Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are brought to focus our attention to the commandments and Law of God. The Lord has given us His laws and commandments, revealing to us and teaching us how we ought to live our lives in this world so that we may walk faithfully in His path and be righteous as we should have as Christians, God’s faithful ones.

From the Book of Deuteronomy, we are all reminded that the Law of God must be an important part of life which we obey, follow and practice in all aspects of our lives so that by our actions we may indeed prove that we truly belong to God and God really is the centre and focus of our lives and existence. And we are also reminded that obeying the Law and following the commandments of God must be centred on one very fundamental aspect, that is love. Without love, one cannot claim to be obedient to the Law of God.

It is the same sentiment and idea that our Gospel passage has shown us, as in that passage we heard the Lord Jesus Himself teaching His disciples and the people on the importance of love, and in fact not just any kind of love, but love that is pure, selfless, unbiased and non-judgmental or prejudiced, love that does not discriminate against anyone but one that is established and anchored on the wonderful love of God. This is what the Lord wants us to know and implement in our own lives.

In that Gospel passage the Lord said how as Christians all of us are challenged not just to love those who have already loved us, but also to love even those who have not loved us, those who hated us, those who persecuted us and are prejudiced and biased against us. He asked us all to show love even to all these people who have not been kind to us and who will likely not respond to our love in kind. That is what true love is all about, the love that expects no returns and love that is genuine and not because of desire for returns and reciprocity.

The reality is that many of us treat love as something that we expect things in return, even to the point of being transactional in nature. We often love because we feel happy because of it and we seek to gain satisfaction, joy and pleasure out of that love. The moment that challenges, trials and disagreements begin to appear, then our love fades and turns into bickering and even hatred. This was also why so many marriages ended in failure, relationships ended up being broken and divorces and broken families soared, all because of our selfish love.

Now, all of us are called to embrace God’s love, which is selfless and giving rather than selfish and receiving or expecting. And the Lord Himself had shown us this love by His own example, as He laid hung on the Cross, selflessly bearing for our sake all of our sins and their punishments, to suffer instead of us so that by His loving sacrifice, He may deliver us all from our sins and therefore bring us into salvation and eternal life.

It is what He meant when He said that God loves us all, and show His love even to those who are wicked and evil, by giving them His blessings and wonders even though those people have sinned against Him. Let us all not forget that the Lord Jesus Himself forgave all of His enemies and all those who persecuted Him and condemned Him to die on the Cross, praying that they were not to be held accountable for what they had done to Him on that day.

That is what we are all called to do, brothers and sisters in Christ, to show our pure, selfless and genuine love to one another, even to those who have made our lives difficult or even those who hated us and were prejudiced against us. Indeed, this is easier said that done, and it is important that we realise how we will definitely encounter challenges and difficulties, as well as temptations to hate and to be selfish, but as Christians, are we able to strive to be more loving as Our Lord Himself had done?

Today we also celebrate the feast of two famous saints and martyrs of the Church, two holy women, St. Perpetua and St. Felicity. St. Perpetua was a Roman young woman who became a Christian, but faced opposition from his own father who wanted her to recant her faith. Despite her persecution and being put in prison, St. Perpetua remained faithful to God and refused to recant her faith. In prison, St. Perpetua encountered a slave woman, a Christian named St. Felicity. St. Felicity gave birth to a daughter just before her martyrdom with St. Perpetua and some other Christians.

In the end, both St. Perpetua and St. Felicity remained faithful to the very end, and together with several other Christians, were thrown into the Colosseum and died in martyrdom against the terrible beasts used in the gladiatorial fights by the Romans. And we can see how both St. Perpetua and St. Felicity were filled with God’s love, love that is both selfless and giving, for they did not expect anything in return for their love towards God. Had they expected things in return for their faith, they would have abandoned their faith easily in the face of trials, persecutions and certain death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the good faith and loving examples of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, and even more so, Our Lord Himself Who died for us on the Cross, let us all devote ourselves anew to God from now on, and make use of the wonderful opportunities and time given to us, especially in this season of Lent, to learn to love more selflessly and to be more faithful to God, to draw ever closer to Him and to be more righteous in His presence. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 118 : 1-2, 4-5, 7-8

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the Law of the Lord. Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

You have laid down precepts to be obeyed. O, that my ways were steadfast in observing Your statutes!

I will praise You with an upright spirit when I learn Your just precepts by heart. I mean to observe Your commandments. O, never abandon me.

Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 26 : 16-19

On this day, YHVH, your God, commands you to fulfil these norms and these commandments. Obey them now and put them into practice with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today YHVH has declared to you that He will be your God, and so you shall follow His ways, observing His norms, His commandments and His laws, and listening to His voice. Today YHVH has declared that you will be His very own people even as He had promised you, and you must obey all His commandments.

He, for His part, will give you honour, renown and glory, and set you high above all the nations He has made, and you will become a nation consecrated to YHVH, your God, as He has declared.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are told first of all, of another occurrence when king David of Israel sinned against God besides his adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of his captain Uriah. King David wanted to know the might of his power and the glory of his kingdom and thus, he asked Joab his commander to conduct a great census over all of Israel and Judah, which was abhorred by God because it implied that David had fallen into pride.

And David only realised his folly later on, when the Lord rebuked and reminded him of how futile his pursuits had been. For even if God were to grant him more people to rule over and even a greater kingdom to rule over, it was by the grace of God that David has enjoyed all the wonders and glory, and not by his own strength and power. At that moment, David gave in to his momentary weakness and allowed the devil to tempt him with the temptation of grandeur and worldly glory.

How is this then related to what we heard in our Gospel passage today? In that Gospel passage today we heard of how the Lord Jesus went to His own hometown, that is Nazareth, and began teaching and performing His works among His own townspeople, many of whom had known Him since He was still very young. Almost immediately they doubted and judged Him, wondering how the Son of a simple village carpenter could have spoken so well and performed so many wonders and miracles.

They questioned the Lord in that manner, and because of their lack of faith, the Lord could not do much work and progress in that area, a fact that He Himself lamented and He also mentioned how the prophets of old also devoted their time and efforts to bring God’s truth and guide the people into the right paths, and yet it was the same people who rejected the prophets and persecuted them. The people of Israel and Judah to whom the prophets belonged to refused to listen to them, although those prophets were known to them.

It was the people considered as pagans and idolaters that listened to the prophets, like the widow of Zarephath in Sidon who gave the prophet Elijah a lodging and food during his time away from the land of Israel. It was also Rahab the prostitute in Jericho who helped the scouts of the Israelites to hide from those who wanted to look for them. It was the Samaritans who welcomed the Lord Jesus when He was rejected by His own countrymen and even those from His own village.

All of these show us that when we mankind become proud and allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations of the devil, we will end up falling into his trap and we may be like those Israelites who failed to welcome and accept the truth of God through the prophets because they were too engrossed with themselves and their pursuits for worldly happiness and glory. The devil knows this very well and he will do whatever he can to prevent us from opening ourselves to God and allowing Him to touch our lives.

Are we willing and able to welcome the Lord into our hearts and open them for Him to enter? His own townspeople and countrymen rejected Him out of their pride and existing prejudices, their reluctance to listen and change according to what the Lord has revealed to them. But we can be better than them, and we are called to follow the Lord and be attuned to His truth and love. Today, we have a great example in St. Agatha, a great holy woman and martyr of the faith, who can inspire us through her life and faith how we should live our lives with faith.

St. Agatha, also known as St. Agatha of Sicily was one of the most highly venerated and famous saint of the early Church for her great courage in defending her faith. She was born into a noble family and encountered great trouble when a Roman prefect made advances on her and she rejected it because she dedicated herself in a holy vow of virginity to God. The Roman prefect, angered by her rejection, brought St. Agatha to be arrested and persecuted under the then vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius.

Despite all the persecution and suffering that she had to face, St. Agatha refused to renounce her faith in God and she also was remembered for her prayer for courage before Lord, asking Him to guide and protect her as she was led like a lamb into the midst of wolves. She suffered all sorts of terrible torture and assault, humiliation and actions that would have made any other people to give up, but St. Agatha remained firm in her faith until she died in martyrdom eventually in prison. She remained true to her faith in God till the very end, and her example inspired many others through the centuries and more afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Agatha has shown us what it means to truly have faith in God and to be faithful to Him, with a living and genuine faith that allow God to enter into our lives so that our lives and actions may be transformed by His grace and love. Are we able to devote ourselves to God in this manner? Are we able to spend our time and commit ourselves to God as St. Agatha and many other of our holy predecessors had done? Let us not allow the devil from penetrating into our hearts and minds, and definitely we must not allow him to tempt us into sin.

Let us all discern carefully the path that we will take in life so that we may truly serve God with all of our hearts and minds from now on with faith, as St. Agatha and innumerable other saints and holy men and women of God had done. May the Lord help and guide us through this journey, and help us to resist the temptations of pride and desire, and love Him with ever greater devotion and sincerity from now on. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 1-6

At that time, leaving the place where He raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, Jesus returned to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and most of those who heard Him were astonished.

But they said, “How did this come to Him? What kind of wisdom has been given to Him, that He also performs such miracles? Who is He but the Carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the Brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here among us?” So they took offence at Him.

And Jesus said to them, “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives, and in their own family.” And He could work no miracles there, but only healed a few sick people, by laying His hands on them. Jesus Himself was astounded at their unbelief. Jesus then went around the villages, teaching.”

Wednesday, 5 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 31 : 1-2, 5, 6, 7

Blessed is the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. Blessed are those in whom YHVH sees no guilt and in whose spirit is found no deceit.

Then I made known to You my sin and uncovered before You my fault, saying to myself, “To YHVH I will now confess my wrong.” And You, You forgave my sin; You removed my guilt.

So let the faithful ones pray to You in time of distress; the overflowing waters will not reach them.

You are my Refuge; You protect me from distress and surround me with songs of deliverance.