Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great Apostles of Our Lord, one of the Twelve Apostles and in fact the first one among them to be called, that is St. Andrew the Apostle, the brother of Simon, who was later known as St. Peter the Apostle, leader of all the Apostles and the Church. St. Andrew was according to the tradition, one of the disciples of St. John the Baptist, and was one of his disciples that decided to follow the Lord right after He was baptised at the Jordan.

As such, he was the first one of the Apostles to be called and to respond to that call, which is why he is also often known as St. Andrew the First-Called. Through him, he likely introduced his brother Simon, the later St. Peter, as well as the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee to the Lord. They were all fishermen at the Lake of Galilee where they worked and laboured every day. The Lord came by there after His baptism and preparation in the desert, calling the first of His disciples to follow Him.

As one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Andrew was a close confidant of the Lord and was present in much of the Lord’s works and ministry, and he was also present at the most important events in the work of God’s salvation. Receiving the Holy Spirit together with the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, he was empowered and strengthened to carry out the mission entrusted to him and many others to spread the Good News of God to all the nations and peoples.

According to Church tradition and history, St. Andrew went to far-off regions including the area around the Black Sea and the Caucasus, in what is today Ukraine and Crimean region, spreading the Christian faith and the Good News of God to places as far as the northern reaches of Russia. He also went to Greece and other places in the vicinity, helping to build the foundation of the Church in those places. By tradition, during his journey, he also established the foundation of the present day See of Constantinople, then known as Byzantium at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

That is why St. Andrew is regarded as the Apostolic origin of the current Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the second most important See in Christendom and also the leader of our separated brethren in the Eastern Orthodox communion. St. Andrew meanwhile was arrested and martyred in the city of Patras in the Peloponnesus region of Greece, for his perseverance in evangelisation and preaching the Good News among the pagans and many people. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross which is now popularly known as St. Andrew’s cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the life, work and ministry, the faith and dedication showed by St. Andrew in his mission and life today on his feast day, in fact all of us are also called to reflect on our own lives and our own mission that has been entrusted to each one of us as fellow disciples of Christ. What St. Andrew had done in his life and ministry is part of the greater works and efforts of the Lord through His Church to bring His truth, salvation and Good News to more and more people, and this work is still far from being done.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as the Lord has called His disciples and Apostles from various backgrounds, empowered them and gave them the mission to evangelise the Good News, then through our baptism we too have been called to be missionaries of our faith, the faith that we have in the Lord and which we are all called to share with zeal and conviction, and with genuine desire for the salvation of souls and for the love of our fellow brothers and sisters. Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make the commitment to follow the Lord and to do His will in our daily lives?

St. Paul in our first reading today in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome spoke of are reminded of the faith we have in the Lord and the salvation and wonders that we have received with full assurance from Him. And he reminded us all, the faithful that those who bring with them the message of God’s Good News and truth will be blessed, and God’s grace will be with them. It means that despite the trials and challenges that we may face in our journey as Christians and despite the obstacles we may encounter in our mission as faithful servants of God, we must not be easily disheartened by setbacks and sufferings.

God will be with us and He will be by our side, providing for us and our needs, and even if we suffer, we suffer together with Him, He Who Himself has been persecuted for the truth, and Who had suffered and died for our sake. We do not need to be afraid and be hesitant to stand up to our Christian faith and beliefs, and instead we should inspire one another not just with words, but through genuine actions and commitment in our daily living. After all, it is not by our own power and might that we do the work of God successfully, but God Who empowers us to be His instruments in this world.

Let us all entrust ourselves to the Lord and His providence, and remembering the faith and courage with which St. Andrew, Holy Apostle of Our Lord has laboured hard for the glory of God and for the salvation of all His people, may all of us be inspired to follow in his footsteps and be ever more committed to live our every moment with genuine and devout Christian faith. Let us all make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves wholly, to be worthy to welcome the Lord into our midst, from now on and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 4 : 18-22

At that time, as Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me; and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them.

At once, they left the boat, and their father, and followed Him.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 10 : 9-18

You are saved, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and, in your heart, you believe that God raised Him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips, you are saved.

For Scripture says : No one who believes in Him will be ashamed. Here, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, Who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call upon the Name of the Lord without having believed in Him? And how can they believe in Him, without having first heard about Him? And how will they hear about Him, if no one preaches about Him? And how will they preach about Him, if no one sends them?

As Scripture says : How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of Good News. Although, not everyone obeyed the Good News, as Isaiah said : Lord, who has believed in our preaching? So, faith comes from preaching, and preaching is rooted in the word of Christ.

I ask : Have the Jews not heard? But, of course, they have. Because the voice of those preaching resounded all over the earth, and their voice was heard, to the ends of the world.

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that often times as we carry on living our lives as Christians, we have to face oppression and persecution, facing difficult times and trials in living our lives while being faithful to God. It had happened to our ancestors, our predecessors who had kept their faith and it can happen to us as well.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of Daniel, the man of God from Judah who had spent much of his life in Babylon and then in the courts of the Persian kings that succeeded the Babylonians. King Darius the Great of Persia, the figure likely mentioned in that passage had Daniel as one of his courtiers, as a holy and wise man that he trusted. This resulted in jealousy and also hatred from others who despised Daniel and his faith in God.

As a result, those enemies of Daniel tried to leverage the king into enacting a law that outlawed the worship of God and therefore indirectly implicate Daniel and made him to be punishable by the same law. Daniel stood firm in his faith and he would not give in to the provisions of the law enacted on the advice of his enemies, and he remained faithful to God even when he was threatened with certain death.

The Lord preserved Daniel and protected him when he was thrown into the lion’s den, and even when the lions had purposely been made hungry but starving them, they did not harm or even touch Daniel at all. The Lord guarded him and kept him until the time that the king, who was very sympathetic to Daniel, released him from the lion’s den. It was thus that the king ordered the enemies of Daniel and all those who had accused and slandered him to be thrown into the lion’s den instead, and they were all crushed by the lions.

Then in our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord Jesus revealed to His disciples of the coming of trials and challenging times for all of them as they all would face persecution and difficulties, and everything would not be the same as before. Their old world would be destroyed and ended, and even Jerusalem itself would not be spared. The city of Jerusalem itself would be surrounded and destroyed, and it would be one of the signs of what was to come.

When the Lord spoke of what would happen to Jerusalem, some of them might be thinking that what were to happen to Jerusalem would be the omen of the Second Coming of Christ, which the Lord Himself also proclaimed at that same occasion. Some early Christians believed that the Lord would very soon come again and free them from their sufferings and persecutions, under both the Jewish authorities and from the Romans. But it was not the case.

The Lord did not actually specify that He would come again right after Jerusalem was surrounded and destroyed, which actually happened just four decades after the Lord’s crucifixion. The Romans did surround and besiege Jerusalem after the major uprising by the Jewish people, which eventually resulted in the destruction of the city and the Temple of God, which was completely destroyed and torn down just as the Lord had predicted.

But the Lord again did not say that He would immediately come after that. Rather, as He revealed through St. John the Apostle in his vision received at the island of Patmos, which he wrote in the Book of Revelations, sufferings and trials will come again for all those who are faithful to God, much as how Daniel had suffered, and how many saints and martyrs, our holy predecessors had endured, and how many more will suffer because they remain faithful to God, even to this very day, and to the future to come.

What is important is that we must remember that the Lord is always ever by our side, and He will never abandon us. Even as we suffer, He is always guiding us and protecting us in various ways. We cannot and we should not lose hope in Him, and we should instead remain steadfast in His grace and providence, entrusting ourselves to His care and protection. All of us must have faith in the Lord and do our best to help one another as well, even as we struggle to endure the trials and challenges we are facing or are going to face in the future.

Today we also commemorate the feast of a great saint and martyr who should inspire us to live our lives worthily for the Lord, namely that of St. Catherine of Alexandria, also known as St. Catherine the Great. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a renowned Roman martyr, a holy woman and virgin who according to tradition was the daughter of the governor of Alexandria in Roman Egypt. At that time, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, Christians throughout the Empire faced one last, particularly brutal period of intense persecutions, where churches were destroyed, their properties looted and confiscated, the Scriptures burnt, and many of the members of the faithful, both the leaders and the laity alike were oppressed.

St. Catherine was persuaded through a vision of the Blessed Mother of God and her Son, Our Lord and Saviour to become a Christian, and as the persecutions intensified, she chose to go to the Emperor, then Emperor Maxentius, and rebuke him for his misdeeds. Amused by her courage and beauty, it was told that the Emperor called forth fifty renowned pagan philosophers to debate with her, and they all could not argue with her. God gave her the wisdom and the courage, the strength and endurance to stand up faithfully for her Christian faith.

When she was persecuted and tortured, which she endured with great faith, it was told that her courage and faith touched so many, that even the wife of the Emperor and others were themselves convinced to become Christians, and thus were martyred along with her as well. The Emperor desperately tried to make St. Catherine to abandon her faith, even to the point of proposing marriage to her, which she rejected courageously and firmly, stating that her Spouse was none other than Jesus, her Lord and Saviour, to Whom alone she dedicated herself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard and discussed regarding the life examples showed by St. Catherine of Alexandria, all of us can see that trials and persecutions may come at any time for those who follow Christ. The question is then, are we willing to endure those sufferings and trials for Christ? Or are we easily tempted and swayed to abandon Him for temporary gains and benefits of this world? Are we easily made to give up our faith because we are afraid of the consequences of following Him?

Let us ponder these things in our mind and let us consider what we can do to be good and faithful disciples of Our Lord in each and every moments of our lives. Let us pray to the Lord, asking Him to guide us and to strengthen us in our journey of faith so that we will always have the courage and strength to remain faithful to Him regardless of the trials, obstacles and challenges that we may have to face for the Lord’s sake. May God be with us all and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Daniel 3 : 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74

Dew and frost, praise and exalt Him forever.

Ice and cold, praise and exalt Him forever.

Frost and snow, praise and exalt Him forever.

Days and nights, praise and exalt Him forever.

Light and darkness, praise and exalt Him forever.

Lightning and clouds, praise and exalt Him forever.

Earth, praise and exalt Him forever.

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Daniel 6 : 12-28

So the administrators and satraps went to the king and reminded him about the prohibition, “O king, did you not publish a decree that anyone who prays or makes petition to any god or man except to you would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered, “Yes, and the decree stands, in accordance with Medo-Persian laws which cannot be altered or annulled.” Then they said, “But the Jewish exile Daniel pays no attention to you and to your decree. Three times a day he still prays to some God other than you.”

Greatly aggrieved at what he heard, the king decided to help Daniel. He made every effort till sundown to save him. But the men kept coming to him and insisting, “Remember, o king, that under the Medo-Persian laws every decree or prohibition issued by the king is irrevocable.” The king, therefore, could not help giving the order that Daniel be brought and thrown into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, Whom you serve faithfully, save you.”

A stone was placed at the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with that of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might remain unchanged. Then the king returned to his palace and spent a sleepless night, refusing food and entertainment. Very early next morning, he rose and hurried to the lions’ den. As he came near, he called in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the Living God, did your God, Whom you serve faithfully, save you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “Live forever, o king! My God sent His Angel, who closed the lions’ mouths, so that they did not hurt me. God did that because I am innocent in His sight. Neither have I wronged you, o king.”

The king felt very glad and ordered Daniel released from the lions’ den. No wound was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. At the king’s order, the men who had accused Daniel were thrown into the lions’ den, together with their wives and children. No sooner had they reached the floor of the den than the lions lunged at them and tore them to pieces.

King Darius wrote to the nations, to peoples of every language, “Peace to you all! I decree that throughout my kingdom people should reverence and fear the God of Daniel. For He is the Living God, and forever He endures; His Kingdom will not be crushed, His dominion will never cease. He rescues and He delivers; He performs signs and wonders both in heaven and on earth. And He came to Daniel’s rescue saving him from the lions’ tooth and claw.”

Daniel greatly prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded of the challenges, trials and persecutions that we may have to endure as God’s faithful people, as those who call ourselves as Christians. This is the reality of our faith that we should keep in mind as we live in our world today. As Christians we cannot be idle in how we live our faith and we cannot be passive and be easily swayed by the currents of events and the pressures around us to follow the ways of the world, but instead we have to stand our ground and remain committed wholeheartedly to God.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Daniel we heard of the account of the final days of the Kingdom of Babylon, also known as the Neo-Babylonian Empire, built and made great by King Nebuchadnezzar as we have heard in the readings of these past few days. At that time, decades after the destruction of Jerusalem and many decades after Daniel had been brought into exile in Babylon, King Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon was having a great feast with his nobles and guests using the vessels captured and looted from the Temple of Jerusalem.

That was an absolutely horrible and sacrilegious act by the king, a great blasphemy against God, using those vessels consecrated as sacred to God for profane purposes. It was such that God immediately sent a great warning to the blasphemous and arrogant king, as His hands wrote on the wall, the words MENE, TEKEL, PHARSIN, which terrified the king and all the guests gathered in the party. The king called for Daniel whom he recognised as one of the exiles of Judah and the wisest man of his court.

If we remember what Daniel said before the king, he must have really been so courageous and brave in uttering such words before the king. Indeed, the king had promised him wonderful things, riches, power, favour and all if he could explain the meaning of those words to him, but to say that the king’s kingdom would be destroyed and for his dominion to be ended and passed on over to the Medes and the Persians under Cyrus the Great as how it historically happened would have been treasonous and punishable by death.

Yet, Daniel feared nothing and spoke everything as the Lord guided him to. He did not hide any details and did not change the words of the Lord, in full truth before the king. He spoke everything entrusting his fate to the Lord, believing that whatever it is that would happen, God would be by His side, and He surrendered everything to God’s will. As such, Daniel spoke the truth and hid nothing, and in the end, everything happened as spoken, and the king himself, immediately after hearing Daniel’s words, did not punish him, likely treating it as a mere joke and not taking it seriously, before it was too late for him.

This is the same thing as what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, from the Gospel of St. Luke as we heard the Lord telling His disciples that trials and persecutions would likely happen to them, but they should not be afraid because God Himself would be with them, and He would send them the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide them in their path. The Lord will always be with His faithful ones, protecting them and caring for them and their needs. And even in their sufferings, they will be triumphant at the very end, together with God.

This is what we need to take note of, brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to realise that God is always by our side and we should not allow fear or doubt to influence our actions, whenever trials and challenges are in our way. Today, all of us should also heed the great examples and inspirations shown by St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his numerous companions, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, who coincidentally, in accordance with today’s Scripture readings, had suffered and died for their faith in God.

At that time, Christian missionaries began gaining many converts in Vietnam, and many of the Vietnamese began embracing the new faith in God. Some of those converts themselves became priests and members of the clergy, and they were all persecuted by the government who were intensely anti-Christian. Persecutions were intensified against the converts and the missionaries alike, and many were forced to choose between abandoning their faith and death.

Many of the Christian converts refused to abandon their faith and therefore suffered grievously under the harsh official persecution, with many dying as martyrs. Their Christian missionaries also suffered the same if not more painful sufferings, with many of them becoming martyrs, and yet, they courageously faced the persecution with faith, and not being afraid to stand up for their faith just as Daniel once stood before the king of Babylon delivering the truth of God with great honesty.

Are we able to follow in their footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Many of us may not have suffered of being a Christian, and we have a relatively good life in this world, but let us not forget that in this world, many of our fellow brothers and sisters are suffering daily in being persecuted and oppressed because they are followers of Christ. And if trials and troubles do come for us, will we have the courage to stand up for our faith as well?

Let us all pray for one another, for courage and strong faith to remain firm in our dedication to God so that we will not easily be swayed by the temptations of this world, and ask the Lord for His guidance and strength at all times. May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each one of us with faith, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 12-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Before all these things happen, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you; you will be delivered to the synagogues and put in prison, and for My sake you will be brought before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”

“So keep this in mind : do not worry in advance about what to say, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. But even though, because of My Name, you will be hated by everyone, not a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance you will save your souls.”