Friday, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin 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 discussion among the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council, at the time when the Apostles began their ministry, speaking about the Lord Jesus and His resurrection from the dead, as told to us by the book of the Acts of the Apostles. The members of the Sanhedrin could not agree on what to do with the Apostles.

Why is that so? That is because, many of the chief priests and the elders who were opposed to the Lord and His teachings, were hard bent to oppose the works of the Apostles as well, regardless of whatever they were preaching to the people. They have closed their ears, their senses, their minds and their hearts from receiving God’s Good News. As a result, that is why they constantly demanded for the severe punishment and even death of the Apostles.

However, there were also quite a few of those who were still open to reason, and some of them in fact were sympathetic to the teachings of the Lord, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who were in fact secret followers of Jesus. These members of the Sanhedrin genuinely considered the miracles performed by the Apostles as the truth, and as signs of God. They accepted their teachings as God’s truth brought unto them by the Apostles.

Then Gamaliel, a respected teacher and elder, and member of the Sanhedrin managed to calm down the situation by explaining how those who were blindly opposing the works of God were unreasonable and unwise, as he related to them the various examples of all those who had claimed to be the Messiah prior to Jesus. All of those false Messiahs failed because ultimately, they were not the true Messiah, and they did not derive their authority from God.

Gamaliel mentioned how if the Apostles have been acting on the base of human authority, they would have eventually failed and they would fade into obscurity and nothingness as all those who followed the false Messiahs had proven in the past. Gamaliel said to the rest of the Sanhedrin that should the Lord Jesus and His Apostles’ teachings truly came from God, and was the truth, then the Sanhedrin would have acted against God and His will.

And ultimately, the works of the Apostles were truly fruitful and blessed, exactly because God was with them, and God was working through them. In the Gospel passage today, again we heard about the miracle that Jesus performed before His disciples and before all the people. He fed a great multitude of five thousand people and more, not counting the women and the children among them.

And He did all these with just five loaves of bread and two fishes. It is indeed impossible in the minds and intellects of man, and no one could have believed that all these could have happened. But what is impossible for man, is perfectly possible for God. And Jesus Himself, is God, and as Son of God, is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, and by that power, He made the food to multiply according to His will, to satisfy everyone gathered at that time.

Because God was with them, and because God was their leader, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Apostles were successful and triumphant, and despite the difficulties they faced and encountered along the way, eventually they would be triumphant and glorious with God, Who promised all those who are faithful to Him, a eternity of true happiness and glory with Him.

Today, we mark the commemoration of a holy martyr and successor of the Apostle, Pope St. Martin, who succeeded the successors of St. Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted His Church. Pope St. Martin was a faithful servant of God and he devoted himself to the care of the flock and the Church entrusted to him. Yet, he was torn between his commitment to the works of the Church and the secular leaders of the Roman Empire at the time, who had fallen into the false teachings of heretics who were opposed to God’s truth.

Pope St. Martin stood firmly in his conviction and in his zealous attempts to oppose the heretics, including against the Emperor and his courtiers and nobles, who tried to pervert the truth. In the end, he was arrested and endured sufferings in prison, and died a martyr of the Church and his faith in God became a great inspiration for many Christians in the numerous generations after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us are therefore called to reflect on these things we have just discussed. Are we truly devoted and faithful to the Lord, in all of our ways, and in all of our dealings? Are we able to live faithfully as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had done, and as Pope St. Martin I and many other holy saints and martyrs had done?

Let us all devote ourselves, and let us all commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. May all of our actions and deeds, all the things we say and do, we always do them for the sake of the Lord and for His greater glory. Let us all seek to love the Lord at all times, ever more day after day. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

Friday, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 6 : 1-15

At that time, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.” Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Friday, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 13 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Martin I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 5 : 34-42

But one of the members of the Council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law highly respected by the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin. He ordered the men to be taken outside for a few minutes and then he spoke to the assembly.

“Fellow Israelites, consider well what you intend to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed and all his followers were dispersed or disappeared.”

“After him, Judas the Galilean appeared at the time of the census and persuaded many people to follow him. But he too perished and his whole following was scattered. So, in this present case, I advise you to have nothing to do with these men. Leave them alone. If their project or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand, it is from God, you will not be able to destroy it and you may indeed find yourselves fighting against God.”

The Council let themselves be persuaded. They called in the Apostles and had them whipped, and ordered them not to speak again of Jesus Saviour. Then they set them free. The Apostles went out from the Council rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name. Day after day, both in the Temple and in people’s homes, they continued to teach and to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day first of all we listened to the tribulations and difficulties that were faced by the Apostles, as they were assailed by the opposition from the chief priests and the elders of the people, who refused to believe in their teachings, which proclaimed the Risen Lord. They first of all have refused to listen to the Lord and to His teachings when He was in their midst, and then, they refused to listen to His disciples.

Yet, despite the challenges they encountered, the disciples continued to serve the Lord and obeyed His will to the very end, carrying out His works in many places and among many peoples, calling on many to repent from their sins and turn to the righteous ways of the Lord. This was despite the threats and challenges they faced, having been warned by the elders of the people and the whole council of the Sanhedrin.

In the same manner, saints and martyrs throughout the ages and the history of the Church have faced similar difficulties and persecutions. There were many martyrs who died defending their faith because they refused to abandon the Lord or to betray Him. They would rather perish in their earthly existence rather than being condemned to an eternity of suffering in hell.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Stanislas, a holy bishop and martyr, a Polish bishop of Krakow who lived approximately eight hundred years ago. St. Stanislas was a great servant of God who helped to establish the Church and its teachings more firmly in the land of Poland. However, he had to contend with a king, who eventually would be the one to slaughter him in cold blood, king Boleslaw II the Bold.

The king’s heavy handed and unfair treatment of the Church as well as many other segments of the society, and his rumoured sexual immorality and wicked behaviour led to the courageous bishop to rebuke the king publicly and opposed him in several occasions. In the end, the bishop St. Stanislas excommunicated the king. The king was furious, and sent armed men to strike the bishop. When these were afraid to do as the king commanded, the king himself struck and killed the martyr.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard of the tale of the Apostles and the disciples, as well as the martyrs like St. Stanislas, we see how being a devout Christian and a true follower of our Lord is not an easy path. That would require commitment and even at times, taking risk and suffering. But all of these, they have done, all the faithful servants of God, for the sake of God, He Who has given us everything and loved us dearly with all of His heart.

God has loved us so dearly, just as He Himself said it through His conversation to Nicodemus, the good Pharisee. He said that God so loved the world, that He gave us all His only beloved Son, as He was speaking about Himself, that through His coming into the world, by His dwelling among us, and by the Good News He had brought unto our midst; and ultimately, by His suffering and death on the cross, all of us who believe in Him will not perish but live forever with Him in glory.

That is because, God has paid for us the price of our liberation in His own Blood. He has shed His own Blood on the cross, and paid the ultimate price for our own good and for our lives. If He, Our God, has given us so much, then how can we His people, all of the believers, members of the Church, all Christians, not love Him in the same manner? God does not ask much, just our love and dedication, as much as He has loved us first.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore be exemplary in our faith and in our lives. Let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, and spend time with Him through prayer and commitment to love Him. Let us all show one another, the love which God has given us, and which we now share amongst us, that many more people, having seen our faith made alive through our actions, may come to believe in Him as well, and answer God’s call to salvation, just as the Apostles had done long ago.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our path, and bless us in all of our endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 3 : 16-21

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved.”

“Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God. This is how the Judgment is made : Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

“For whoever does wrong hates the light, and does not come to the light, for fear that his deeds will be seen as evil. But whoever lives according to the truth comes into the light, so that it can be clearly seen that his works have been done in God.”

Wednesday, 11 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify the Lord, together let us glorify His Name! I sought the Lord, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, the Lord hears and saves them from distress.

The Lord’s Angel encamps and patrols to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of the Lord! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!