Thursday, 2 May 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the responsibility which each and every one of us as Christians have, that is to be witnesses and defenders of our faith before all the people, to be walking in the footsteps of the Apostles and all those who have given themselves wholly in the service of God, as we have ourselves heard in our Scripture passages today.

In the first reading today, we listened to the persistence and perseverance of the Apostles in the face of harsh persecution and opposition, as they were faced with fierce opposition from the influential members of the Jewish High Council, the Sanhedrin, who wanted the Apostles to stop preaching, teaching and doing works in the Name of the Lord Jesus, by Whose Name they have performed miracles, healing and called the people of God to believe in the Saviour Who had died for them.

But the Apostles stood by their faith in God and refused to abandon the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them, just as St. John the Baptist in our Gospel passage today testified before the people and before all those who opposed him, that he obeyed the will of God and he preached the truth and the salvation that God has revealed through His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Saviour of all the world.

St. John the Baptist also faced a lot of opposition and challenges, from the same influential members of the community who felt threatened by the influence, charisma and the message which both St. John the Baptist and the Apostles had brought with them and which they preached and taught among the people. That is because God’s truth has come to dispel the falsehoods and the corrupted truths which the enemies and opponents of the Lord had championed.

And in today’s occasion, aptly and most appropriately, we also celebrate the feast day of one of the great servants of God, whose life has also been filled with plenty of challenges and difficulties, and how this holy servant stood by his faith courageously, and became known as the staunch defender of the true, orthodox Christian faith. He is St. Athanasius the Great, Holy Doctor of the Church and great Defender of the Faith.

St. Athanasius was the Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the most important dioceses of the Church, and a great leader of the faithful at a time when the Church and the community of Christendom were bitterly divided between the many heresies and false teachings by false teachers and preachers who spread untruths and heresies that took hold many among the faithful, dividing even bishops against bishops, priests against priests, the Church against each other.

St. Athanasius defended the true faith in particular against the heresy of Arianism, which denied the equality of Jesus Christ, the Son of God with His heavenly Father, and for such, he was known also for his now famous Athanasian Creed, a very comprehensive version of the Christian Creed that is filled with the centre tenets of the faith, especially in the truth of the Holy Trinity, the distinctiveness, equality and yet perfect unity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is something that many of the heresies including Arianism tried to undermine and corrupt.

For his courageous and relentless defence of the true faith, St. Athanasius had to endure much difficulty and sufferings, having endured several exiles and persecutions by his enemies, who sometimes enjoyed the support of the Roman Empire and its institutions. Yet, St. Athanasius did not give up and continued to defend the faith till the end of his life, and he was remembered for his courage and faithfulness, as the true faith eventually triumphed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are also called and expected to stand up for our faith, not through confrontation or violence, but through our courageous and committed desire to live our whole lives being dedicated to God, just as the Apostles, St. John the Baptist and St. Athanasius the Great had done. Let us all be truly faithful, that the love of God will be the centre of our every actions, words and deeds, that we may find true justification in God. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 2 May 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 31-36

At that time, John the Baptist said, “He Who comes from above is above all; he who comes from the earth belongs to the earth, and his words belong to the earth. He Who comes from heaven speaks of the things He has seen and heard; He bears witness to these things, but no one accepts His testimony. Whoever does receive His testimony acknowledges the truthfulness of God.”

“The One sent by God speaks God’s words, and gives the Spirit unstintingly. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything into His hands. Whoever believes in the Son lives with eternal life; but he who will not believe in the Son will never know life, and always faces the justice of God.”

Thursday, 2 May 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 33 : 2 and 9, 17-18, 19-20

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. Oh, see and taste the goodness of the Lord! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

But His face is set against the wicked to destroy their memory from the earth. The Lord hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught. Many are the troubles of the just, but the Lord delivers them from all.

Thursday, 2 May 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 5 : 27-33

So the High Priest and his supporters brought the Apostles in and made them stand before the Council and the High Priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders not to preach such a Saviour; but you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend charging us with the killing of this Man.”

To this Peter and the Apostles replied, “Better for us to obey God rather than any human authority! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus Whom you killed by hanging Him on a wooden post. God set Him at His right hand as Leader and Saviour, to grant repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses to all these things, as well as the Holy Spirit Whom God has given to those who obey Him.

When the Council heard this, they became very angry and wanted to kill them.

Thursday, 11 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the Covenant which God has established with each and every one of us, the children of Abraham by faith. Abraham was prominently mentioned in the first reading today taken from the Book of Genesis, in which the Covenant of God with him was mentioned, all the promises that God had made before him, how He would make him the father of many nations, and how his descendants would be innumerable and became great nations.

And Abraham were favoured by God with such a great promise because of his faith in God, his steadfastness and willingness to obey and to follow the will of God. That was why out of many other men and women of his time, God chose Abraham to be the instrument of His will and the partaker of His Covenant. To him was granted a son, even at his old age, and when his wife could not possibly have borne him any more children, as the proof and concrete sign of God’s faithfulness.

It was ironic therefore, that in the Gospel passage today, when the Lord came to fulfil the fullness of His promises to the descendants of Abraham, many among those same descendants refused to believe in Him, and in the good works and the truth that He was proclaiming and performing in their midst. Instead, they accused Him of collaborating with evil spirits and committing blasphemy before God, in their own opinion.

The people claimed that the Lord could not have been true in what He spoke, because they were unable to see the wisdom of God being revealed in the person of Jesus. They were amazed and in fact enraged when they heard Jesus saying that He was there even before Abraham was, and they thought of Him as merely a Man and nothing else. Some among them even thought of the Lord Jesus as a heretic, a dangerous influence that must be removed.

In this occasion therefore, we saw two very different attitudes and expressions between the attitude of Abraham, who was faithful and committed to God, and the attitude of the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham who lacked faith in God and who refused to believe in the One Whom He had sent into the world, into their midst. We saw how mankind had succumbed so deeply into sin, that those sins hardened their hearts and minds, and prevented them from coming closer to God and His truth.

In this case, we saw the contrast between the humility of Abraham in accepting God’s plans for him, and the pride of his descendants who refused to acknowledge the truth of God being revealed before their very eyes. And that pride brought danger to them, for it made them stubborn and even ardently opposing the Lord’s efforts and wanting to kill Him for His supposed ‘blasphemy’ in their opinion.

And therefore, through the passages of the Scriptures we have received and heard today, we are reminded that we have been presented with many choices of actions in our daily lives. We can choose to obey the Lord and to follow His commandments and laws just as Abraham, our father in faith has done, or we can instead indulge in our own worldly desires and in our own ego and pride, as the Israelites did, many times throughout history, including at the time of Jesus, in how they disobeyed God and opposed His good works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be aware that if we choose to follow in the path of Christ, as we should, we will likely encounter the same opposition and challenges as the Lord Himself has faced. It is indeed much easier for us to be wicked than to be righteous, to be prideful rather than to be humble, to be filled with anger, hatred, lust and jealousy rather than to be filled with love, compassion and mercy.

Today, therefore, we ought to listen to the story of the life of St. Stanislas, a holy bishop and servant of God, and also a martyr of the Church and the faith. St. Stanislas was a Polish bishop who stood up courageously against the ruler of Poland at the time, king Boleslaw the Brave. The king and his nobles were not living righteously and were enacting laws and regulations that were corrupt. St. Stanislaw himself chastised the king for his sexual immorality and lack of proper conduct as a ruler.

The king was so angered by the bishop’s opposition to his rule and his policies, that he tried to have him killed, only for St. Stanislas to be even firmer in his opposition to the king’s waywardness. Eventually, the holy and devout servant of God was martyred at the hand of the king himself, when the men the king sent to slaughter him refused to lay their hands on the holy bishop. And thus, a faithful servant of God fell for defending his faith, and yet, be assured that his reward in heaven and everlasting life is unimaginably great.

Thus, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us ought to be inspired by the faith of both Abraham, our father in faith and that of St. Stanislas, holy servant of God and faithful defender of the faith. Let us all purge from ourselves all taints of sin, of ego and pride, of anger and jealousy, of hatred, greed and worldly desires. Let us all instead fill ourselves with humility, with love and compassion in our hearts, and with the burning desire to love God and put Him at the centre of our lives from now on. May the Lord always be our guide, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 11 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

John 8 : 51-59

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but You say, ‘Whoever keeps My word will never experience death.’ Who do You claim to be? Do You claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.”

Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise Myself, it would count for nothing. But He Who gives glory to Me is the Father, the very One you claim as your God, although you do not know Him. I know Him, and if I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you. But I know Him and I keep His word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.”

The Jews then said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and You have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and left the Temple.

Thursday, 11 April 2019 : 5th Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 104 : 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always. Remember His wonderful works, His miracles and His judgments.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

He remembers His covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.