Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard from the Acts of the Apostles, an excerpt from which our first reading was taken, about the experience which St. Peter the Apostle had received, when he was called by God to visit an influential Gentile, or a non-Jew named Cornelius. St. Peter initially received a vision from God, of animals from various kinds, which are not counted among those considered clean by the Jewish dietary laws.

God commanded St. Peter through His voice, to eat those animals, which St. Peter refused to do so, because he had been obedient to the Jewish dietary customs and would not want to do something contrary to those rules and laws. But God rebuked St. Peter and said that, whatever He had deemed to be clean and worthy, St. Peter should not have considered as unclean.

This vision repeated for three times, and which came to his mind once again, as St. Peter came to the house of Cornelius and his family, who believed in God and were baptised as Christians after having heard the Good News. Then St. Peter realised what God’s true intention was when He showed him the vision three times. It showed him that God, ultimately loves each and every one of us, regardless of who we are and what our background is, regardless of our race or language, appearance or by whichever parameter we often categorise ourselves with.

He is our Shepherd, Who knows each and every one of us, as He mentioned it in our Gospel passage today. And He has called all of His sheep to Himself, and leading them to the right path towards salvation. He desires nothing else for us other than our reconciliation and happiness in Him. And to Him, every one of us are equally beloved and dear to Him, unlike the Israelites at the time of Jesus, who thought that the Lord loved them alone over all the other nations.

Indeed, God has called the Israelites first from among all the other nations. They were His first chosen people, but that time, God wanted to reveal the truth about Himself, that all people, from all races and from all sorts of origins and backgrounds are His, and they are dear to Him. He has thus called on all of them to come to Him, to be reconciled and to be reunited in one flock, led and guided by Him, the Good Shepherd of all.

And to them, He sent His disciples, such as St. Peter, and especially St. Paul, the Apostle who had the most interaction with the Gentiles. Through these devoted servants and messengers, He turned the hearts of many of them to Him, and many were called to the faith, just as Cornelius and his family had shown us. Those Gentiles showed great faith, just as much and in fact even more than the Jews themselves, and they received the same gift of faith and the Holy Spirit as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to remember the missionary nature of our faith. All of us have received this faith from someone else, be it from our own parents, or from someone who have instructed us in the faith. And they, in turn, have received the faith from others as well. Ultimately, all of us received our faith from God, through His Church, by the works of His Apostles and disciples, by which we have received the Good News and therefore made to share in His inheritance.

And many of these servants of God have suffered and died, just as the Apostles had, in order to bring us the faith and the Good News. Among them, today we remember two faithful saints, St. George and St. Adalbert, both of whom were martyred for their faith, and became source of great inspiration to many of the faithful throughout the ages. They have done all they could in order to bring God’s salvation to His people, imitating the example of He Who is the Good Shepherd.

St. George was a Roman soldier who served under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was renowned for his particularly intense persecution of Christians. St. George himself was secretly a Christian, and when the Emperor commanded a universal persecution of all Christians, their arrest and torture, and for all the members of the army to sacrifice to the pagan Roman gods and to the Emperor, St. George was said to have resolved to remain faithful to God, and embraced the likely fate of his own martyrdom.

St. George openly declared his faith before the Emperor, who in his outrage, sent St. George to be imprisoned and tortured, hoping that he would abandon his faith after having been subjected to torture, suffering, as well as persuasions and temptations. It was told that the Emperor even sent a beautiful young woman to seduce St. George, but it backfired, as the young woman was instead converted, after having been convinced as such by the holy saint.

In fact, it was told that the Empress herself was so touched by St. George’s faith that she herself became a convert, and henceforth known as St. Alexandra of Rome, martyred together with St. George for their faith in God. The Emperor was particularly angered by the fact that even his wife had been persuaded and convinced to accept the Christian faith.

Meanwhile, St. Adalbert was a faithful and devout servant of God, who in his capacity as the bishop of Prague in what is now Czech Republic, went to evangelise among the pagan peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. He was devoted to the mission entrusted to him, and despite challenges and opposition from those who disagreed with his ways, St. Adalbert persevered faithfully and his flock benefitted greatly from his commitment and hard work.

St. Adalbert devoted himself to missionary work, and many people were baptised under his work. Many souls were saved from certain damnation by his works, calling men to repentance and to be forgiven and reconciled with God. However, he did not have his work easily done before him, and instead, he encountered many challenges and opposition, not least from the pagans themselves, many of whom refused to be converted to the true faith.

That was how St. Adalbert met his martyrdom as he went on to preach to the Baltic pagans, many of whom refused to welcome him and accept the Lord as their Saviour. But, his perseverance and hard work won him the admiration of many among the faithful, as well as many others who walked in his footsteps throughout the years. As we can see, St. George and St. Adalbert have both shown us, how we can be faithful to the Lord, in the mission entrusted to them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we too, have been entrusted with the same mission. The Lord wanted all the people, all of mankind to be reconciled with Him, and there are still many out there who have not yet received the Lord and His Good News, and many still have rejected Him and wandered off His path. It is now up to us, to continue the good works that the Apostles, and the saints, St. George and St. Adalbert had begun.

May the Lord be with us and guide us in this journey, so that we may be able to find our own way to Him, and be able to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the mission and cause He has entrusted to us. May the Lord bless us all and our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 10 : 1-10

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. But the shepherd of the sheep enters by the gate. The keeper opens the gate to him and the sheep hear his voice; he calls each of his sheep by name and leads them out.”

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but rather they will run away from him, because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this comparison, but they did not understand what He was saying to them.

So Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, I am the Gate of the sheep. All who came were thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not hear them. I am the Gate. Whoever enters through Me will be saved; he will go in and out freely and find food. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness.”

Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 41 : 2-3 and Psalm 42 : 3, 4

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for You, o God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God?

Send forth Your light and Your truth; let them be my guide, let them take me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You reside.

Then will I go to the Altar of God, to God, my gladness and delight. I will praise You with the lyre an harp, o God, my God.

Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 11 : 1-18

News came to the Apostles and the brothers and sisters in Judea that even foreigners had received the Word of God. So, when Peter went up to Jerusalem, these Jewish believers began to argue with him, “You went to the home of uncircumcised people and ate with them!”

So Peter began to give them the facts as they had happened, “I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when, in a trance, I saw a vision. Something like a large sheet came down from the sky and drew near to me, landing on the ground by its four corners. As I stared at it, I saw four-legged creatures of the earth, wild beasts and reptiles, and birds of the sky.”

“Then I heard a voice saying to me : ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ I replied, ‘Certainly not, Lord! No common or unclean creature has ever entered my mouth.’ A second time the voice from the heavens spoke, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call unclean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all drawn up into the sky. At that moment three men, who had been sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were staying.”

“The Spirit instructed me to go with them without hesitation; so these six brothers came along with me and we entered into the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an Angel standing in his house and telling him : ‘Send someone to Joppa and fetch Simon, also known as Peter. He will bring you a message by which you and all your household will be saved.”

“I had begun to address them when suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon them, just as it had come upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said : ‘John baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ If, then, God had given them the same gift that He had given us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to resist God?”

When they heard this they set their minds at rest and praised God saying, “Then God has granted life-giving repentance to the pagan nations as well.”

Saturday, 21 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that as a disciple and follower of the Lord, we have a lot of responsibilities in our lives as well as work to do, in facing occasions when we need to stand up for our faith facing the challenges and obstacles that will be on our path if we remain faithful to God.

In the first reading today, we heard of how the Apostle St. Peter travelled from place to place, preaching about the Lord and performing many miraculous works, healing people who were sick, infirm and disabled. Eventually, he also performed what many people thought was impossible, that is to return someone who had died, back into life. Yet, that had exactly happened, just as the Lord Jesus Himself brought Lazarus back to life.

In the Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples regarding what they have heard Him teaching the people, on Himself as the Living Bread, the Bread of Life, by the giving of His own Body and by the outpouring of His own Blood, which in fact turned off many people who could not believe that someone would give His own Body and His own Blood for others to eat and drink.

They could not understand in their simple minds about the revelation which God had brought to them. To them it is inconceivable and impossible for a man to do as what the Lord Jesus had said, and they could not bring themselves to believe it. But that is because they were thinking in worldly terms and not in terms of God. Yet, that is the reality and the truth, just as a man and a girl who had died, could return to life once again, as the Lord Jesus and His Apostle, St. Peter had done.

As Christians, all of us stand by the Lord’s ways, which often may seem to be strange or even incomprehensible to those who live by the ways of the world. And as such, there may be occasions when we will be ridiculed, rejected and shunned by others, even by those who are close to us, because we stand by firmly to our faith in God and not following what is common to those in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, let us ask ourselves, are we able to stand by the Lord faithfully in the same manner as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had done? Are we able to commit ourselves in the same way as they had? Many people refused to believe what the Lord had said, left Him behind and went on their own way. But the disciples remained firm in their conviction and faith, despite of all that they have just experienced and heard.

What all of these are telling us, is the fact that as Christians, all of us will be tempted from all sides and sources, to abandon the Lord and to walk on their own path. But we have to persevere through all of these challenges and temptations, for should we fail to do so, what is at stake is nothing less than the fate of our eternal soul. And it is through Christ alone that we can reach out to the Lord and be saved.

Let us all look at the faith that our holy predecessor, St. Anselm of Canterbury had once shown, which became inspiration for many others. On this day, as we celebrate his feast and remember his actions, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, who faithfully served his flock and cared for the needs of all those who have been entrusted to him. He even resisted the secular authorities, of kings and nobles who tried to intrude into the governance of the Church.

For that, he had to endure opposition, persecution and exile. He had to endure painful suffering and opposition from the powerful lords and especially the king of England who wanted to make the Church in his domains subservient to his rule and whim. He struggled faithfully and remained firm in his faith, not giving in to the temptations or to the persuasions. In the end, the truth triumphed and St. Anselm shared in the glory of God’s Apostles and His saints.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all walk in the same path as walked by St. Anselm, in his faith and devotion, in his commitment and outreach, all the effort he had put in place to serve the people of God with faith. Let us all seek to be faithful at all times, and devote ourselves, our time and attention to be with God, to love Him with all of our strength, as we should, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 21 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 60-69

At that time, after the Jews heard Jesus, many of His followers said, “This language is very hard! Who can accept it?”

Jesus was aware that His disciples were murmuring about this, and so He said to them, “Does this offend you? Then how will you react when you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, not the flesh. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

From the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him. So He added, “As I have told you, no one can come to Me unless it is granted by the Father.” After this many disciples withdrew and no longer followed Him. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Will you also go away?

Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We now believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Saturday, 21 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful.

O Lord, I am Your servant, truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s son. You have freed me from my bonds. I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord.