Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us of the works of God among us, which we often refused to heed or believe in, resulting in many of us choosing down the path of rebellion and disobedience against God, not trusting in God but instead in our own ways and choices, which we often made in contrary to His will, and not following God and His path. As a result, this led to some of us falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin, and we have to avoid that.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos detailing the conversation between Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Amos, the prophet of God. At that time, the northern kingdom of Israel had long rebelled against God and the House of David, following their own path and way of worship, ever since the first king of that northern kingdom, Jeroboam, but not the Jeroboam mentioned in today’s passage, led the people into sin by establishing a parallel centre of worship in Bethel, in opposition to the one and true God Who ought to be worshipped at that time in Jerusalem.

Amaziah complained to this other king Jeroboam, the second Jeroboam to rule over the northern kingdom just a few decades before its ultimate destruction by the Assyrians. Amaziah as the priest of Bethel, likely representing the same pagan worship as instituted by the first king Jeroboam, found Amos, his works and prophecies to be a great annoyance and interference in his domain, and Amaziah complained to the king himself for what the prophet Amos had prophesied against the king and the northern kingdom itself.

Amaziah himself tried to push Amos away and told him off by telling him to go back to his native land of Judah. Yet, to this Amos immediately countered by saying that his mission and calling, and everything he had done come from the Lord and how God called him to do His will. Amos was to be the one to proclaim a warning and judgment of the Lord on the Israelites in the northern kingdom for all of their continued rebellion against God and refusal to obey His Law and their unwillingness to listen to the words of the many prophets that had been sent to their midst.

In our Gospel passage today, similarly we heard the case of when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, some of whom criticised the Lord harshly for His words in proclaiming forgiveness of sins in the midst of Him healing a man who had been paralysed. The Lord had pity on the man and helped him, healing him from his troubles, and through that occasion, He also highlighted that as the Holy One of God, the Son, the Divine Word Incarnate, He has the authority to forgive sins and to deliver us from those sins, and to heal us from our afflictions, be it physical or spiritual in nature.

We heard how the Lord encountered tough opposition not only in what we encountered in the Gospel passage today but also in other occasions, where He and His disciples had to go up against the forces of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law arrayed against them. It was just like how at the time of the prophet Amos who had to go against the wickedness and stubbornness of the people of Israel, whose pride and arrogance in refusing to listen to God became their undoing. Their downfall was because they were not humble enough to admit that they were wrong and mistaken in their path, and unfortunately many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law fell into that same path.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings ought to highlight to us how as Christians each and every one of us are challenged to embrace God’s calling for us all to be great missionaries and witnesses of our faith in the midst of our various communities, within our families and circles of friends and acquaintances among others. Each one of us are called to be like the prophet Amos, and to be like the Lord Himself in standing up courageously for our faith in the midst of opposition and challenges that we may face in our journey of faith. However, it is not just that, as we are also called to be ever vigilant and on guard against the threat from our pride, ego, greed and desire, all of which could lead us down the wrong path to ruin.

Today, we all should follow the good examples of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, those who have defended their faith and committed themselves to the Lord in the face of suffering and persecutions. They were the ones who suffered with St. Peter and St. Paul, whose great Solemnity we have just celebrated yesterday. These First Martyrs of the Roman Church were those who were persecuted, arrested and killed during the years of the first Great Persecution of Christians done by the Roman Emperor Nero, during which many were afflicted and even martyred for their faith, and for their refusal to abandon the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all hence renew our faith and commitment in God, following the examples of our holy predecessors and that of the Lord Himself, and while also being vigilant and heeding the warning of what we should not be doing based on what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. Let us all strive to be good examples and inspiration to one another through our life and actions, all throughout this life, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here, they brought to Him a paralysed man, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, My son! Your sins are forgiven.”

Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking; and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home!”

The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Amos 7 : 10-17

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, then sent word to king Jeroboam of Israel, “Amos is conspiring against you in the very centre of Israel; what he says goes too far. These are his very words : Jeroboam shall die by the sword and Israel shall be exiled from its land.”

Amaziah then said to Amos, “Off with you, seer, go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there by prophesying. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is a king’s sanctuary and a national shrine.”

Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet or one of the fellow prophets. I am a breeder of sheep and a dresser of sycamore trees. But YHVH took me from shepherding the flock and said to me : Go, prophesy to My people Israel. Now hear the word of YHVH, you who say : No more prophesy against Israel, no more insults against the family of Isaac!”

“This is what YHVH says : Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, your land shall be divided up and given to others, and you, yourself, shall die in a foreign land, for Israel shall be driven far from its land.”

Message and Reflection on the Occasion of the Great Feast Day of the Church, Solemnity of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and Vicar of Christ, and St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, the Patron Saints of Rome

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate in this moment, the great celebration of the Church, both of the Church of Rome, and the entirety of the universal Church, of the whole world, for we celebrate today the feast day of the two pillars that established and built up this Church, namely St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of the Apostles and the first Vicar of Christ, leader of the entire Universal Church, Keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

And then the other one, St. Paul the Apostle, who was once a great sinner and enemy of the faithful, then called and made to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, to be the one to bring the Word of God’s salvation to all mankind, beyond the limitations of the Jews. And so, while St. Peter stood at the heart of Christendom, St. Paul is the brave and courageous evangeliser who spread wide the Christian message.

These two saints are two great saints and great role models for us, but they were also once ordinary and simple men, coming from unexpected origins, but ended up serving the Lord through their works and ministry to God’s people. And we celebrate their lives and their works today, and we hope that we all will be inspired by what they had done for the sake of God and His faithful.

St. Peter was a fisherman of the Lake Galilee, who was called by Jesus to be the shepherd of His sheep, that is all of us. He was made a fisher of man, as Jesus Himself had said when He called Peter and the other disciples to Himself. Meanwhile, St. Paul was an upper class Jew, who was brought up in strict and orthodox Jewish teachings, becoming kind of a fanatic who ended up persecuting many of the faithful in Israel, before he met the Lord on the way to Damascus and be converted to the cause of the faith.

In both of their stories, the two great saints, St. Peter and St. Paul had encountered a profound change in their lives after they met the Lord and professed their faith for Him. St. Peter was a brave person, but yet he feared death and persecution when the enemies of the Lord came for Him, and thus despite having vowed before the Lord that he would die for Him, he disowned the Lord three times before the Lord’s Passion and death.

And St. Paul was a great enemy of the faithful, the scourge of the believers, hunting down the faithful with zeal, but zeal that is mistaken in purpose and nature. He caused the death and suffering of many, and many would naturally have hated and feared him, but this was not what God intended from him. He was called and taken away, in an ultimate coup-de-grace against Satan, and was made to be the greatest champion of God’s cause in the world.

Both of them went on to spread the Good News to many parts of the known world of that time, the Roman Empire, together with the other Apostles and disciples of Christ who spread the Word of God to the ends of the earth. They went on to spread the Gospel to many cities, towns and villages across the Mediterranean, facing rejection and persecution in many places, but also acceptance by those who willingly received the Word for themselves.

They were persecuted by the Jews and the chief priests, who arrested them many times, harassed and tortured them many times, and handed them to the Romans to be jailed and punished many times. And in the end, both St. Peter and St. Paul went to Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire, ministering to the people of God there and eventually was martyred for the faith there.

The Empire was initially neutral and did not care about the faithful, but as time went on, the Empire and the Emperor Nero became hostile to the Christians, who were made as scapegoats of the many failures and disasters that befell the Empire, including the Great Fire of Rome. The Great Fire of Rome was allegedly started by Nero himself to build himself a grand palace in place of the rubble and ruins. He blamed the fire on the Christians, and as a result, many were martyred and sent to gladiatorial games to be butchered by lions and other wild animals.

St. Peter was martyred by crucifixion, but he did not feel it right to die in the same way as Jesus his Lord and God had died. Therefore, he asked to be crucified upside down, so that he would not die in the same way as his Lord and God. St. Peter embodied the faithfulness and indeed, true faith in God, that he faithfully carried out until the end. For St. Paul, he was beheaded in Rome as part of the great persecution against the faithful by the Emperor, and his blood was spilled that more seeds of faith might grow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we who are in the Church of God are the continuation of the ministry and the divine mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles, chiefly among which, St. Peter and St. Paul, who went to be martyred at the heart of the Empire that persecuted the faithful, marking the beginning of the long history of our Church, centred firmly on the authority of the Apostle Peter, whom the Lord had entrusted His Church to, and the entirety of the faithful ones of God that are part of that Church.

Today, we stand strong and courageous with the whole Church, inspired by St. Peter and St. Paul whose examples had inspired us in our own faith. St. Peter taught us to be faithful, and to keep that faith strongly in our lives that our lives may be truly based on a firm and living faith. Then St. Paul taught us how to love others, and how to bring the Lord’s salvation to all men as the manifestation of that love we have for each other.

And we also stand together with our Pope, as our leader, the shepherd of shepherds, and the vicar of the Chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is, as the Bishop of Rome, of that city where St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred, the successor of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ on earth, the leader of the entire Universal Church, through whom we keep our unity, that we may stay and remain as One Body in Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ had entrusted Peter with His sheep, the flock of His faithful, whom He asked Peter to take care and keep well. In that way, He entrusted His entire Church to Peter and His successors, the Popes, and they become the symbol of unity and the point of reference, through which the entire Church and the faithful drew their faith to God from.

Indeed, throughout history, sometimes the Popes had been corrupt and abused their power, but as a whole, the office of the Papacy, regardless of its past mistakes, remains as a very important and crucial institution, in particular in this increasingly confused and darkened world, where Satan grew in power day after day. And in addition, St. Paul also reminded us that it is important for us to go forth confidently to spread the Good News to all nations and all peoples.

We cannot evangelise most efficiently if our house itself is not in proper order. We have to ensure that the foundation of our faith is strong, so that we may grow stronger in faith and bring others to salvation. And this strong foundation of the faith can be found today in the Popes, and in the entirety of the teachings of the entire Magisterium of the Church, which the Popes are custodian and guardian of.

That is why we also pray and hope that our Church will be one, and all the estranged members of the Lord’s Body, that is the Church, will repent and come back to the Holy Mother Church, under the leadership of the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ, whom Jesus had appointed to be the leader of all of His faithful ones and to be the one to represent the Chief Shepherd on this world, a world darkened by the power of evil, the wolves trying to devour the innocent sheep and lambs of the Lord.

We pray that our brethren in the see of St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, and in the see of St. Mark, and those in the ‘communion’ born from the insistence and the greed of King Henry VIII and many others who had been misled by false prophets and leaders of the faith, will return to the Lord and be one again with us, even as we celebrate this feast day, and we ask that the two great saints pray for this to happen. For indeed, the unity of the Church is needed, as there is a need for us, greater than ever to stand up for the Lord against Satan and his forces marshalled against us.

The primacy of St. Peter must be upheld, and the primacy and supremacy of his successor the Pope must be upheld by all who believes in Christ, for once again, he is the one on whom the Lord had built His Church on, as the focal point for all the faithful in their faith to the Lord. Those who doubt this fact, fail to understand the meaning of the words when Jesus said, and His commission to Peter, to feed and support His lambs.

Our Church therefore must stand strong and remain truly faithful, and not an iota of its teachings, the teachings of the early Church fathers of the faith, must be lost or contravened. We cannot let this Church which Christ had built on solid rock foundation of Peter and His successors to stumble on the high waves and the storms of this world today. There are indeed many oppositions and currents trying to push the Church in the wrong direction, in the name of adjustment, accommodation and many other reasons, but I say brethren, that we ought to stay faithful as St. Peter had been faithful to the end! And we pray that our Pope, as the successor of St. Peter will keep his duty faithfully and keep close to the teachings of the entire Deposit of the Faith and the Apostolic Tradition.

And ultimately, in the spirit of St. Paul the Apostle, our Church must also be brave to stand up to the faith and spread it to those who are still in darkness and in ignorance or opposition to the faith, as St. Paul had once done. For too long in the recent decades that our Church had become timid in the face of opposition and rejection by the world. We need to rediscover that zeal of the faith and the commitment that St. Paul had once shown through his tireless ministries to the faithful throughout many places until his own martyrdom.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us pray for one another, and pray for our Church, that first, it may grow stronger in faith and grow more united in the faith to the Lord. May the Lord strengthen us all, that we may become more loving children of God, and a more loving and living Church. May St. Peter and St. Paul intercede for us and help us on our path, that we too may follow their examples in faith and love. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 29 June 2013 : Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, Great Feast Day of the Church of Rome (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the great pillars of the Church, particularly the Church of Rome, the heart of Christendom and the Universal Church. Saints Peter and Paul were martyred for their faith in Rome, and that is why they formed the pillars of the Church there, just as a saying correctly said that, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians”.

Persecution, suffering, and martyrdom did not prevent the people from searching for salvation in the Church, and in the faith in Christ, but instead these actually propelled more and more people towards the Lord, and therefore, through the sufferings and deaths of martyrs, the Church grew and grew ever more, made fertile by the blood of martyrs, many of whom became incredible sources of inspiration for all of the Christians.

But do not think that these saints and martyrs are superhuman in nature. They are the same human just like all of us here, but they have been made great by the Lord, who saw the good that is in them, and their love and dedication for Him. They were normal, humble people made great by the power of the Holy Spirit.

St. Peter and St. Paul both had had their weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and they had succumbed to human temptations and evil once. St. Peter denied the Lord three times out of fear of his life, and St. Paul was a great persecutor of the faithful in God in the early part of his life, as Saul. But the Lord deemed them worthy, and therefore, they were chosen from among so many other people, and they were made great by the Lord our God.

St. Peter was chosen from among the Apostles to be the one to uphold the entire Church of the Lord, that is all the people of God, united as one Body, with Christ at its head, and Peter as His Vicar in this world, as His representatives, carrying out His will. Thus St. Peter became the first Pope, the first Vicar of Christ, the head of the Universal Church. St. Peter did much work to advance the cause of the Lord, establishing many Christian communities, such as in Antioch, of which Peter was also its first bishop.

Then St. Peter went on to Rome, to preach there and lead the growing Christian community in that capital of the Roman Empire. The Emperor of Rome at that time, Emperor Nero treated Christians harshly and persecuted them in false accusations on that they were the ones who caused the Great Fire of Rome, which was actually caused by Nero himself in order to clear land to build a new Palace to feed his own grandiose and megalomaniac ideas.

St. Peter fled from that great persecution with the other Christians, but along the way out of Rome, on the road, he met Christ, who appeared to him while carrying a cross on His back. St. Peter, recognising Christ, asked the Lord, “Quo vadis, Domine?” which means “Where to, Lord?” or “Where are you going, Lord?” Jesus was carrying the cross in the direction of Rome, and He said to Peter, “Ad Romam iterum crucifigi” which roughly means, “To Rome, to be crucified again.”

Hearing this, St. Peter realised that suffering is truly part of being the Lord’s disciples, and persecution that awaits them should not be looked upon with fear, but instead with joy and courage, knowing that one had done the right thing in defending his or her faith in God. He gained strength, courage, and resolve, and he turned back and returned to Rome.

Eventually, St. Peter was martyred, by crucified on a cross. Yet again, St. Peter showed his great qualities, in that, in full knowledge of his unworthiness, he rejected that he should die in the same way as His Lord had died, that is to be crucified on the cross, and instead asked to be crucified upside-down, that in his unworthiness, he did not die the same way that Christ had died for all of us for the sake of our salvation.

There went the first Bishop of Rome, in his life and journey towards the Lord, the first Pope, whose successors went down the generations, keeping the faith faithfully, and remain as the keepers of the kingdoms of heaven as granted by Christ, and as the Vicar of Christ on earth. Indeed, no power on earth or hell may be able to stand against the Church of God, built on the solid rock foundation that is the faith of the apostle St. Peter.

St. Paul also went to Rome, and was beheaded during the height of the persecutions of Christians. He faced death willingly and openly, and his death, together with that of Peter, continued to seed the growing Christian populations in Rome and beyond. Today we are commemorating those two great saints, and we hope to be able to emulate their examples in our own daily lives.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us from today onwards learn of the examples following the footsteps of the Apostles, especially that of Saints Peter and Pail the pillars of our faith. Do not be afraid, and do not need to be disheartened when we face trouble and persecution, for the Lord will be with us, and He will provide for those who love Him.

Do not be afraid and keep faith. The Lord provides for us and He guides all of us, just as He provided for Saints Peter and Paul during their times of tribulation, during their long years of ministry to the Lord’s people and Church. We too can follow their examples and follow in their footsteps, even in these modern day. We must be strong and faithful as Peter was, and be vocal and courageous as Paul was.

May the Lord be with us, and with the prayers of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, may all of us become better Christians, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and strive to do more good for the sake of our brethren. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 28 June 2013 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, Great Feast Day of the Church of Rome (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate one of the greatest feast days in our Church, that is the feast day of the two great Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, the pillars of the Church. This is because both of them went to Rome and were martyred there in the defence of their faith. They were martyred in Rome and therefore, cemented the position of Rome as the centre of all Christendom, with Peter as the very first Bishop of Rome, and therefore the first Pope, the first leader of the Church, Vicar of Christ on earth.

Despite the greatness of Peter, the chief of the Apostles, and Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, the great apostle through his four missionary journeys across the eastern Mediterranean region, both of them had humble and unworthy origins, and each, as we all should know had their weaknesses in the very beginning, and along their own journeys of the faith.

St. Peter was once a poor fisherman plying his trade in fishing at the Lake of Galilee, leading a simple fisherman’s life, until He was called by the Lord, through His brother, Andrew. He was Simon, son of Jonah, until Christ gave him a new name, that is Cephas, or ‘rock’, which in Greek, ‘Petros’ and in Latin, ‘Petrus’, which eventually give raise to the name Peter, the name of the chief of the apostles that we knew of.

St. Peter did not lead a very faithful life at first, although his faith in the Lord is indeed at the same time firm and solid. We surely remember that he was the one who declared that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah and Lord, when He asked His disciples about His true identity. Only a steadfast and strong faith may recognise such nature in Jesus, that others failed to do.

St. Peter did deny the Lord, by denying Him three times, out of fear of the Jewish authorities, because He did not want to be exposed as a disciple of Jesus, at the time when the Lord was under incarceration by the chief priests. He did it out of fear, not out of any true desire to betray the Lord, and Peter is still indeed faithful to the Lord. He recognised the faults that he had done, and he repented in great sorrow. The Lord knew this and forgave Peter.

That was why, even though Peter had denied the Lord three times, He forgave him three times as well, by asking Peter to profess his love for Him. The true nature of Peter came out in the Gospel reading today, that despite his frailty and fear, he truly loved the Lord, and the Lord knew that, even without asking. He rewarded him for his steadfast faith, like a ‘rock’, by establishing His very Church on the faith of Peter, on the solid ‘rock’ of faith, that no powers of evil and hell can overcome.

St. Paul, the other great apostle, did much for the Lord, by evangelising to the four corners of the world at the time, spreading the words of the Gospel like no other Apostle has done. But he too had his humble and sinful origins, as we all knew that St. Paul was once Saul, the great persecutor of the Church of Christ.

Saul did great sins once and killed many people who believed in God. He would definitely had been condemned into hell and eternal damnation, had the Lord had not actually chosen him to be His tool for bringing the faith into many who still lived in darkness. The Lord appeared to him on the way to Damascus, and transformed him from the great monster that persecuted Christians, into the greatest champion of the faith.

Saul then was transformed into Paul, the great apostle. He did not have an easy life and an easy work. Instead, he faced many persecutions and sufferings, from beatings, lashes, prison, and even many near-death experiences. He was accepted in many places, but there were equally many if not more places that rejected him and his teachings on the Lord. Even within the Christian community, he faced many problems, as they were not of the same mind, and having disparage ideas on the faith and how to believe in the Lord.

St. Paul did not fear death, and faced it openly, believing that the Lord is always with him. He embraced death, and went to Rome, to be judged by the Emperor, Nero at that time. When the Emperor caused fire to certain buildings in Rome in order to secure a place to build his palace, and caused the Great Fire of Rome, he blamed the Christians for the fire, and St. Paul faced his martyrdom there, in the defence of his faith.

The Lord our God called the two apostles from their different origins, living in a world of sin and darkness, and transformed them into the tools for the divine good works. Their story is an inspiration for all of us, to be more like them, to be faithful as they are for Christ, and to be loving for our fellow brethren as they had given their love for the fellow Christians of their time.

May God strengthen our faith, that our faith will be as strong as Peter’s, that is like a rock, and that we will not face any fear, and remain steadfast, just as Paul had done. God bless us all. Amen.