Saturday, 21 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the responsibility and mission that each one of us as Christians had been entrusted with, and how as the followers and disciples of Christ, it is bound that we will encounter challenges and trials in our journey and path, as we continue to proceed down this way, in obeying the Lord and His commandments. Sometimes we may even have to make a stand and choose between remaining faithful to the Lord or to conform to the ways and norms of the world at the cost of abandoning our faith and Christian identity.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke plainly before all of His disciples that they were bound to be hated by the world, as the world itself had hated the Lord and tried to suppress Him and His truth. Just as the Lord had encountered a lot of opposition from the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and the chief priests throughout His mission in this world, and had His path littered with plenty of disapproval, persecution and ridicule from those who hardened their hearts and refused to believe in His truth, hence, the same things would likely happen to those who walk in the same path that Christ had walked as well.

That was what the disciples would encounter as they went on their mission and works, having been sent by the Lord with the mission to evangelise to the whole entire world. He called on all of them and gave them the mission to go forth to all the nations, and make disciples of all mankind, to baptise them all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and the many other missionaries and servants of God all laboured throughout the history of the Church, proclaiming the Good News of God’s salvation and His truth, and both enjoying great successes as well as enduring the persecution that came in quite a few of their missions.

As we heard in our first reading today, we heard of how St. Paul continued with his missionary journey, bringing St. Timothy, one of his protege with him, who would become one of the first bishops and successors of the Apostles. It was mentioned and indirectly implied how the Apostles were encountering challenges in their journey, and how the Christian missionaries encountered opposition from both the Jewish diaspora and from others who were not receptive of the truth they were bringing to them. If we read on more from the Acts of the Apostles beyond our reading passage today, then we will realise just how much hardships they had to endure.

Thus, as I mentioned earlier, the Apostles both encountered hardships, trials, prison and even death in martyrdom, as well as great successes in gaining many more people who became believers in the Lord. They established firm foundation for the Church, and many people flocked to seek the truth of God. The Church as we know it today would not have existed if not for all the hard work and efforts showed by the Apostles and all the followers of the Lord. This is why it is very important for us to appreciate and realise the importance of our commitment to the work of evangelisation, as without those who commit themselves to the work of the Gospels, the Church would not have grown.

Today, we remember the great examples set by the faithful servants of God, St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions in faith and martyrdom, as they dedicated themselves to the works of the Lord and in defending their faith against those who sought to force them to abandon and betray their Lord and Master. St. Christopher Magallanes was a priest who ministered to the people of God and carried on his works in Mexico during the time of great persecution against the Christian faith, the Church, and especially against the clergy, priests and religious at a time of great suffering and sorrow for the Church.

At that time, the Mexican government was very hostile against the Church and its clergy, as well as to any expression of Christian faith and the faithful. Many of the clergy and the laity had to suffer a lot of persecution, being arrested and tortured, because of the government’s opposition against the Church, and the antipathy and disagreements they held over the missionaries and servants of God like St. Christopher Magallanes and many others, both the clergy and laity alike, many of whom were arrested and put in prison, and many were eventually martyred for remaining firmly true to their faith.

St. Christopher Magallanes himself was arrested and accused of helping the rebellion of the government, which was a false charge, and he was eventually sentenced to death, enduring martyrdom for his love for God. Many others shared his fate, dying from the persecution of the Church and the faithful which lasted for more than a decade and resulting in the destruction of many of the Church’s structures and the deaths of countless people to the persecution by the authorities. That however did not dampen the spirit and courage of many among the faithful who welcomed suffering and martyrdom in remaining faithful to God, becoming great inspiration even for us today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all do our best to serve the Lord faithfully, commit ourselves to the great works entrusted to us by God. May God empower us to walk with faith and to be great role models and faithful witnesses in the same manner that St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions in faith and martyrdom had inspired us all. May God bless us all, now and forevermore, and bring us all ever closer to His throne of grace. Amen.

Saturday, 21 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 15 : 18-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that the world hated Me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you.”

“Remember what I told you : the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted Me, they will persecute you, too. If they kept My word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you for the sake of My Name, because they do not know the One Who sent Me.”

Saturday, 21 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Saturday, 21 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him.

As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures, which remind us of the need for us to remain firmly attached to the Lord, to be connected to Him, the True Vine and the One and only True Lord and Saviour. In our Scripture passages today, we are reminded that as Christians we have to be rooted in Christ, the One in Whom we ought to believe in wholeheartedly and put our full trust in. Otherwise, if we do not do so, then we will easily lose our path and way in life, and we may end up falling into the temptations of worldliness and sin.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles regarding the matter of the confrontation that arose between the ones who supported a much more rigid application of the Jewish laws and traditions and wanting to impose them on all the faithful, and those who were supporting a more relaxed and welcoming stance to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people. Both of these groups had contrasting views on how the Church should act and respond in evangelisation towards the many non-Jewish peoples as well as the expectations to be placed on each Christians.

The divisions that existed between each factions were threatening to split the Church apart and that might also lead to the alienation of those who would have wanted to follow the Lord, especially from among the Gentiles when they had to follow the Jewish customs and practices. That is because many of the Jewish customs and practices were abhorred by the peoples like Greeks and Romans among others, and those customs were seen as incompatible with their own culture and customs. Hence, it would have been difficult for them to be Christians and followers of the Lord if they had to abandon their own ways and customs.

As such, we heard in that same passage from the Acts of the Apostles, the very first gathering of the whole Church, the First Council of Jerusalem, in which the leaders of the Church and the elders all assembled to pray and discuss together the direction that the Church would take in going forward and following God together, as one people and as one Church. St. Peter the Apostle spoke up before the assembly of the faithful, presenting to them the facts and also the message and vision showed to him from God, which told him that the Lord wished for all the people, Jews or Gentiles, to be His followers all the same, and the restrictions of the old and former laws and how they were interpreted should not hinder or become barriers for the ones who wanted to follow Christ.

At that time, the Jews tended to have a lot of judgmental attitude towards the Gentiles, dismissing them as being pagans and being unworthy of God and His grace and love. That was why the faction of those who wanted to impose the strict and harsh requirements of the Jewish customs wanted to impose the same conditions to the Gentile converts to Christianity, because they conflated their attachment to the particular ways that they observed the Law with devotion and faith in God. The Lord Himself has criticised those who were too attached to their flawed interpretation of the Law and wanted them to break free from that path.

Hence, St. Peter highlighted the need for all the faithful to follow the true path as shown by Jesus, the True Vine and the One in Whom everyone ought to believe in. Instead of believing and holding fast to their own beliefs and ideas, all of the faithful must put their faith and trust, and derive their faith from the Lord Himself. And God has entrusted His Church at the hands of the Apostles like St. Peter and others, as well as their successors, that they may arbitrate judgments and decide through the Holy Spirit, the path and way moving forward for all the faithful people of God.

In our Gospel passage today, we are reminded through the parable of the True Vine as mentioned, highlighting to us that just as the branches have to remain connected to the main stem or vine, hence, we have to remain connected to Christ if we are to grow and prosper in faith. If we instead follow particular ideologies and refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit and the Lord speaking to us in the depths of our hearts and minds, then we will end up easily losing our direction and path in life, falling prey to the temptations of worldly desires and ambitions that had seen the downfall of so many people.

Today, just as we are reminded to remain faithful to the Lord, we are presented with the great examples from Pope St. John I, a holy Pope and Martyr who remained firmly faithful in the Lord despite him being caught squarely in the middle of political and theological conflicts at the time. As Pope, Pope St. John I led the Church in the time of great turbulence as the Church in Rome and Italy were under the state control of the Ostrogothic Kingdom, whose ruler, Theoderic the Great was an Arian, following a heresy that was in opposition to the true Christian belief and faith.

Pope St. John I was sent as a delegate to the court of the Roman Emperor in Constantinople by Theoderic with the aim to resolve the political and religious tensions existing between the Romans and the Ostrogoths. The Emperor treated and respected the Pope well, although the embassy was unsuccessful in pursuing the Ostrogoth king’s demands. Upon Pope St. John’s return to Rome and Ravenna, the Ostrogothic capital, Theoderic ordered his arrest and it was there that the Pope eventually died from neglect and poor health, dying a martyr to the true Christian faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the examples of Pope St. John I, the many other saints and martyrs, and all those who have dedicated their lives to serve the Lord, all who have kept themselves close to God and remain firm in their full love and dedication to His way. As Christians, let us all be inspiration to one another, and help each other to be committed to God, and not to fall into the path of sin, or to be swayed by other worldly matters. May God be with us always, and may He, the True Vine, keep us all alive with Him in faith, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 15 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the True Vine and My Father is the Vinegrower. If any of My branches does not bear fruit, He breaks it off; and He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, that it may bear even more fruit.”

“You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Live in Me as I live in you. The branch cannot bear fruit by itself, but has to remain part of the vine; so neither can you, if you do not remain in Me. I am the Vine and you are the branches. As long as you remain in Me and I in you, you bear much fruit; but apart from Me you can do nothing.”

“Whoever does not remain in Me is thrown away, as they do with branches, and they wither. Then they are gathered and thrown into the fire and burnt. If you remain in Me and My words in you, you may ask whatever you want, and it will be given to you. My Father is glorified when you bear much fruit : it is then that you become My disciples.”

Wednesday, 18 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 15 : 1-6

Some persons who had come from Judea to Antioch were teaching the brothers in this way, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Because of this there was trouble, and Paul and Barnabas had fierce arguments with them. For Paul told the people to remain as they were when they became believers. Finally those who had come from Jerusalem suggested that Paul and Barnabas and some others go up to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the Apostles and elders.

They were sent on their way by the Church. As they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they reported how the non-Jews had turned to God, and there was great joy among all the brothers and sisters. On their arrival in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, the Apostles and the elders, to whom they told all that God had done through them.

Some believers, however, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees, stood up and said that non-Jewish men must be circumcised and instructed to keep the law of Moses. So the Apostles and elders met together to consider the matter.

Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are shown again of more of the works of the Apostles who had gone to proclaim the truth of God in more and more places in their long years and periods of ministry, reaching out to the people who have not yet known the Lord and speaking of the history of God’s salvation among His people, which He had fulfilled and made whole through Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Whose coming into this world heralded the coming of the time of grace, the time when the Lord came to gather His beloved people and reconciling all of us to Himself.

In our first reading today, we heard of the account of the works of St. Paul in evangelising amongst the Jewish people in Antioch in Pisidia in Asia Minor, where he went among the local Jewish diaspora community and spoke up about the Lord in the synagogue. He spoke courageously and at length about the works of God’s salvation among His people, on how He had led them out of Egypt, guiding them and protecting them all the way, appointing judges and kings, and also prophets to help them to remain on the right path, and sending them reminders and help whenever they faltered and fell into the wrong paths.

St. Paul also then spoke of the more recent events back then, regarding the works of St. John the Baptist that was quite well-known and popular among the Jewish people, even in the diaspora, and how he was the precursor and the one to prepare the path for the coming of the one true Messiah or Saviour for all the people, namely Christ Himself, the Son of God and the Holy One, Who has called and sent St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples to become His witnesses and missionaries among the people. St. Paul courageously spoke up about God’s truth and emphatically encouraging the people to come to believe in Christ and His teachings, and to accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.

However, this calling and mission was truly a difficult one, and there were plenty of obstacles and trials that the Apostles like St. Paul would have to endure, as they strive to minister to the people and proclaim the Good News of God, recalling what the Lord Himself had suffered and experienced at the hands of His enemies and even from one of His own closest collaborators, as highlighted in our Gospel passage today. The Lord was betrayed even by one of His own members of the Twelve, namely by Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him and handed Him over to the chief priests for a meagre sum of thirty pieces of silver.

That reality was why the followers of Christ will likely go through the same challenges, trials and sufferings as the Lord Himself had experienced, as after all, if they had rejected their Master’s teachings, and the Gospel today spoke of how the servants are not greater than their master, then all those who follow the Lord and work to proclaim His truth would therefore likely suffer similar kind of rejection, persecution and suffering. But they must not be afraid because God Himself will be with them and will be by their side, no matter what. This is the same truth that all of us have to believe in just as we also continue to carry out the works of evangelisation in the Name of the Lord.

We should be inspired by the examples set by some of our holy predecessors, the holy martyrs, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, as well as St. Pancras. All of them had devoted their lives and works to the Lord and for His glory, and in their own ways, they had endured many sufferings and tribulations, and were eventually martyred for the sake of their faith, and they faced those sufferings and ultimately their martyrdom, full of faith and trust in the Lord, believing that what they had done for the Lord’s sake, will be justified and worthy of God in the end, and they will be by the Lord’s side in triumph. They did not give up their struggles for their faith, to the very end.

St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were chamberlains or servants of the niece of the Roman Emperor Domitian according to the Christian tradition, whose name was Flavia Domitilla. According to tradition, they were martyred together with Flavia Domitilla, as they were Christians and the niece of the Emperor had also converted to the Christian faith, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Domitian himself, which was one of the more vicious ones in the series of persecutions against the Church, and it was told that both St. Nereus and St. Achilleus joyfully welcomed their suffering and martyrdom, in defending their faith.

Meanwhile, St. Pancras, also known as St. Pancratius of Rome, was a young man who lived through during yet another vicious moment of persecution against Christians, this time under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous for his particularly harsh persecution of all Christians. It was told that he was forced to offer sacrifices to the traditional Roman pagan gods, and he refused. The Emperor, impressed by St. Pancras’ bravery and courage, tried to persuade and coerce him through wealth and other means, to abandon his faith, but he would not be moved or persuaded. He remained faithful to the end and accepted his martyrdom with grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow the great examples of our predecessors in faith, and do whatever we can to proclaim the Lord and His truth by our faithful lives, at every moments and opportunities. Let us all be great inspiration and examples for one another in faith, and endeavour to bring even more people to the Lord and His salvation through our exemplary life. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 13 : 16-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, the servant is not greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than he who sent him. Understand this, and blessed are you, if you put it into practice.”

“I am not speaking of you all, because I know the ones I have chosen, and the Scripture has to be fulfilled that says : The one who shared My table has risen against Me. I tell you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may know that I am He.”

“Truly, I say to you, whoever welcomes the one I send, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes the One Who sent Me.”