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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 78 : 1-2, 3-5, 8, 9

O God, the pagans have invaded Your inheritance; they have defiled Your holy Temple and reduced Jerusalem to rubble. They have given Your servants’ corpses to the birds, and the flesh of Your saints, to the beasts of the earth.

They have poured out the blood of Your faithful, like water around Jerusalem, and there was no one to bury them. Mocked and reviled by those around us, we are scorned by our neighbours. How long will this last, o YHVH? Will You be angry forever? Will Your wrath always burn to avenge Your rights?

Do not remember against us the sins of our fathers. Let Your compassion hurry to us, for we have been brought very low.

Help us, God, our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name; forgive us, for the sake of Your Name.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Baruch 1 : 15-22

You will say : May everyone recognise the justice of our God but, on this day, shame and confusion befit the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem – our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, and our fathers, because we have sinned before the Lord.

We have disobeyed Him and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, nor have we followed the commandments which the Lord had put before us. From the day that the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until this day, we have disobeyed the Lord our God and we have rebelled against Him instead of listening to His voice.

Because of this, from the day on which the Lord brought our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, so as to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, the evils and the curse which the Lord pronounced by Moses, His servant, have dogged our footsteps right down to the present day.

We did not listen to the voice of the Lord our God speaking through the words of the prophets whom He sent to us, but each one of us followed his perverted heart, serving false gods and doing what displeases the Lord our God.

Saturday, 10 August 2019 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we gather together to celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence the Deacon, a renowned and holy martyr of the faith, and one of the great inspirations to many Christians throughout the centuries. St. Lawrence the Deacon was one of the most prominent early churchmen, being one of the deacons of the Church of Rome, among the most respected positions in Christendom, as the direct assistant to the Vicar of Christ, the Pope in Rome.

St. Lawrence the Deacon was entrusted with great responsibilities in managing the daily affairs of the Church of Rome, taking care of the treasures and riches of the Church, managing the distribution of its goods and resources to those who were in need, taking care of almsgiving and charitable works in the Christian community just as how the order of the Diaconate was initiated for.

At that time, being a Christian meant great suffering and high probability of being arrested, persecuted and martyred, as the position of the civil government of the Roman Empire at the time was that of opposition and persecution of all Christians throughout the realm of the Empire. The Roman Emperor at that time, Valerian, was in particular harsh in his persecution and oppression of Christians, ordering the arrest of all Christians.

The Emperor ordered that all the leaders of the Church, the bishops, priests and deacons were to be arrested and killed right away, and that included St. Lawrence the Deacon and the Pope. The then Pope, Pope St. Sixtus II, whose feast we have just celebrated very recently also, was martyred in this manner, and followed not long afterwards by St. Lawrence himself. St. Lawrence was ordered to surrender the riches of the Church under his care and stewardship to the Roman state.

St. Lawrence courageously did all that he could in order to distribute discreetly all the resources of the Church as much as possible to the Christian community to avoid all of them being seized by the Roman state, and then defiantly presenting to the Roman prefect sent to seize the resources and wealth of the Church, poor, crippled and suffering people as the true treasures of the Church, declaring that the Church is truly richer than the Emperor. He was then martyred for his faith and courage.

What St. Lawrence meant was that, despite all the riches of the world, all the things that this world and its rulers and people can boast of having, none of these can compare to the true treasure that can be found in the Lord alone, through His Church. For God is the foundation and the heart of the Church, the One uniting all the believers and the whole body of the Christian community, and in God alone we can find true glory, true happiness and satisfaction.

And that corresponds to what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, in what we have heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth speaking about the matter of sowing and reaping the benefit of what has been sown, and those who sow generously will also reap generous benefits as well, and vice versa. This reminds us of the need to be true witnesses of the Lord and be devoted to Him wholeheartedly as part of our ‘sowing’ of the faith in our own lives.

And in the Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke of the famous words, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls onto the ground and dies, it remains as a single grain, but if it dies, it will produce generous crops.’ This is in fact connected to what had happened to St. Lawrence and the numerous other martyrs of the Church who had suffered and even given their lives for the greater glory and for the service to God.

They remained true to their faith and were faithful to God, rather than seeking their own safety and the assurances of the world, so that by their courageous defence of their faith, by their exemplary piety and commitment to God, Christians of other times and ages may be inspired by their examples, and learn to follow the Lord as they have done. Indeed, the examples set by these holy martyrs, St. Lawrence and his many other companions in faith have inspired countless Christians throughout time, and I am sure that include many of us as well.

Now, brothers and sisters, we are all therefore challenged to be exemplary in our own lives and in how we live up to our faith as our holy predecessors had done. Are we able to follow the Lord in that way? Are we able to commit ourselves and follow Him with true love and sincerity from now on? Let us all be examples to one another, that by our lives and by our faith, we may become witnesses of our faith in God, and bear His truth to the world, as St. Lawrence and many of our holy predecessors had done. Amen.

Saturday, 10 August 2019 : 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.”