Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us heard of the Lord’s assurance of a New Covenant that He had made with us all, His beloved people in our first reading today, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews presented the Lord Jesus as the Mediator of the New and Everlasting Covenant replacing the old Covenant between God and His people Israel.

The old Covenant, the old laws and ways, the practices of the past linked to that older pact no longer applied to anyone, after the Lord had revealed and sealed that New Covenant. The New Covenant was sealed by the loving sacrifice of Christ Himself, the Eternal High Priest on the Cross, as He laid His life bare on the Cross, as the Lamb to be sacrificed, the Lamb of God and the Paschal Lamb, by Whose Blood we have been saved.

Through this New Covenant, God had made full His promises to us, His promise to love us all and show His compassion to the very end. Each and every one of us have a share in this love, and the Lord had offered Himself as our High Priest before His heavenly Father, for the atonement and the forgiveness of all of our sins. His suffering and death were meant for us, and all of us have been called to partake in this New Covenant He had made with us.

God had revealed the fullness of His laws, all of His truth to His people as part of this Covenant, as He also sent us all the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth, which He has revealed and passed down to us through His Church, by the sending of His Apostles to be the ones leading the charge in spreading His Good News and the truth He has revealed to us. In the calling of the Apostles, God has also called us all to follow in their footsteps, that we should also serve Him as those whom God had called had done earlier.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Apostles were sent before the Lord to places to preach and to reveal His truth, and they were also given the power to heal and to cast out demons, doing the many good works of God. Their work did not stop with the death and resurrection of Our Lord, but in fact, guided by the Holy Spirit and the commission that God entrusted to them, they went forth to the many peoples of many nations, spreading the Word of God and calling many people to be a disciple and follower too.

They helped to build the Church and were truly its important foundation, and now, all of us who are members of the Church and belonging among Christ’s faithful ones, we have been entrusted with the same responsibility, as part of the Covenant that God has established with us, and which we have received generously through baptism. And therefore we are all called to live up to the Lord’s call, follow Him and dedicate ourselves to Him.

Today, we should reflect on the life and works of St. Vincent, holy Deacon and Martyr, whose examples can be great inspiration on how we can follow the Lord wholeheartedly in each and every moments of our lives. St. Vincent was also known as St. Vincent of Saragossa, one of the Deacons of Saragossa in Spain, the modern day Zaragoza, serving the bishop and local Christian community, occupying a very important position in the Church.

At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian carried out intense persecution against Christians, which caused many martyrs to emerge, and St. Vincent was one of these martyrs. St. Vincent was arrested together with his bishop and was threatened with great torture and suffering, unless he would burn the Sacred Scriptures and publicly repudiate his Christian faith.

St. Vincent spoke fervently and courageously against this and refused any further attempts to turn him and the other Christians away from the Lord in order to save their own lives. And the way St. Vincent spoke, with great courage and wisdom, without fear and anxiety greatly angered his persecutors so much so that he was tortured terribly and martyred by being grilled on a gridiron, which he was to be renowned for. But even in suffering, he remained resolute, firm and calm in adhering to his faith, which touched even his jailer, who became a convert afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the martyrdom of St. Vincent, all of us are shown what it means to be a Christian. As Christians, we need to put God above all else, and foremost before anything else. And our lives must be centred and focused on Him. We should love Him more than anything else, and through our words and actions, we should commit ourselves to Him and not to allow our actions or words to scandalise our faith.

Let us all be true disciples of the Lord from now on, and let us all commit more and more time, effort and attention so that we may be ever closer to God and be ever more worthy of Him, that God will bless us and bring us all into the everlasting inheritance He has prepared for each one of us. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted and they came to Him. He appointed twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘Apostles’. He wanted to send them out to preach, and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 84 : 8 and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Show us, o Lord, Your unfailing love and grant us Your saving help. Yet Your salvation is near to those who fear You, and Your Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Hebrews 8 : 6-13

Now, however, Jesus enjoys a much higher ministry in being the Mediator of a better covenant, founded on better promises. If all had been perfect in the first covenant, there would have been no need for another one. Yet God sees defects when He says : The days are coming – it is the word of the Lord – when I will draw up a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. They did not keep My covenant, and so I Myself have forsaken them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel in the days to come : I will put My law into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be My people.

None of them will have to teach one another or say to each other : Know the Lord, for they will know Me from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and no longer remember their wrongs. Here we are being told of a new covenant; which means that the first one had become obsolete, and what is obsolete and ageing is soon to disappear.

Monday, 10 August 2020 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast day of St. Lawrence, Holy Deacon and Martyr of the Church, as one of the most renowned saints of the early Church. St. Lawrence was one of the deacons of Rome and as such was greatly involved in the many important decisions and works in the very heart and centre of Christendom, the Church of Rome, the seat of the Vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter.

And on this day whatever we have heard from the Scriptures are essentially what we have seen from the lives and examples of St. Lawrence, who in his capacity as one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome, laboured tirelessly day and night in taking care of the needs of the people and ministering to the faithful, especially to those who are weak and poor, those who are less fortunate and needy. As the Archdeacon of Rome, despite his very important position, St. Lawrence remained humble and committed to his ministry.

At that time, the Church was going through a particularly tough and difficult persecution under the reign of the Roman Emperor Valerian who imposed strict and harsh measures against Christians, persecuting them, arresting many among them and even to the extent of making by the norms of Roman law of the seizing of the properties of those convicted by the state of crimes and penalties in order to condemn many among the Christians, from all walks of the society, and seize their belongings and assets.

As the Church did hold a considerable asset in its constant efforts to reach out and take care of those who are suffering, poor and less fortunate in the community, it quickly became a target by those who sought to gain the wealth and possessions of the Church for their own. The Emperor published a decree against the Church and its leadership, condemning all of the bishops, priests and deacons to death and that all of them were to be summarily executed, without trial.

Pope St. Sixtus II, the then Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ was among the first to suffer from the bitter rounds of persecutions, as he was captured and arrested as he was celebrating the Holy Mass at the catacombs, and was immediately put to death by execution soon after. More and more bishops, priests, deacons and and many among the laity would come to suffer in the coming days, and eventually, as it was evident that the authorities would move to confiscate and gain the possessions of the Church, St. Lawrence as the Archdeacon and therefore the one in charge of the management and the distribution of the properties of the Church quickly acted to distribute the properties and disposable materials to the poor and those who need them so as to prevent them from falling into the wicked hands of those who sought to claim them for their own benefits.

St. Lawrence was confronted by the prefect, who demanded the surrender of all the Church properties and its material wealth. And in response, he gathered all the infirm, the sick and all those who were poor and destitute, and presented all of them before the Roman prefect as the true wealth of the Church. This further infuriated the prefect and St. Lawrence was arrested, imprisoned, and eventually was martyred by being roasted alive on a gridiron, which was made even hotter by the anger of the prefects over St. Lawrence’s defiance, which if we remember the Old Testament, was also what happened to the three righteous compatriots of Daniel who refused to bow down to king Nebuchadnezzar and his false golden idol.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Lawrence showed us all the true meaning of Christian calling and virtue, which each and every one of us should also emulate in our own lives. St. Paul in our first reading today in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth spoke of the great wonders awaiting all those who had been generous in giving and charity, in love and compassion towards the poor and the needy. St. Lawrence showed us the examples of these by his great generosity and love, genuine concern for the poor and those who need help in the community.

And St. Lawrence also gave generously to the Lord, his faith and dedication, spending his time and effort to serve the Lord and giving everything to help the Church and the faithful. He showed us all what true Christian life and charism is all about, to give generously from ourselves to one another, to love tenderly and care with compassionate hearts and minds, and to reach out to help those who are in need, and to be faithful in all times and situations, even when things may be challenging and difficult for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord said to all of us through His disciples, in our Gospel today, “Unless a grain of wheat falls onto the ground and dies, it remains just as a seed, but if it dies, it produces much fruits.” These represent what we need to do in order to follow the Lord’s will and commandments, and this is by dying to our greed and desires, our pride and ego, all the things that led us to selfishness and to close ourselves up against God and against our fellow men.

The Lord called us all to follow Him, and following Him means that we should shed from ourselves our personal agenda and desires, our ambitions and all the things that had led us astray all these while. And let us all follow Him just as St. Lawrence the Deacon and Martyr had done, he who gave his whole life for the service of the Lord and His Church. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves in this way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to reach out to the needy and the less fortunate in our midst, in our community, especially during these difficult times and moments?

Let us all be inspired to walk in the path set before us by the saints, principally St. Lawrence whose memory we remember today. And let us all realise that through our generosity, faith and love, God will certainly bless us all and glorify us, and all that we do, all of these shall be counted for us on the day of judgment. Let us all be beacons of God’s hope and light in our communities, among our friends and loved ones and also among all those whom we encounter daily in life. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 10 August 2020 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 12 : 24-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life.”

“Whoever wants to serve Me, let him follow Me; and wherever I am, there shall My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him.”

Monday, 10 August 2020 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

He has no fear of evil news, for his heart is firm, trusting in YHVH. His heart is confident; he need not fear; he shall prevail over his foes at the end.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.

Monday, 10 August 2020 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Corinthians 9 : 6-10

Remember : the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously. Each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly, as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything, at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work.

Scripture says : He distributed, He gave to the poor, His good works last forever. God, Who provides the sower with seed, will also provide him with the bread he eats. He will multiply the seed for you and also increase the interest on your good works.

Friday, 4 October 2019 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us through the Scripture passages which we have heard today are reminded of what it means for us to be Christians, in that each and every one of us ought to obey the Lord and follow His path, and not to fall into the temptations present in this world and end up therefore falling into sin as what the Scripture passages had presented to us this day.

In our first reading today, we heard the lamentations of the people of God as represented by the prophet Baruch, in which he spoke of the sins which the people of Israel had committed all the many years after God had shown so much love, care and concern for them, after He had brought them out of their slavery and suffering in Egypt into a land overflowing with milk and honey and full of prosperity, making them into a powerful and glorious nation.

And yet, those people rejected God and went to seek the pagan idols and gods instead, abandoning the Law and the commandments God had given them for the wicked ways of the world. They disobeyed God and committed sinful acts and deeds before Him for many, many years, and yet, God still patiently tried to bring them back to Him and to reconcile them to Him through His messengers and prophets.

The lamentations and the words spoken by the prophet Baruch were yet another reminder to the people of God just how much they have erred and lived in a state of sin for all those years. And this is what is also echoed in our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus spoke up against the cities of Galilee, of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida, when He rebuked those cities for their lack of faith.

And this rebuke was made in the context of how those cities, which were the ones mainly occupied by the Jewish people in Galilee, had not welcomed the Lord and accepted Him as they should have, and even as the Lord performed miraculous deeds and taught among the people there, they still doubted Him, unlike that of the other places in Galilee and even in Samaria where the Lord were welcomed and the people there listened to His message of truth and believed.

The Lord put it very clearly and bluntly that those who reject Him will only have condemnation in the end for them, and they will suffer because of their conscious abandonment of God’s love and grace. God has done so much, again and again to help them and to provide for them from time to time, because of His enduring love for us that remain strong even when we have disappointed Him so much, because He does not want us to be destroyed.

As we can see, all of us should appreciate just how much God has loved us all, and we should therefore do our best to love Him and to serve Him wholeheartedly by having a conversion of heart, mind, body and soul, so that while once we were deeply rooted in sin and wickedness, now we may turn ourselves into the true and faithful children of God. And today, we should therefore be inspired by the examples and the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the renowned saint and founder of the Franciscan order whose feast we are celebrating today.

St. Francis of Assisi was born as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, the son of a wealthy merchant Pietro di Bernardone in Middle Ages Italy. At that time, the father of St. Francis wanted him to be the successor of his career and business as a rich silk merchant, and therefore provided the young St. Francis with plenty of good education and excellent worldly upbringing intended to prepare him for the role.

He lived a high life and a life filled with all sorts of luxury, but gradually he became disillusioned with all the wealth, glory and privileges he had, as told by the few encounters he had with the poor, which began to affect St. Francis’ outlook on the world and his own life’s calling. Eventually, he received God’s calling through several occurrences as he began to withdraw himself from the usual worldly indulgences, and began to turn towards the Lord with faith.

It was told that as he passed through an abandoned chapel of San Damiano, he heard God’s calling to restore His church, which the young St. Francis took literally as a calling to repair the abandoned and ruined chapel. St. Francis quietly took some of his father’s wares and sold them to get the necessary funds to repair the chapel, but the priest in charge of the chapel refused to accept the ill-gotten money.

Nonetheless, St. Francis had to hide from his father’s anger and sought protection from the local bishop. When the father of St. Francis demanded that St. Francis returned what he had cost him, and even wanted to make him to renounce his rights to his inheritance, St. Francis surprisingly took off all the garments from his body and returned them back to his father, naked and empty as he was on the day of his birth.

From then on, St. Francis of Assisi embraced fully his faith in God and lived his life as a penitent in Assisi, eventually gathering like-minded men to begin the foundations of what would eventually known as the Order of the Friars Minor or better known after its founder as the Franciscan Order. Through his efforts in founding the Franciscan Order, St. Francis of Assisi inspired countless others to follow the Lord with a renewed zeal and commitment.

St. Francis showed all of us what it means for us to focus our lives’ attention and effort on the Lord, in order for us to become His true disciples. He resisted the temptations of worldly glory, for money and possessions, for fame and for wealth, for glory and for the pleasures of the body, and instead sought for the greatest treasure that can be found in God alone. Are we able to do the same with our own lives, brothers and sisters in Christ?

It does not mean that we should abandon everything we have or sell everything we have and give them to the poor, but rather, we must resist the urge, desire and temptation to focus our lives on the wrong pursuit for more money, glory, fame and worldly things, and instead, make good use of those blessings we have received for the good of others and for the greater glory of God. Let us all reflect on this, and discern how we can better serve God through our lives from now on.

May the Lord continue to bless us all and guide us, and may He empower each and every one of us to become true Christians in the mould of St. Francis of Assisi, our role model in faith. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 4 October 2019 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 10 : 13-16

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! So many miracles have been worked in you! If the same miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would already be sitting in ashes and wearing the sackcloth of repentance.”

“Surely for Tyre and Sidon it will be better on the Day of Judgment than for you. And what of you, city of Capernaum? Will you be lifted up to heaven? You will be thrown down to the place of the dead. Whoever listens to you listens to Me, and whoever rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me, rejects the One Who sent Me.”