Thursday, 11 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast day of St. Barnabas, who was counted among one of the Apostles, as he was a renowned early Church father and missionary, following and accompanying St. Paul in several of his missionary journeys, spreading the Good News and the Gospel to the many people in towns and cities across Eastern Mediterranean region. St. Barnabas accompanied St. Paul through the arduous journey, encountering good welcome from quite a few among the communities they visited, but they also encountered significant opposition and rejection from many other communities and places they visited.

As recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, and as what might have been even missed and uncounted in the Acts, St. Barnabas and St. Paul had encountered many great challenges, even moments when they were in danger of death. They were stoned in some occasions, and left for death. Only by the grace and love of God that they somehow escaped death, and they then still continued to labour and work hard for the Lord. They did not fear suffering and death, knowing what they had signed up for when they dedicated themselves to the missions of Christ.

They did what the Lord had told His disciples in our Gospel passage today, in sending them to towns and places to proclaim the Good News and the truth of God. They brought only the absolute necessities and did not bring spares with them, that they were able to focus on their mission, and depending on the good will of the people they visited, and when they encountered opposition and challenges, rejection and refusal, they left those places for other places that might be more willing to listen to them.

Through all of these and many other hard works that St. Barnabas had done together with St. Paul, and in other occasions when he travelled by himself and preaching to other communities and towns, many people became believers and were baptised as Christians. The Holy Spirit guided him and the other Apostles and disciples as they laboured hard for the greater glory of God. The Lord was with them and they were strengthened and empowered even in the moments of their greatest distress and sorrow.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate the great feast of St. Barnabas the Apostle today, we therefore recall his hard work and efforts, his dedication to the service of God, in spreading the Good News and in reaching out to the people, many of whom became believers through his efforts. He put himself through danger, even through danger of death just so that more souls could be saved through repentance, conversion and faith in the Lord.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us must realise that the works done by the Apostles were just the beginning of the works of the Church, and throughout time, countless people, some of whom now honoured as saints, martyrs and blesseds, had taken up the same works and gave themselves to the same ministry as the Apostles like St. Barnabas had done. They had endured much persecution and challenges, just as St. Barnabas had experienced, but they also led many people to God and to their salvation in Him.

We are all now called to follow in their footsteps, to continue the good labour and hard work that they had done for the Lord’s greater glory. We are all called to be witnesses of the Lord’s truth in our own respective communities, in our societies, and even within our own families and among our circle of friends. And it is often that we do not realise, that to be living out this mission of the Lord, which He entrusted to us, it is often not necessary for us to preach and speak. Instead, it is by our actions, all steeped in genuine faith, that we will speak the loudest for the Lord’s sake.

The Apostles themselves inspired us all by their tireless dedication to the Lord, the love they showed to one another, the mercy and compassion they had to all peoples, even to those who have rejected and persecuted them, as well as the patience they had shown throughout their works and ministries. And that is why all of us also need to show this sincerity in our faith, that everyone may know the Lord, His truth and love through our own examples and good faith.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Barnabas, dedicating ourselves to the Lord to spread the message of God’s truth in our own communities, by living a genuine and faithful Christian life. Let us all be exemplary with our lives and commit ourselves as genuine and true Christians from this moment onwards. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to serve Him, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 10 : 7-13

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a travelling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick : workers deserve to be compensated.”

“When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave. When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you.”

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Thursday, 11 June 2020 : 10th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 11 : 21b-26 and Acts 13 : 1-3

A great number believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, so they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the manifest signs of God’s favour, he rejoiced and urged them all to remain firmly faithful to the Lord; for he, himself, was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. Thus large crowds came to know the Lord.

Then Barnabas went off to Tarsus, to look for Saul; and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year, they had meetings with the Church and instructed many people. It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.

There were at Antioch – in the Church which was there – prophets and teachers : Barnabas, Symeon known as Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod, and Saul. On one occasion, while they were celebrating the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have called them.”

So, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Thursday, 14 May 2020 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the Great Apostles of the Lord, one of the Twelve Apostles, although he was not originally counted as one among the Twelve. This was because St. Matthias the Apostle was chosen by God to replace the traitor, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord and then unrepentantly killed himself in regret and grief. As a result, in order to complete the number of the Twelve Apostles, St. Matthias, one of the earliest followers of the Lord, was chosen.

St. Matthias then went on to serve the Lord and His Church faithfully, as he went on many missions and travelled to far-off lands, most notably to the land of Ethiopia. He laboured hard to establish the Church and the faith in those places and preached the Good News of the Lord, calling many to conversion and the true faith. And according to the Church tradition and history, the Apostle either died in the city of Sebastopolis in the distant land, or in the city of Jerusalem in his old age, both by martyrdom.

And St. Matthias together with the other Apostles gave their efforts, their works, their dedication and their lives, their whole heart and might to serve God and to follow Him as His disciples, practicing and doing what the Lord Himself had commanded them to do, as described in our Gospel passage today. In that Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord speaking of the true commandments of God, the true meaning of His Law and the true desire of His will. All are centred on the most wonderful love that God has for each and every one of us.

That is why, first and foremost, they all kept their faith in God despite the challenges that they faced, and they were all willing to go the great lengths to serve Him and to carry out His will, all because they knew that God’s love for each and every one of them had been so great, that it was only right that they also loved Him in the same manner, and they loved Him by being faithful and obedient to Him. And out of their love and care for their fellow brothers and sisters, their fellow men, they therefore also reached out to more and more people to bring to them the salvation of God.

And this is also showed through the way they lived their lives, filled with love, compassion and genuine faith for the Lord. The early Christian communities were filled with much love and compassion, where everyone cared for one another, and took care for the other person. Those who had more and were blessed with more than enough shared what they had with those who had less or none, and everyone were well taken care of. This Christian love present within the early Christian communities represent what the Lord has called us all to do with our lives.

Unfortunately, for many of us, we have been swayed and misled by the temptations of life, the many good things and distractions present in our world that we have forgotten or set aside this way of life, and instead we adopt the ways of the world, such that so many among us actually have not been living our lives as faithful Christians. We have allowed greed and desire to cloud our judgments and actions, our pride and hubris to lead us down the path of selfishness and sin.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called today to discern carefully our lives and what we are to do with them going forward from now. The Lord has called us all to follow Him much as the Apostles had been called. In fact, we are the ones to continue the works of the Apostles, which are still plenty and ongoing. Are we able to walk in the footsteps of St. Matthias and the other Apostles, to dedicate ourselves in the way that they and the other servants of God had devoted themselves?

The Lord has called us and He has blessed us with many gifts, abilities and talents. Are we willing to make good use of them and strive to spend our time and effort, in order to serve the Lord with all of our hearts? It is not easy for us to do so, with all the temptations around us, the pressure and allure to do otherwise, and to conform to the much more common norms and ways of the world. But, if we have faith in God and devote ourselves to Him, then we will find it easier for us to commit to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all do our best and remind ourselves of God’s commandments, to love Him above all else and then to have the same love for our fellow brothers and sisters, our fellow men. Let us all live our lives as true Christians from now on, and let us all be genuine with our faith and actions, to proclaim God’s love and truth to all the people, not just by words, but also through our action and sincerity. May God bless us all in our every works and endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 14 May 2020 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 15 : 9-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Remain in My love! You will remain in My love if you keep My commandments, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.”

“I have told you all this, that My own joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. 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.”

Thursday, 14 May 2020 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 112 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Alleluia! Praise, o servants of YHVH, praise the Name of YHVH! Blessed be the Name of YHVH now and forever!

From eastern lands to the western islands, may the Name of YHVH be praised! YHVH is exalted over the nations; His glory above the heavens.

Who is like YHVH our God, Who sits enthroned on high, but also bends down to see on earth as in heaven?

He lifts up the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap. He makes them sit with princes, with rulers of His people.

Thursday, 14 May 2020 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 1 : 15-17, 20-26

It was during this time that Peter stood up in the midst of the community – about one hundred and twenty in all – and he said, “Brothers, it was necessary that the Scriptures referring to Judas be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit had spoken through David about the one who would lead the crowd coming to arrest Jesus. He was one of our number and had been called to share our common ministry.”

“In the Book of Psalms it is written : ‘Let his house become deserted and may no one live in it.’ But it is also written : ‘May another take his office.’ Therefore, we must choose someone from among those who were with us during all the time that the Lord Jesus moved about with us, beginning with John’s baptism until the day when Jesus was taken away from us. One of these has to become, with us, a witness to His resurrection.”

Then they proposed two : Joseph, called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias. They prayed : “You know, Lord, what is in the hearts of all. Show us, therefore, which of the two You have chosen to replace Judas in this Apostolic ministry which he deserted to go to the place he deserved.”

Then they drew lots between the two and the choice fell on Matthias who was added to the eleven Apostles.

Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast in the Church as we recall the important moment when the Lord called St. Paul, then known as Saul, a young and zealous Pharisee who had once been a great enemy of the Church and the faithful. Saul was very adamant on hunting all the followers of Christ and strove to put them all into prison, and approved even their killing as what has happened to St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church.

Saul was in the midst of this zealous pursuit when he went to Damascus in trying to eradicate all the faithful people of God who had taken refuge and lived there. The fact that Saul was even willing to venture far outside the land of Judah and even Galilee, was a testament to just how persistent he was in trying to destroy the Church and the Christian faith. Or so he thought, as in the end, he never managed to fulfil what he had planned and wanted.

As we heard in our first reading today, when Saul was still on his way to Damascus, God appeared to him in a great vision in which He revealed Himself to Saul as the One Whom he has been persecuting all the while when he was on a misguided rampage and attack against those who followed the Lord. Saul must have certainly been struck by that experience, and he was also struck blind by that vision.

We heard how Saul had to be helped and assisted, as his whole world turned into darkness for three days without being able to do anything at all. But God then sent Ananias to heal Saul, and after Ananias prayed over him, Saul was healed and received baptism in the Name of the Lord. This was a very significant moment in the history of the Church as the one who used to be a great enemy and persecutor of the Church had in a short moment become its greatest defender instead.

Saul had been called by God and had a moment of great revelation which entirely changed his life and direction. What he had once firmly believed in and championed in defending the purity of the Jewish customs, tradition and faith against the then thought to be ‘heretical’ teachings of Jesus Christ, had instead been overturned completely and the truth was revealed to him that in fact Jesus was the One Who had been right all along.

In the end, Saul became a Christian and as we can see throughout most of the Acts of the Apostles, he became a great champion of the Christian faith. He was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, through his tireless and extensive missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean and in his visits to the many communities of the faithful at that time. He also wrote and communicated extensively with those communities by letters, many of which are preserved in our New Testament.

Saul took up the name Paul eventually as a very symbolic act of total conversion as he left behind completely his past life as an enemy of Christ and His followers and embarked on a journey of total devotion to God, suffering so many trials and tribulations, rejected by many and were almost stoned to death and killed on more than one occasion, because he served the Lord and did nothing else than to glorify God.

We have heard and known of how remarkable this conversion that had happened to Saul, becoming St. Paul and had a complete turnover in his life, called to serve God from being a great sinner and enemy of the Lord’s faithful. But what is the real significance for us? How does this real life story of the conversion of St. Paul has to do with us? And the answer is that all of us are just like St. Paul in one way or another.

We must all understand that every single one of us are sinners, and God sees us all equally and we are all the same and equal before Him. He is not prejudiced at all with us, regardless whether we have the greater or lesser sins. In the end, sins, no matter how great or small, significant or insignificant, are still sins that we need to be forgiven from by God. And because we are all sinners, we all need God’s healing and mercy, which He will readily extend and give to us.

If God Himself has called Saul, a great sinner and someone who had caused so much suffering and misery in the lives of many of the early Christians, it means that He must have forgiven him completely and did not take his many sins into account after he had had a change of heart and mind. Through baptism, Saul had been reborn into new life that God has called him into, the new Christian life that he dedicated himself, as Paul from then on. Then, all of us too have been called by God to follow the example of St. Paul.

We must not despise or judge anyone just because we think that we are better than them in any way, especially with regards to sin. If a very terrible sinner like Saul could change and be converted, then so can the worst of sinners as long as they are willing to open their hearts and minds to allow God to enter into their lives and transform them as He once did with Saul. And before we judge or be prejudiced against anyone, we should first look at ourselves.

In this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, all of us are also called by God to reflect on the conversion of this great saint so as to emulate it in our own respective lives. If we have not been faithful to God, if we have forgotten about Him in the midst of our very busy life schedules and works, if we have abandoned Him and preferred something else to Him, not being thankful to Him for all the love and care that He has shown us, and if we have been being angry at Him just because we thought that He did not listen to our prayers, then I am sure that we need this time to contemplate.

I am certain that each and every one of us, being sinner and imperfect, need God’s healing grace and mercy. But we often closed our hearts and minds against Him that we ended up acting as how Saul once acted in the years of his youth, zealous and very energetic but completely misguided and misled by blind faith and blind obedience. In the same manner, we have often acted out of disobedience and we fell into sin because we prefer to follow our own ways and disregard God’s will.

All of that led us to be lost and separated from God. We must realise that there are still lots of temptations and forces out there trying to keep us away from God and His salvation. Are we then able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner as St. Paul has committed his? He has shown us what it truly means by a genuine conversion, that his whole life was changed for the greater glory of God as he lived for the sole purpose of glorifying God from the moment of his conversion.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to allow God to transform us as well? Are we able to go through a genuine and wholehearted conversion in life, changing our attitude from now on? If we have been lukewarm in our faith, may we be more faithful from now on and love God more. And if we have been distant from God, let us all strive to be closer to Him and to renew our relationships with Him. If we have been sinful all these while, let us all sin no more and seek to live our lives from now with faith.

May the Lord, through the intercession of His Apostle St. Paul, continue to bless us all and guide us in our respective journeys in life. May He strengthen us all and empower each and every one of us to live ever more faithfully in His presence. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-18

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”