Wednesday, 12 May 2021 : 6th 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 Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the truth which God has revealed to us through His Apostles and through the Holy Spirit by Whom He willingly taught us about Himself and all that He wants us to know, this same truth which He has passed on to the Apostles to His Church. He revealed all these to us because He wants us to put our trust in Him and turn away from our sinful ways so that we may be worthy of Him and be forgiven from our many sins and faults.

In our first reading today, we heard the accounts of St. Paul and his visit to Athens, in what is now Greece. Athens was a truly great and magnificent city, which influence and prestige was even more remarkable at the time of St. Paul. Although it was no longer as dominant and great as it was a few centuries earlier when it dominated much of Greece and the Aegean and Mediterranean region, Athens was still a great city and a major centre of learning and philosophy, having been renowned for its many thinkers and philosophers, such as Plato, Socrates, Aristotle among others.

And Athens was also one of the main centres of Greek pagan beliefs, as one of its main cultural centre. At that time, when St. Paul visited Athens, it was truly a pagan city, with statues and idols of the Greco-Roman gods everywhere, and with most of its people believing strongly in their beliefs. It is with this context that St. Paul stood up in Areopagus, in the main venue where Athenians and others would come to discuss and debate matters as they had done so for centuries. He spoke courageously about the Lord, the One and only True God in that occasion.

St. Paul revealed before all the people that God was indeed truly the One true God, Who created all things and Who made all things happen. The Greco-Roman belief worshipped nature and its wonders, with gods corresponding to different parts of the natural world, such as the well known Zeus or Jupiter as the king of the gods and the ruler of the skies, of thunder and lightning, and Poseidon or Neptune as the god of the seas and horses, Hades or Pluto as the god of the dead and the underworld, Hera or Juno as the queen of the gods and the goddess of the family, Demeter or Ceres as the goddess of agriculture, and many others, too many to be discussed here.

And all these things, according to St. Paul, was not real gods as they were mankind’s representation of the natural world, of wonders and things that they could not comprehend and did not know. But all those things, be it the sun, the moon, the thunder, storms, and even death, all these are nothing more than just objects created by God. Hence, St. Paul pointed out to the Athenians that as they kept on wondering and debating on the truth of life, and worship those pagan gods and idols, there is the One true God Who would reveal to them the truth.

St. Paul therefore revealed that salvation has come from the Lord, Who sent His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as the Divine Word Incarnate, appearing in the flesh, as the true manifestation of divinity, revealing His truth to all. And that is why everyone has been called to the same truth, to know God Whom the Athenians ascribed as to the unknown God. St. Paul was making the Lord known to all those people who had not yet known Him. And we then heard the response from the people, many of whom made fun of him and refused to listen to the truth. Yet, there were some who were intrigued and interested by what St. Paul had said, and wanted him to speak to them more about the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord sent St. Paul to be one of His ministers in revealing the truth to His people, just as the other Apostles also went to various places to speak about the truth of God and the message of His salvation. St. Paul followed the Lord’s commands guided by the same Holy Spirit that the Lord promised His disciples as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. The Lord also gave us all the same Holy Spirit, and do you know that the same mission He has entrusted to His Apostles back then still apply to us as well? We are all called to continue the good works that the Apostles had begun.

In this present day world, all of us are called to be witnesses of the Lord in our respective communities, to reveal Him among all those whom we encounter in life through our own exemplary life and actions. By our commitment and dedication, we have a lot of potential and opportunities to reach out to many more people and let them know about the Lord and His truth, as what St. Paul had done in Athens and in various other places, revealing the truth about God with great courage. Are we able and willing to commit ourselves to follow in his footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, who were martyrs of the faith during the time of the early Roman Empire, who were either soldiers who converted to the faith and then martyred for courageously standing by their faith, or as servants of the niece of the Roman Emperor, who herself was a convert to the Christian faith. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian at that time, Christians went through a period of harsh persecution, and many including St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were martyred, both of them by beheading.

Then today we also mark the feast of St. Pancras, another martyr of the faith who was only a young boy at the time when he was martyred. Born to Roman citizens in the region of Phrygia in Asia Minor, his parents passed on early and he was taken care of by a relative. And then during the great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, as everyone were forced to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods, St. Pancras resisted and refused to do as ordered with determination. The Emperor, impressed with the young man’s determination, attempted to persuade him with wealth and power, but these were refused and thus St. Pancras was martyred.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard the inspiring lives of those faithful saints, our holy predecessors, then we should ask ourselves, what are we doing then in proclaiming the truth of God? Have we been genuine in our faith and have we dedicated ourselves to the Lord and His ways, even if we have to suffer persecution and trials for our commitment? If we have not lived our lives in the way we should according to our faith, then perhaps we should keep what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages in mind, as we discern how each and every one of us as Christians can live our lives more faithfully and be good role models and examples for those around us.

Let us all be inspired by St. Paul, the other saints and martyrs, especially St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, and St. Pancras. Let us seek the Lord with renewed vigour and be genuine disciples of His, following Him wholeheartedly and truly living our lives as He has taught and shown us how we should live our lives. May God be with us always and may He guide us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 16 : 12-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth. He has nothing to say of Himself, but He will speak of what He hears, and He will tell you of the things to come.”

“He will take what is Mine and make it known to you; in doing this, He will glorify Me. All that the Father has is Mine; because of this, I have just told you that the Spirit will take what is Mine, and make it known to you.”

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 148 : 1-2, 11-12, 13, 14

Alleluia! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heavenly heights. Praise Him, all His Angels; praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.

Kings of the earth and nations, princes and all rulers of the world, young men and maidens, old and young together.

Let them praise the Name of the Lord. For His Name alone is exalted; His majesty is above earth and heaven.

He has given His people glory; He has a praise to His faithful, to Israel, the people close to Him. Alleluia.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 17 : 15, 22 – Acts 18 : 1

Paul was taken as far as Athens by his escort, who then returned to Beroea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible. Then Paul stood up in the Areopagus hall and said, “Athenian citizens, I note that in every way you are very religious. As I walked around looking at your shrines, I even discovered an altar with this inscription : To an unknown God. Now, what you worship as unknown, I intend to make known to you.”

“God, Who made the world and all that is in it, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, being as He is Lord of heaven and earth. Nor does His worship depend on anything made by human hands, as if He were in need. Rather it is He Who gives life and breath and everything else to everyone.”

“From one stock He created the whole human race to live throughout all the earth, and He fixed the time and the boundaries of each nation. He wanted them to seek Him by themselves, even if it were only by groping for Him, succeed in finding Him. Yet He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being, as some of your poets have said : for we too are His offspring.”

“If we are indeed God’s offspring, we ought not to think of divinity as something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of human art and imagination. But now God prefers to overlook this time of ignorance and He calls on all people to change their ways. He has already set a day on which He will judge the world with justice through a Man He has appointed. And, so that all may believe it, He has just given a sign by raising this Man from the dead.”

When they heard Paul speak of a resurrection from death, some made fun of him, while others said, “We must hear you on this topic some other time.” At that point Paul left. But a few did join him, and believed. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus court, a woman named Damaris, and some others. After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (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 Scripture we are presented with the story of the works of the Apostles and the followers of the Lord who went about from places to places, speaking about God and His truth, and calling on many to embrace the Christian faith. And the Lord reminded all of us through today’s Gospel passage that He will always be with us, and He will never abandon us, and that we are all proclaiming the same truth which He Himself has brought into this world, into our midst.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles on the ministry of the Apostles and the disciples who went to many parts of the regions of the Eastern Mediterranean while preaching the Good News and establishing the foundation of the Church and the Christian communities in those locations. And the Lord told His Apostles and disciples to send St. Paul and St. Barnabas to the Gentiles and minister to them, which marked the beginning of their ministry among the Gentiles and especially for St. Paul, his many decades of work in reaching out to them.

The Apostles prayed over the two and asked the Lord to guide them in their journey and in their efforts, and they were sent with much encouragement, to bring hope and light to those who have not yet known the Lord and are still living in the darkness. The Lord has sent His disciples to reveal more of His truth to all those who still have not heard of Him yet, and through these faithful disciples He is calling on all of them to follow Him.

He calls on everyone to follow Him, and He has done everything that we may find our way to Him. Yet, there were still many who refused to believe in Him and persecuted His disciples and followers. Yet, He still sent more and more people to turn even these stubborn and hard-hearted people, persuading them and asking them to listen to reason and to open their hearts and minds, listening to the truth that He has brought to them. His love for each and every one of us is the reason why He kept on doing that, again and again.

And therefore we are all called today to reflect firstly on ourselves and our own lives. Have we been stubborn in refusing to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, in continuing to act in ways that are contrary to the way of the Lord, in disobeying Him and being stubborn in following our own desires and the path of worldliness and sin? There are many who are just Christians in name only, and in their hearts and minds, God is not truly present, and He is also not the centre and focus.

Today all of us are therefore reminded to be truly faithful to God, and we are all called to give our whole heart and mind to Him, just as the Apostles and the countless disciples and followers of the Lord had done. In all that they had done, they are our wonderful sources of inspiration, in living up to their faith and in following what the Lord had called them to do, dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to the missions entrusted to them. The Lord called them and they heard Him, and they responded to that call with great dedication and faith.

Today, we are called to follow the examples of St. Peter Chanel and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, whose feast day we are celebrating today. St. Peter Chanel was a renowned French priest and missionary, who always had great zeal for missionary work and outreach, and as he joined the congregation dedicated for missionary work in both local and far flung foreign areas. In this regard, St. Peter Chanel was eventually sent to French Polynesia, where he ministered to the people there and to all the others that he visited on his way to the place of his ministry.

In Futuna, where he ministered to the locals, he was initially welcomed by the local king and tribe, but in time, as more and more of the locals were converted, the king and his nobles began to fear that Christianity and Christian missionaries would become great threat to their own influence and power, especially the king as the high priest and the leader of the pagan faith of the locals. Hence, eventually, when St. Peter Chanel managed to persuade even the king’s son to be baptised, the king arranged for his champion to kill St. Peter Chanel, who died a martyr defending his faith.

Meanwhile, St. Louis Marie de Montfort was a renowned priest who is remembered well for his intense Marian devotion and also great contributions to the field of Mariology. He is remembered for his courageous efforts in evangelisation and preaching in various places where he helped many people to discover the Lord and renew their faith in Him, while encouraging the devotion to His Blessed Mother Mary, and calling on many people to repent and turn away from their sins. Thanks to his dedication, many people, even after his passing, have been inspired by him and chose to follow the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves to the Lord following the good examples of these two saints, and that of the Apostles, especially St. Paul and St. Barnabas, that each and every one of us, in our own ways, and in each and every of our own capacities and abilities, we may glorify the Lord by our lives, and may show great and wonderful testimony of our faith through our actions, words and deeds in life. May all of us be blessed and strengthened by the Lord in all of our efforts and good works, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 12 : 44-50

At that time, yet Jesus had said, and even cried out, “Whoever believes in Me, believes not in Me, but in Him Who sent Me. And whoever sees Me, sees Him Who sent Me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.”

“If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I am not the One to condemn him; for I have come, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects Me, and does not receive My word, already has a judge : the very word I have spoken will condemn him on the last day.”

“For I have not spoken on My own authority; the Father, Who sent Me, has instructed Me in what to say and how to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life, and that is why the message I give, I give as the Father instructed Me.”

Wednesday, 28 April 2021 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 6 and 8

May God be gracious and bless us, may He let His face shine upon us, that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice and guide the nations of the world.

May the people praise You, o God, may all the peoples praise You! May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Wednesday, 28 April 2021 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 12 : 24 – Acts 13 : 5

Meanwhile the word of God was increasing and spreading. Barnabas and Saul carried out their mission and then came back to Jerusalem, taking with them John also called Mark.

There were at Antioch – in the Church which was there – prophets and teachers : Barnabas, Symeon known as Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod, and Saul.

On one occasion while they were celebrating the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have called them.” So, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

These then, sent by the Holy Spirit, went down the port of Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus. Upon their arrival in Salamis they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogue.

Saturday, 24 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and 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 Scripture, all of us are reminded that we must always stay firm in the Lord and in our Christian faith, and we should not allow ourselves to be swayed or to be deceived by falsehoods, lest the devil is trying as he has always been, in order to turn us away from God and in trying to persuade and coerce us to embrace the ways of the world, and distance ourselves from the true path.

All of us must realise that being Christians often mean that we have to make the most unconventional of choices and tread the most unlikely of paths, as we follow the Lord and speak faithfully of His truth, and the path going forward is not necessarily going to be easy or smooth for us. This is what the devil will try to capitalise as he will definitely try to persuade and coerce us to follow the easier, more logical and more profitable and fruitful way forward, luring us the path of God’s truth.

In our first reading today, we heard of the works of St. Peter the Apostle as he preached the truth of God in various places like Lydda and Joppa all around the land, strengthening the faith of those who have come to believe in the Lord and calling on many others to embrace the Lord. And it was during that visit to Lydda and Joppa that St. Peter showed just how unconventional and different our Christian faith can be, as he healed the paralytic man Aeneas in Lydda, and brought the faithful woman Tabitha back to life in Joppa.

Such things that happened truly are beyond ordinary comprehension and norms, and could not be explained by any human means or standards. The Lord has given His followers the authority and power to heal the sick and even to raise people from the dead through faith. And this is what we are all called to remember, that we must indeed have faith and trust in the Lord, in His providence and love, in His care and compassion to each and every one of us. We must believe in Him and all that He has done for us.

In our Gospel today, the Lord was abandoned by many of those who followed Him because He spoke to them the reality that He is the One Who would give them all His own Body and Blood, to be broken and shared among them, as the Bread of Life and the Salvation of all, through Whom all would receive the assurance of life eternal. But many would not open their minds to the Lord and few were willing to accept the hard truth, as they refused to accept that One like the Lord could have given them His own Flesh and Blood.

Yet, as we heard from our Gospel today and from those in the previous days, on this discourse of the Bread of Life, the Lord did not mince His words or soften it by euphemisms. Instead, He spoke plainly and clearly, highlighting that it is indeed through Him that God’s salvation would come, and by revealing Himself as the Bread of Life, He was giving them all advance premonition of what He would do at His Passion and death, when He chose willingly to accept suffering and death for the sake of our salvation and liberation from the bondage to the same sin and death.

And that is what the disciples of the Lord were preaching on, and what they were willing to suffer and die for in the mission which God has entrusted to them, following in the footsteps of the Apostles themselves, in the same Lord through which St. Peter had performed wondrous miracles as highlighted in our first reading today. Many saints and martyrs showed us all what it means to be true disciples of the Lord, in their exemplary lives, dedication and faith, in how they generously give of themselves for the glory of the Lord.

Today we celebrate the memory of one of those faithful saints, namely St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen. St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen was a priest who ministered to the faithful in many parts of Switzerland as a Capuchin friar, at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation efforts. St. Fidelis courageously and patiently spoke of the truth of the Lord against the Calvinists who rejected the truth of God, particularly in what the Lord Himself had stated it clearly today, of the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.

St. Fidelis ministered to the people faithfully and managed to gain a great number of converts, which angered the Calvinists who saw him as a great threat to their community and their misguided faith. As such they plotted against him and tried to find ways to destroy him. St. Fidelis himself according to tradition had known of what would happen to him, and surrendered himself to the Lord, entrusting himself completely into His hands, as Calvinist soldiers struck at him and murdered him when he refused to abandon his true faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, his faith and dedication to the Lord, and how he and many other saints and martyrs, from the days of the Apostles to this very day, we are all reminded that as members and parts of the Church each and every one of us also have the same share in the calling and mission entrusted to us by God. But are we willing to commit ourselves in the manner that the Apostles, the saints and martyrs, like how St. Fidelis had committed himself and his own life?

Let us all discern carefully therefore how we are to proceed on in this life, going forward knowing that we are all parts of the same Church and have upon us the same mission entrusted to us by God Himself, to be His faithful and courageous witnesses, through our own actions and deeds, by everything we do, even to the smallest things, within our own communities. May all of us be exemplary in our faith and life, that we may inspire more and more to come and to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. Amen.

Saturday, 24 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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.”