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.

Thursday, 31 December 2020 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the truth of our Lord’s salvation just as we continue to proceed through this season of Christmas, that He, the Word of God and the Word of truth has come into this world and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, to be the Saviour of all. We focus our attention today in His honour, to reorientate ourselves and our lives once again that we may indeed be centred on Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our Gospel passage today, we again heard of the same introduction to the Gospel of St. John that we have also heard during the Christmas Mass at daytime and which the Church has once decreed to be read at the last part of the Mass as the Last Gospel. In that passage we heard the proclamation of the unchanging truth of the salvation in the Word of God, Who was with God since the beginning, and Who was God.

And this same Word of God has become the Son, the Son of God Most High, begotten not created, sharing in the divinity of the Father and part of the Holy Trinity. The Word has come down into the world and became Flesh, the Son of God and the Divine Word became Incarnate as the Son of Man through Mary. Through Him we have seen the salvation of God and the love of God has also become tangible and accessible, no longer just a distant promise or hopeful wish.

We celebrate during this Christmas season the manifestation of this love in the Flesh, in Jesus Christ, the true focus and the true reason for all of our rejoicing and celebrations. This is why we need to hold this truth and this realisation with us, with firm conviction and with genuine commitment to the Lord, that despite whatever we may encounter, whatever we may be tempted with, we may remain committed to the path that the Lord has shown us.

The Lord has revealed His salvation to us and all of us have received this assurance and the fulfilment of God’s promise. He has shown that He has not abandoned us in our time of need. In fact, He has reached out to us and reassured us, embracing us even more. But sadly, many of us have not appreciated this love and this care that the Lord has shown us. Instead, we chose to follow the false leads of the false prophets and leaders that led us down the path of disobedience and sin.

This is what St. John also spoke of in our first reading today, as he spoke of the antichrists present all around us. All these antichrists are those who seek to subvert the truth of God and use falsehoods and lies to advance the interest of the evil ones. We have to be careful lest we end up falling into these traps of lies and falsehoods. That is why we have to hold firmly to our faith in God, to His truth and all that He has revealed to us and preserved in His Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember at the end of this current year that we should always keep in mind our path in life and take care that we do not fall down the wrong paths. As we look forward to a new year ahead, let us all remind ourselves that the Lord is our sole truth and our sole focus in life, and we should move forward with this being kept in mind all the time.

Today, let us all look at the examples and the life of Pope St. Silvester I, also known as Pope St. Sylvester, so that we may know how we can move forward in life as faithful Christians from now on. Pope St. Silvester was the Pope and therefore leader of the entire Universal Church at a time of great change both for the Church and the world at the time. He succeeded Pope St. Miltiades whose reign as Pope coincided with the end of the official persecution of Christians with the famous Edict of Milan by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.

Pope St. Silvester I reigned for over two decades during the time of great change and renewal of the Church, as it emerged out of the terrible persecutions of the previous decades and centuries. Pope St. Silvester I guided the Church through all those years, and helped to restore order amidst confusions and the divisions that happened due to the persecutions and the chaos that happened.

There had been many divisions in the Church, especially because of the many false leaders and heretics who misled the faithful to wrong teachings and paths. In the end, many fell and followed those false leaders, and it was Pope St. Silvester I and the many other faithful bishops, priests and leaders of the Church who worked tirelessly in order to restore the truth of God to the Church and the Christian faithful.

This culminated in the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea that happened during the reign of Pope St. Silvester. Although the Pope himself did not attend the Ecumenical Council, but through his legates and representatives, he helped to lead the Church together through the discussions and deliberations, and managed to come together with the canonical and orthodox definition of the faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the life and examples of Pope St. Silvester I, as well as through the concerted effort of the Church leaders at that time in the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, steering the Church and the faithful through the difficult and divisive moments in its history, let us all therefore remind ourselves to keep being faithful to God and hold onto our Christian faith.

Let us all enter into the new year with a new hope, and bring hope to one another, and do our best to live our lives as faithful Christians and be exemplary to each other, that we may inspire more and more people to follow the Lord. And as we are still celebrating the season of Christmas, let us all bring the hope and joy of Christmas, the hope in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to all those who are still suffering and are in the darkness of despair and sorrow this year, that the Light of Christ may heal all of them and bring them to salvation. Amen.

Thursday, 31 December 2020 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 1-18

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in Him; life, which for human beings, was also light, light that shines in darkness, light that darkness could not overcome.

A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but a witness to introduce the Light; for the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was in the world, and through Him the world was made, the very world that did not know Him.

He came to His own, yet His own people did not receive Him; but to all who received Him, He empowers to become children of God, for they believe in His Name. These are born, but not by seed, or carnal desire, nor by the will of man : they are born of God.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father : fullness of truth and loving-kindness. John bore witness to Him openly, saying, “This is the One Who comes after me, but He is already ahead of me, for He was before me.”

From His fullness we have all received, favour upon favour. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-only-Son made Him known : the One, Who is in and with the Father.

Thursday, 31 December 2020 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 11-12a, 12b-13

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name. Proclaim His salvation day after day.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them; let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before the Lord.

He Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Thursday, 31 December 2020 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 18-21

My dear children, it is the last hour. You were told that an antichrist would come; but several antichrists have already come, by which we know that it is now the last hour.

They went out from us though they did not really belong to us. Had they belonged to us, they would have remained with us. So it became clear that not all of us were really ours. But you have the anointing from the Holy One, so that all of you have true wisdom.

I write to you, not because you lack knowledge of the truth, but because you already know it, and lies have nothing in common with the truth.

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the Lord reminding His people to follow His ways, to obey His laws and commandments, and not to be swayed by falsehoods and temptations to sin. The Lord wants us to walk in His path, be righteous in all things and to put our trust in His wisdom, and not in our own biased judgments and wisdom.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the Lord chiding and reminding His people to put their trust in Him and follow Him, rather than persisting in their stubborn attitude and refusal to follow His laws as they had done. This was a reference to how throughout the history of the people of Israel, through the time of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah right up to the time of Isaiah, had been disobedient many times.

They refused to believe in God and in His prophets, ignoring the reminders given to them on multiple occasions, and the Lord still continued to send reminders after reminders to them, regardless of how they had treated the prophets and messengers sent to them. The same stubbornness can be seen in our Gospel passage today, when we heard of the Lord Jesus and His frustrations at the people who refused to believe in Him or in His herald, St. John the Baptist.

And all of that was because they refused to let go of their ego and trust in their own power, their own intellect and capabilities. They refused to acknowledge that they could be wrong and mistaken, and that was why they judged the Lord and St. John the Baptist by their own flawed ideals and thoughts, wisdom and intellect. They hardened their hearts and minds against the truth that the Lord and His prophet had brought and revealed before them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, such is indeed the cause for mankind’s fall into sin and why so many of us have not been walking faithfully in the path that God has shown us. We have been swayed by the many temptations of the world that led us down the wrong path, in disobeying God and focusing on our selfish desires and wants. And this is why in this season of Advent, we are all called to reflect on our state and way of life.

We are all called to rethink how we have lived our lives thus far if we have been too focused and engrossed on worldly matters and temptations. Have all these brought true happiness for us? We must remember that all the pleasures of the world are merely temporary and do not provide us lasting happiness. Only in the Lord alone that we can find true joy, by entrusting ourselves in His hands.

Today, all of us can also look upon the good examples set by Pope St. Damasus I, in how he dedicated his life to the Lord as a righteous and committed Christian. Pope St. Damasus I lived at the time when the Christian faith were no longer persecuted by the Roman Empire and became increasingly adopted by many. However, during that same time, divisions and internal struggles faced the Church and threatened to bring about the downfall of many souls.

Pope St. Damasus I was an Archdeacon of Rome under the reign of Pope Liberius, and he had been quite involved in the governance of the Church since then. And when he was elected as Pope, there was also division and disagreements as an opposing party rejected his election and authority as Pope. He had to contend with those who rejected his authority as Pope and leader of the Church.

Pope St. Damasus I dedicated his life and reign as Pope with great energy, actively resisting the many heresies which at that time threatened to divide the Christian faithful, and he was influential and crucial in his efforts in compiling the Scriptural canon through St. Jerome, who compiled the Latin translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Through his many efforts, Pope St. Damasus I helped to steer the Church through difficult times and moments of challenges, and kept the faith in countless souls.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to follow in the footsteps of someone so faithful like Pope St. Damasus I, dedicating our lives to the Lord rather than for our own selfish purposes, aims and desires? As we remember his faithful dedication to the Lord, we are all called to turn with all of our hearts and minds to God, especially at this time of Advent, reconsidering our path in life.

Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed zeal and faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, and harden our hearts no more. Let us all be open to welcome the Lord into our hearts, and allow Him to enter into our lives and transform us for the better. May the Lord strengthen us all, and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”