Tuesday, 26 January 2021 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Timothy and St. Titus, Bishops (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Timothy 1 : 1-8

From Paul, Apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, for the sake of His promise of eternal life, in Christ Jesus, to my dear son Timothy. May grace, mercy and peace be with you, from God, the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I give thanks to God, Whom I serve with a clear conscience, the way my ancestors did, as I remember you constantly, day and night, in my prayers. I recall your tears, and I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, so like the faith of your grandmother Lois and of your mother Eunice, which I am sure you have inherited.

For this reason, I invite you to fan into a flame, the gift of God you received, through the laying on of my hands. For God did not confer on us a spirit of fearfulness, but of strength, love and good judgment. Do not be ashamed of testifying to our Lord, nor of seeing me in chains. On the contrary, do your share in labouring for the Gospel, with the strength of God.

Alternative reading

Titus 1 : 1-5

From Paul, servant of God, Apostle of Christ Jesus, at the service of God’s chosen people, so that they may believe, and reach the knowledge of truth and godliness. The eternal life we are waiting for was promised from the very beginning, by God, Who never lies, and as the appointed time had come, He made it known, through the message entrusted to me by a command of God, our Saviour.

Greetings to you, Titus, my true son in the faith we share. May grace and peace be with you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I left you in Crete because I wanted you to put right, what was defective, and appoint elders in every town, following my instructions.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us heard of the Lord’s assurance of a New Covenant that He had made with us all, His beloved people in our first reading today, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews presented the Lord Jesus as the Mediator of the New and Everlasting Covenant replacing the old Covenant between God and His people Israel.

The old Covenant, the old laws and ways, the practices of the past linked to that older pact no longer applied to anyone, after the Lord had revealed and sealed that New Covenant. The New Covenant was sealed by the loving sacrifice of Christ Himself, the Eternal High Priest on the Cross, as He laid His life bare on the Cross, as the Lamb to be sacrificed, the Lamb of God and the Paschal Lamb, by Whose Blood we have been saved.

Through this New Covenant, God had made full His promises to us, His promise to love us all and show His compassion to the very end. Each and every one of us have a share in this love, and the Lord had offered Himself as our High Priest before His heavenly Father, for the atonement and the forgiveness of all of our sins. His suffering and death were meant for us, and all of us have been called to partake in this New Covenant He had made with us.

God had revealed the fullness of His laws, all of His truth to His people as part of this Covenant, as He also sent us all the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth, which He has revealed and passed down to us through His Church, by the sending of His Apostles to be the ones leading the charge in spreading His Good News and the truth He has revealed to us. In the calling of the Apostles, God has also called us all to follow in their footsteps, that we should also serve Him as those whom God had called had done earlier.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Apostles were sent before the Lord to places to preach and to reveal His truth, and they were also given the power to heal and to cast out demons, doing the many good works of God. Their work did not stop with the death and resurrection of Our Lord, but in fact, guided by the Holy Spirit and the commission that God entrusted to them, they went forth to the many peoples of many nations, spreading the Word of God and calling many people to be a disciple and follower too.

They helped to build the Church and were truly its important foundation, and now, all of us who are members of the Church and belonging among Christ’s faithful ones, we have been entrusted with the same responsibility, as part of the Covenant that God has established with us, and which we have received generously through baptism. And therefore we are all called to live up to the Lord’s call, follow Him and dedicate ourselves to Him.

Today, we should reflect on the life and works of St. Vincent, holy Deacon and Martyr, whose examples can be great inspiration on how we can follow the Lord wholeheartedly in each and every moments of our lives. St. Vincent was also known as St. Vincent of Saragossa, one of the Deacons of Saragossa in Spain, the modern day Zaragoza, serving the bishop and local Christian community, occupying a very important position in the Church.

At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian carried out intense persecution against Christians, which caused many martyrs to emerge, and St. Vincent was one of these martyrs. St. Vincent was arrested together with his bishop and was threatened with great torture and suffering, unless he would burn the Sacred Scriptures and publicly repudiate his Christian faith.

St. Vincent spoke fervently and courageously against this and refused any further attempts to turn him and the other Christians away from the Lord in order to save their own lives. And the way St. Vincent spoke, with great courage and wisdom, without fear and anxiety greatly angered his persecutors so much so that he was tortured terribly and martyred by being grilled on a gridiron, which he was to be renowned for. But even in suffering, he remained resolute, firm and calm in adhering to his faith, which touched even his jailer, who became a convert afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the martyrdom of St. Vincent, all of us are shown what it means to be a Christian. As Christians, we need to put God above all else, and foremost before anything else. And our lives must be centred and focused on Him. We should love Him more than anything else, and through our words and actions, we should commit ourselves to Him and not to allow our actions or words to scandalise our faith.

Let us all be true disciples of the Lord from now on, and let us all commit more and more time, effort and attention so that we may be ever closer to God and be ever more worthy of Him, that God will bless us and bring us all into the everlasting inheritance He has prepared for each one of us. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted and they came to Him. He appointed twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘Apostles’. He wanted to send them out to preach, and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 84 : 8 and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Show us, o Lord, Your unfailing love and grant us Your saving help. Yet Your salvation is near to those who fear You, and Your Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Friday, 22 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Hebrews 8 : 6-13

Now, however, Jesus enjoys a much higher ministry in being the Mediator of a better covenant, founded on better promises. If all had been perfect in the first covenant, there would have been no need for another one. Yet God sees defects when He says : The days are coming – it is the word of the Lord – when I will draw up a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. They did not keep My covenant, and so I Myself have forsaken them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel in the days to come : I will put My law into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be My people.

None of them will have to teach one another or say to each other : Know the Lord, for they will know Me from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and no longer remember their wrongs. Here we are being told of a new covenant; which means that the first one had become obsolete, and what is obsolete and ageing is soon to disappear.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the readings of the Scripture all of us are again brought to focus our attention on the love of God that He has shown us all through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Lord has kindly showed us His mercy and forgiveness, extending to us the compassionate hands of His Son, Our Saviour, to reach out to us and to free us from our bondage to sin and death.

In our first reading today, we continue to hear the discourse from the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which today’s portion focused on the High Priest of God, Melchizedek, also known as the King of Salem. Melchizedek was a mysterious man who was highly regarded and a High Priest of the Lord no less, just as his title as the king of Salem bring about reminiscence of the name of the city of Jerusalem, God’s Holy City, the place of His holy Temple and House.

That is why, the Lord Jesus, Who is the High Priest of all mankind, the one True High Priest is often compared to Melchizedek. Some traditions and histories even had Melchizedek as a prefigurement of the Messiah and the Son of God, our Lord as the High Priest of all. Nonetheless, regardless of who Melchizedek truly was, Jesus was cast as the High Priest belonging to the order of Melchizedek, just as all of our priests are called the priests of the order of Melchizedek.

The significance of this is that, as High Priest, the Lord Jesus was the One Who offered on behalf of mankind their prayers and offerings. And as what we have discussed and discerned in the past few days, the Lord Jesus is our one and true High Priest, Who offered nothing less than Himself as the perfect offering for the absolution of our sins. Through His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has redeemed us by the price of His own Body and Blood shed on the Altar of the Cross.

Thus, unlike the other priests and High Priests, through this sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross, all of us are assured the salvation in Him. He, our everlasting High Priest has given us this assurance Himself, and He has done everything in order to bring us to Himself, redeeming us from our sins and freeing is from the bondage of sin and from the tyranny of death. In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the same love the Lord has shown us by His healing of a paralytic man, even when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law criticised Him for that.

In that account, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law found great issue and were irritated that the Lord continued to perform healing and miracles even on the day of the Sabbath. To the former, the Sabbath was a sacred day dedicated to God that could not be disturbed or used for other purposes, or work. And the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were taking its interpretation to the extreme.

And the Lord reminded the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that the Law was not made to oppress or make the life difficult for any one of us. Instead, the Law was meant to remind us all to redirect our attention and focus to the Lord, to remind us that the Lord should be the centre of our lives and we should spend time with Him, to love Him and to remember all the kindness He has shown us.

The Sabbath was meant to help the people to overcome the temptation to get away from God and to forget Him just because they were so busy with their lives and their activities. It was not meant to prevent them from doing anything that is useful and good, and especially if good things can be done, even on the Sabbath, then they should be done, and in fact, not doing good and purposefully avoiding doing good is a gross misunderstanding of God’s Law.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through this all of us are therefore called to focus our attention on God, for the love that He has shown us and lavished on us all these while. God has always been kind to us even when we have disobeyed Him, rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him. When we have been stubborn, God has always been patient in reaching out to us with love, and we really should appreciate all of that.

Today, let us all be inspired by our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian, both of whom served the Lord wholeheartedly and gave themselves and their lives in defending their faith. Pope St. Fabian was the leader of the Church and the faithful during difficult and turbulent years when the Christian populations went through successions of persecutions by the Emperors of the Roman Empire and the state apparatus and authorities.

Pope St. Fabian himself dedicated his life to the service of the Lord and the Church, and took good care of the faithful, and even during those days, risked himself in his activities to provide for them all. In the end, he was martyred during the intense persecutions under the Roman Emperor Decius, who was indeed notorious for his particularly harsh persecution. However, Pope St. Fabian remained true to his calling and love for God to the very end.

Similarly, St. Sebastian was also a faithful servant of God, who was a member of the Roman military, secretly being a Christian in a largely pagan forces. It was told that St. Sebastian was a member of the Imperial guard, and at that time, the Emperor Diocletian took over power and governance over the whole Empire. And as the Emperor began a series of intense persecutions of the Christians, the members of the military were also obliged to obey the Emperor and offer sacrifices to the gods and the Emperor.

St. Sebastian steadfastly refused to abandon his faith in God or betray his conscience and love for God, and as a result, he was tortured and forced to recant his faith on the pain of death. To the end, when he was shot with many arrows and put through many other forms of sufferings and pain, St. Sebastian remained firm and committed himself as a true servant of the Lord, dying as a great martyr.

Brothers and sisters, clearly we can see how these two saints truly loved God from their heart, and if they had been able to do so, then should we not do the same as well? All of us ought to be inspired by their examples, and we should also encourage one another to be faithful to the Lord, to understand His laws and ways, and to love Him from our heart, and not just give Him lip service or fake faith.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our every endeavours. May God bless us always, and may He guide us all to eternal life and glory in Him. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 3 : 1-6

At that time, again Jesus entered the synagogue. A man, who had a paralysed hand, was there and some people watched Jesus : would He heal the man on the sabbath? If He did, they could accuse Him.

Jesus said to the man with the paralysed hand, “Stand here in the centre.” Then He asked them, “What does the Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” But they were silent.

Then Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness, because they had closed their minds. And He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was healed. As soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 109 : 1, 2, 3, 4

The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand till I make Your foes Your footstool.”

From Zion the Lord will extend Your mighty sceptre and You will rule in the midst of Your enemies.

Yours is royal dignity from the day You were born in holy majesty. Like dew from the womb of the dawn, I have begotten You.

The Lord has sworn, and He will not take back His word : “You are a Priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”

Wednesday, 20 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Hebrews 7 : 1-3, 15-17

Scripture says that Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, came out to meet Abraham who returned from defeating the kings. He blessed Abraham and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.

Let us note that the name Melchizedek means King of Justice, and that king of Salem means king of Peace. There is no mention of father, mother or genealogy; nothing is said about the beginning or the end of his life. In this he is the figure of the Son of God, the Priest Who remains forever.

All this, however, becomes clear if this Priest after the likeness of Melchizedek has in fact received His mission, not on the basis of any human law, but by the power of an immortal life. Because Scripture says : You are a Priest forever in the priestly order of Melchizedek.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard of the works of the Lord, in ministering to us, His beloved ones, as described in the Epistle to the Hebrews as well as in our Gospel passage today. We heard of all the tangible works that the Lord had done in our midst, as Our Lord and Saviour, showing the genuine love of God to each and every one of us.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in our first reading today clearly and plainly described the works that the Lord had done, in coming down upon us and in taking up our human nature. By His sharing with us in His humanity, in the real and tangible existence in flesh and blood, the Lord has gathered us all in and embraced us with love, and led us into the new path towards His salvation.

He came to heal us from our sins, from all the afflictions that had been affecting us, all these while. In the Gospel today we heard how the Lord had laboured to touch all those who had been afflicted with various diseases and conditions, and possessed by evil spirits. The Lord healed them all and showed His love for them generously, but He did not stay on in just one place.

When His disciples asked Him why He disappeared as many more were waiting on Him, He told the disciples that He was also needed elsewhere, as there were still many others who had not yet heard of the truth and seen the love that He was to bring unto their midst. Thus, the Lord continued to show the love and mercy of God to all of us, the children of God, wherever He could, and sent His disciples before Him to help in His works.

But, His ultimate design came to be revealed in what He had willingly accepted at the end of His ministry in this world, as He accepted the burden of the Cross, as our High Priest and Mediator with God, as described and explained by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in our first reading today. As our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ became the Mediator between us and God, His heavenly Father, being the Bridge between us and Him.

While the priests of the Old Testament offered sacrifices of animals and their spilt blood upon the Altar, the Lord offered nothing less than Himself, as He is indeed both the High Priest as well as the perfect and unblemished Lamb of God, though sinless and without fault, willingly shouldered upon Himself the whole burden and weight of our multitudes of sins and faults. He offered for our sake the perfect sacrifice worthy of the forgiveness of our sins.

The Lord accepted this burden and role out of His amazing love for us, in enduring all the sufferings, humiliation and trials for our sake. He has humbled Himself and emptied Himself of all glory and majesty to bring us back to Himself, to embrace us and to love us all once again as He had always intended to. Due to sin, we have been separated from the love of God, and we should have suffered death and destruction. Yet, it was by God’s grace that we have been spared such a fate.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we all know of just how great the Lord has loved us, all these while, then let us all appreciate and love the Lord with all of our strength. And perhaps we should be inspired by the examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, whose feast day we celebrate today, and whose contributions and great commitment to the Lord and the Church we ought to remember this day.

St. Hilary of Poitiers was one of the most renowned early Church fathers and leader as the Bishop of Poitiers and defender of the true faith amidst the many challenges, heresies and divisions facing the Church during his time. At that time, there were numerous heresies misleading the faithful with false teachings, particularly that of the Arian heresy, which was widespread and supported even by powerful members of the community.

St. Hilary of Poitiers himself was not born as a Christian, but turned to the faith together with his family after he began delving into the study of the Christian Scriptures, their texts and faith. And the people saw the greatness and piety in St. Hilary of Poitiers, who was so well-respected by the faithful that they all unanimously elected him as their bishop, as the Bishop of Poitiers.

At that time, the Arian heresy was spreading rapidly, and as the heretics attempted to overcome the Church and even persecute the believers of the true faith, St. Hilary of Poitiers dedicated himself to struggle against the efforts of the Arians, and laboured hard in order to regain the faithful from the clutches of the false teachers and leaders. He encountered plenty of challenges and difficulties, having to endure even exile for his steadfastness in opposing the heresies and falsehoods.

But through his tireless efforts, his many writings and contributions, eventually, not only that St. Hilary of Poitiers managed to return to his See, but together with many others who upheld the true, orthodox Christian faith, he also began to stem the tide of heresy and lies that eventually saw the triumph of the true and orthodox Christian faith as upheld by the Ecumenical Councils and passed down authentically from the Apostles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have heard of the commitment and the efforts put by St. Hilary of Poitiers, who dedicated himself to the service of God with all of his strength. Having known of God’s love ourselves, can we follow in St. Hilary’s footsteps, brothers and sisters? Let us all seek to serve the Lord and glorify His Name at every possible opportunities, from now on. May God bless us and be our Guide in our journey towards Him. Amen.