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

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 15 : 18-21

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 16 : 1-10

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

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

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

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

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded constantly of our responsibilities and calling as Christians to love one another, to be ever generous in loving and to be filled with love in all of our actions, words and deeds. As Christians we have to put our brethren and others above ourselves, to be ever ready to commit ourselves for the good of our fellow men and women, and to spend the time, effort and attention to reach out with that love to our fellow brethren. We cannot be idle and be ignorant of this calling to love, for if we are truly God’s people, then we will also love in the same way that He has loved us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the conclusion of the matter highlighted in the Acts of the Apostles regarding the disagreements surrounding the commitments and responsibilities expected of the Christian faithful especially related to the old laws, customs and practices of the Jewish people. There were those who desired and even forced the adoption of the Jewish customs and practices such as circumcision and the strict dietary laws on the Gentiles or the non-Jews who converted to the Christian faith. Against these were those who argued that the Church should be more open in engaging the Gentiles and should not make it difficult for them to embrace the Christian faith.

Contextually, the cultural differences and other misunderstandings and prejudices existing between the Jews and the Gentiles were making it difficult for the new Christians to adopt the entire strict and extensive provisions of the Jewish laws as espoused by some of the Jewish Christians. This is because some of those practices and customs were regarded as undesirable, strange and even barbaric by the Romans, Greeks and some other people who were living then all around the Mediterranean, those to whom the Apostles and the other disciples had been ministering and preaching towards.

Hence, the Apostles having discussed and prayed over the matter with the elders of the Church, all of them agreed to not force the Jewish customs and laws on the entire body of the faithful, as doing so is contrary to the Lord’s commandments to love, and in fact as mentioned, is a distraction to the true way of the Lord. Some of those customs and practices were kept by the Pharisees to the extremes which not only turned people away from the Lord, but also ended up causing the laws themselves becoming more important and became the focus of attention rather than the Lord Himself. Hence, the Church commanded the faithful to follow only what the Lord Himself had told them to do, as according to what has been revealed through Christ.

That is why in our Gospel passage today, we heard once again that commandment of love being spoken to us through Our Lord Himself, Who told His disciples to love generously and wholeheartedly, to love one another just as He has loved all of them. The Lord has showed us all His unconditional love, His compassion and loving mercy, that even when we were still sinners and rebellious against Him, His love for us did not change at all. That love transcends even the disgust He has for our sinful ways, and hence, because of that love which He has unconditionally showed us, He endeavoured to come to our midst that He may show us what His love is all about.

The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him, embracing His love and mercy. He wants each and every one of us to throw away our attachments to sin and to the wickedness that once permeated our lives. And if we still live in the way and path of sin, all of us are called to turn away from those sins and embrace God’s love anew. Are we all capable of doing this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord wholeheartedly and then as He has commanded us to do, to love our fellow brothers and sisters with the same kind of love as well? Are we able to love one another generously and genuinely?

Today we should be inspired by the good examples set by St. Bernardine of Siena, whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Bernardine of Siena was a great preacher and missionary, who spent a lot of time and effort in caring for the spiritual needs of the people. He was remembered as one of the greatest preachers that the Church ever had, preaching directly to the public with zeal and honesty, from his heart, speaking to them and showing them what the genuine love of God looks and feels like. He showed the people how God loved them all, and inspired them to love Him and in loving one another as well, distancing themselves from the path of sin and evil.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we inspired to be more like St. Bernardine of Siena and many other great saints, holy men and women of God who had gone before us, that by our actions, words and deeds, we may truly proclaim the Lord to all those whom we encounter in life, proclaiming His love and kindness, His great generosity and mercy, by our own loving actions to one another? We are all called and chosen as Christians to be the bearers and witnesses of God’s ever amazing love for His people. We are all reminded that by our love, many more will know about God and they will also know that we are His people.

May God help us to be His great disciples, in revealing Him and His love to more and more people all around the world. May He empower us all to remain always faithful to Him at all times, and bless our good works, for His greater glory, bow and always. Amen.

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 12-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This is My commandment : Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are My friends, if you do what I command you.”

“I shall not call You servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learnt from My Father.”

“You did not choose Me; it was I Who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. This is My command, that you love one another.”

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 56 : 8-9, 10-12

My heart is steadfast, o God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul, awake, o harp and lyre! I will wake the dawn.

I will give thanks to You, o Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to You among the nations. For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Let Your Glory be over all the earth!

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 22-31

Then the Apostles and elders together with the whole Church decided to choose representatives from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These were Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They took with them the following letter :

“Greetings from the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the believers of non-Jewish birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We have heard that some persons from among us have worried you with their discussions and troubled your peace of mind. They were not appointed by us.”

“But now, it has seemed right to us in an assembly, to choose representatives and to send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We send you then Judas and Silas who themselves will give you these instructions by word of mouth.”

“We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary : You are to abstain from blood from the meat of strangled animals and from prohibited marriages. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

After saying goodbye, the messengers went to Antioch, where they assembled the community and handed them the letter. When they read the news, all were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.

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

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 15 : 1-8

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

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

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