciled with Him.

Many saints were themselves great sinners, and they were called through repentance and much grief, having regretted their sins and wickedness, and therefore became the new parts of the Church, enriching it with their newfound faith and zeal. In the footsteps of the Apostles they have walked and toiled to make sure that the works which God had begun through His Apostles would be continued, that is the conversion of all mankind and the salvation of all souls. Through all of these, all of their contributions and works, they have glorified God and became examples for us all to follow.

Thus, all of us today need to continue the works of the Apostles, and united under the leadership of the Pope, who is the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, we need to continue to bring the Church through this modern day and time, and continue to preach the Good News of God, and call many others to repentance. The Lord had established His firm foundation on St. Peter, who was a simple man with wavering faith, but whom God had affirmed and strengthened, and thereafter became the solid rock foundation of the Church.

Let us all grow stronger in faith, by placing our complete trust in the Lord, and obey Him in all of His laws, commandments and precepts. Let us uphold the entirety of the teachings of the Church, through which we obediently follow the commandments of the Lord, just as He had taught these to His own Apostles and disciples. Let us all pray also for the intention of the entire Universal Church, and also for the Pope, our Vicar and leader, the Vicar of Christ on earth.

May the Lord bless us all, His Church on earth, and also our Pope, bishops, priests and all who had given themselves to the service of the Gospel and for the salvation of all mankind. May He strengthen our faith, that even though we may falter as St. Peter once did, but having put together our hope and faith in the Lord, we may grow stronger in faith, and become immovable like a rock, with steadfast and undying devotion as St. Peter and the other Apostles had in their Lord and Master, our God. St. Peter the Apostle, Vicar of Christ and Shepherd of all God’s people, pray for us and for God’s Church. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
1 Peter 5 : 1-4

I now address myself to those elders among you; I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, hoping to share the Glory that is to be revealed.

Shepherd the flock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it not out of obligation but willingly for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart; do not lord it over those in your care, rather be an example to your flock.

Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will be given a crown of unfading glory.

Thursday, 2 February 2017 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great feast in honour of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, in the Temple of God in Jerusalem. Traditionally, this is also the end of the Christmas season, occurring forty days after the celebration of the Nativity, from which date the timing of this feast is calculated.

On this day, we also pray for the sake of all those who have given themselves to the Lord as religious brothers and sisters, and as all those who have committed themselves to the holy priesthood, everyone who have given themselves to the service of God and His people, because they have been united to the Lord Jesus, our one and only true High Priest.

In the first reading today, taken from Book of the prophet Malachi, we heard of the proclamation of the coming of God’s salvation, the promise of the Saviour Who would come to bless the people of God, Who will refine all of them to be pure and glorified in His presence, that all of them will be like the sons of Levi, who have been appointed in accordance to the laws of Moses, to be priests of God’s people.

In this we see the works of God, the Eternal High Priest for all mankind, the One Who had come into this world, to bring unto all the ultimate and best offering of all, by offering Himself on the cross, so that on our behalf, Jesus had purified us and made us whole once again, delivering us from our troubles and from all the darkness that had once subjugated us. We have been brought from the darkness and into the light.

Today, all of us celebrate the moment when Jesus was offered to God as the firstborn Son, as a remembrance of the time of the Exodus. According to the tradition and the Law, all firstborn child of Israel must be offered to God, as a symbolic remembrance of the time when the Lord took away their punishment and changed it into liberation and freedom. What does this mean, brethren? In order to understand this, we will have to look into the events that took place around the first Passover.

At that time, the Pharaoh and the Egyptians refused to let the people of Israel go, and they refused to let them free from their slavery of the Israelites. The Pharaoh hardened his heart and made the Israelites to work even harder under the whip, and thus, God showed His might by sending to Egypt ten great plagues, the greatest of which was the last one.

The Pharaoh decreed that all the firstborn sons of Israel would be killed and continued to harden his heart against God. But God did not let such a punishment and intended destruction to fall against His beloved people. And thus He instructed Moses to tell the people to prepare an unblemished lamb for each families of Israel, and slaughter it on the day of salvation, the Passover day.

God passed over the houses which had been marked with the blood of the unblemished lamb of sacrifice, when He sent His Angels to destroy the firstborn of the Egyptians. The day of punishment and the day of destruction, when Pharaoh intended great harm for the Israelites, had become a day of rejoicing, of liberation and freedom. And this was what the Israelites celebrated from then on, year after year, rejoicing in God Who had liberated His people.

But mankind, God’s people had not been freed from their true afflictions, and they are still enslaved, not by any human forces or slavery, but by sin. Sin has become chains that kept us separated from God, and which has enslaved us to the forces of our human desires, our greed, and all of the temptations present in this world. The priests of Israel were incapable of redeeming the people because they themselves were also sinners, equally sinful before God and their brethren. And they offered the imperfect gifts and offerings of animal blood, which is insufficient to liberate us all from our afflictions of sin.

It is God alone Who is capable of forgiving our sins, and He Himself had taken charge of our liberation and redemption, much like how He had liberated Israel from the hands of Egypt. This time round, He liberates all of us from the chains of our sins, and brings us all to Him and to the eternal life He promises each and ever one of us who believe in Him.

But it is not something that is easily done, for the consequences of sin is death, suffering and pain. And there are just too many of us mankind, so grievous and great are our sins that we have once had no hope, for our fate would have been destruction and damnation. It was the great anguish and suffering which our Lord had endured for our sake, the pain and suffering of His cross, which had brought us all to freedom.

It was by His Precious Blood that we have been purchased, liberated and washed free from our sins. It was not an easy task, one that had burdened even the very Divine Son of God to anguish and sorrow, as He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane before His Passion, so great was the task laid before Him. And yet, He remained obedient to the very end, carrying the cross with utmost patience, and enduring every blows, spittle and insults.

Such was the great love which our God had shown us, that He was willing to endure such great troubles for our sake. And He has not stopped at that, but He gave those whom He had chosen the power and authority to extend His forgiveness and redemption to all of His people. He has called His Apostles and disciples, and gave them the power to do so. And they chose their successors and disciples in turn, our priests and bishops.

Today, let us all remember our courageous and faithful priests and bishops, all those who have given themselves and committed their lives for the Lord and for His people. They have tremendous responsibility and duty, to continue the good works which our Lord had begun. They, together with all others in the religious life and vocations had willingly devoted themselves for our sake. Let us assure them of our support and our prayers.

And last of all, let us all also renew our commitment to the Lord this day. After all, God had loved us so much that He gave us His only Son, and not just that, He even suffered for our sake, bearing all of our sins with Him, and suffering great injustice for our sake, so that by His wounds we may be healed. This is the truth which our holy priests, bishops and religious had devoted their lives to, and therefore, it is just right that we should also do our best to support them, and live a genuine, Christian life.

May the Lord bless us all today, and from now to the ends of our days, so that in every actions that we do, and in every thing we say, we must always glorify the Lord, and proclaim His love to all. Let us all be committed servants of our Lord, and bring His light to all the peoples, particularly to those who are still lost in the darkness. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 2 February 2017 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Luke 2 : 22-40

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a Sign, a Sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a Sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the Child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the Child grew in stature and strength, and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon Him.

Alternative reading (shorter version)
Luke 2 : 22-32

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

Thursday, 2 February 2017 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Hebrews 2 : 14-18

And because all those children share one same nature of flesh and blood, Jesus likewise had to share this nature. This is why His death destroyed the one holding the power of death, that is the devil, and freed those who remained in bondage all their lifetime because of the fear of death.

Jesus came to take by the hand not the Angels but the human race. So He had to be like His brothers and sisters in every respect, in order to be the High Priest faithful to God and merciful to them, a Priest able to ask pardon and atone for their sins. Having been tested through suffering, He is able to help those who are tested.