Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded that as Christians we are all called to glorify the Lord through our lives and follow in the examples of the Apostles and the saints, in all that they had done for the greater glory of God. The Lord has come into this world proclaiming His truth and revealed everything about Himself to us through His Church, and yet, there were still plenty of obstacles that He encountered because of the stubbornness of those who refused to believe in Him.

For example, the chief priests and the Pharisees opposed the Lord and questioned His motives and works, when whatever He had done clearly came from God. He had performed many miracles, signs and wonders before them, just as many among the Pharisees and the priests had witnessed the works of the Lord as they followed Him from place to place, some among them hoping to catch the Lord in making mistakes and that they could then charge Him and destroy His reputation among His followers.

Why were the chief priests and the Pharisees refused to believe in the Lord and in all the truth and things that He has brought into this world? That is because of their pride and worldly attachments, so much so that they also refused to believe in the servant whom God had sent to go before Him, namely that of St. John the Baptist, precisely because he was so popular and so many people went to him seeking to be baptised and converted to the Lord, that the chief priests and the Pharisees were afraid that everyone were turning away from them, toward St. John the Baptist earlier on, and then, towards the Lord Jesus.

The Lord yet did not allow all these to stop Him or to dissuade Him from continuing on with His ministry and works. On the contrary, He continued to push on and persevere through the challenges He faced, and refuted the chief priests and the Pharisees such that they were not able to respond back to Him in kind, as shown in our Gospel passage today. He showed all of us that to be Christians, we have to be first and foremost be committed to the Lord and resist the temptations to give up our commitment and struggles just because we may encounter challenges and trials along the way.

Instead, we have to deepen our commitment, and share in the sufferings of Christ, as we walk through our journey of faith in life. This is what we should be doing with our lives, and today, we can also be further inspired by the examples of a great saint and Pope, whose lives and works through a difficult and turbulent time faced by the Universal Church can help us to remain firm in our own faith in the Lord, and also to discover the calling and the mission entrusted to us by Him, by our renewed conviction and faith.

Pope St. Paul VI, born Giovanni Battista Montini, was one of the more recent Popes, the predecessor of Pope St. John Paul II and his own predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who passed away just over forty years ago in the Year of Our Lord 1978. Pope St. Paul VI lived through difficult times, surviving through two World Wars that devastated much of Europe and other parts of the world. He was born into a small noble Italian family, who joined the seminary with the intention to become a priest during the midst of the First World War. He went on to complete his studies and was ordained a priest a few years after he joined the seminary.

Later on he would then continue to serve the Church in the Holy See, as part of the Secretariat of State through which he worked closely with Pope Pius XII and other prominent members of the Roman Curia and the diplomatic service of the Holy See. During the difficult years of the Second World War, he helped the Pope in his numerous efforts and missions to mediate between the warring sides and to save many people who were suffering persecutions, as well as managing the affairs of the Church in places that were devastated by conflict and war.

It was later on after many years of service then that the Pope appointed then Father Montini as Archbishop of Milan, tasked with the governance and guidance of the largest Archdiocese in Italy and one of the most important in the whole world. During this tenure as the Archbishop of Milan, and later on as Cardinal under Pope St. John XXIII, the future Pope St. Paul VI laboured hard in dedicating himself to his flock in the Archdiocese of Milan, and was also deeply involved in many other projects and charitable works of the Church.

Then as one of the key members of the Ecumenical Second Vatican Council and as the succeeding Pope, in leading the Church in completing the Ecumenical Council and the management of the Church during those times of transitions, Pope St. Paul VI worked hard to help the Church to survive through those difficult years, when many left the Church and abandoned their faith in God. His landmark Humanae Vitae papal encyclical, widely praised for his staunch defence of Church teachings was condemned and rejected by many segments of the Church. Nonetheless, Pope St. Paul VI continued to labour hard and to persuade those who have erred in their path and faith, to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the inspiring example set by Pope St. Paul VI and reminding ourselves of the good examples set by so many other wonderful holy saints and martyrs, God’s holy people, then let us ask ourselves if we have been living our lives in the manner that the Lord has taught us, like how those saints had lived their lives. Or have we allowed ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations and ways, that we hardened our hearts and minds much like those chief priests and the Pharisees? If we have done the latter, then we must realise that it is still not too late for us to turn away from these sinful ways and return to the Lord.

Let us all therefore live our lives faithfully from now on, giving our very best to be righteous and just, to be committed to the Lord at all times. May the Lord be with us always and may He strengthen us all to remain resolute and committed to walk in His path regardless of the challenges and trials we may encounter. Amen.

Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Mark 11 : 27-33

At that time, Jesus and His disciples were once again in Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking in the Temple, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders came to Him, and asked, “What authority do You have to act like this? Who gave You authority to do the things You do.”

Jesus said to them, “I will ask you a question, only one, and if you give me an answer, then I will tell you what authority I have to act like this. Was John’s preaching and baptism a work of God, or was it merely something human? Answer Me.”

And they kept arguing among themselves, “If we answer that it was a work of God, He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’” But neither could they answer before the people that the baptism of John was merely something human, for everyone regarded John as a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you what authority I have to act as I do.”

Alternative reading

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Alternative Psalm

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name.

Proclaim His salvation, day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

Give to YHVH, you families of nations, give to YHVH glory and strength. Give to YHVH the glory due His Name.

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Saturday, 29 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Sirach 51 : 12a-20

I will give You thanks and praise and bless the Name of the Lord. In my youth, before I set out on my travels, I openly sought wisdom in prayer; before the Temple I asked for her and I will pursue her to the end of my days. While she blossomed like a ripening cluster, my heart was delighted in her; my feet followed the right path, because from my youth I searched for her.

As soon as I began listening to her, she was given to me, and with her, much instruction. With her help I made progress and I will glorify Him Who gives me wisdom, for I decided to put it into practice and ardently seek what is good. I shall not regret it. My soul has struggled to possess her. I have been attentive to observe the Law, and after my faults I have stretched out my hands to heaven and lamented my ignorance of her.

My love for her increased and I found her in repentance. It was through her from the beginning that I learnt to possess my heart. She will not forsake me.

Alternative reading

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests, Popes and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are called to remember the commandments and the Law of the Lord, which we should follow and obey wholeheartedly, with all of our hearts and with all of our might. God has given us all His Law to help and guide us in our journey, that we may find our way amidst the numerous temptations and obstacles in our path. We are reminded to keep the commandments of the Lord and to commit ourselves sincerely through real and genuine actions.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Sirach, the exhortation from the Lord with regards to His commandments, as He told the people through the prophet Sirach to give generously to the Lord, offering themselves, whatever they can offer and dedicate to Him. This is because all those who trust in the Lord and all who walk in His path will never be disappointed for He is always ever faithful, and He will always be by the side of those who kept themselves faithful and committed to Him.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples, reassuring them that all those who have given themselves, committed their time and effort, and made sacrifices for the sake of the Lord, they would not be disappointed and left without providence and help. Their reward in the end will be truly great, as God remembers those who love Him and who give themselves for His cause. The Lord will guide them and remain with them throughout their journey no matter how tough it may be.

That is why through what we have heard in our Scripture readings today, as Christians we are all called to put our trust in the Lord and commit ourselves to Him, just as the disciples had done, and how the early Church Christians, so many saints and martyrs had done. And today in particular, we do not just have one, but three great saints, our holy predecessors whom we celebrate their feast day, whose life and devotion to the Lord are indeed great inspiration for us to live as true Christians following the will of God.

First of all, St. Bede the Venerable is a renowned English saint and a famous Benedictine monk remembered well for his many literary works in various areas and fields, and in particular, his writings for the Christian faith and theology were spectacular and influenced many people and remained well read and referenced on for long after his time. St. Bede the Venerable also lived a life of humble simplicity and prayer, dedicating his whole time and efforts completely to the Lord. Through his writings, he inspired many more people to come to know the Lord, revealing His truth to them.

And then, Pope St. Gregory VII was the leader of the Universal Church and Supreme Pontiff at a time of great change and transformation in the Church and the secular community, remembered especially for his confrontation against the powerful Holy Roman Emperor during the Investiture Controversy. The Pope has always been the Vicar of Christ on earth, as the one appointed in the shoes of St. Peter to be the sole representative of the Lord, and therefore has supreme authority over all matters pertaining to the Church and faith, over all the spiritual matters of all Christians.

But the Holy Roman Emperor as the successor of the Roman Emperors claimed authority and control over the appointment and management of bishops and other spiritual matters of his own subjects. Emperor Henry IV at that time refused to budge to the Pope’s authority to appoint bishops and over other spiritual matters of the Church. This resulted in drawn out struggle, and although the Emperor used all of his means to claim over the Pope’s authority, Pope St. Gregory VII did not give in to those demands and efforts. He remained firm in devoting his efforts for the good of the Church despite all the obstacles.

Lastly, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a renowned religious Carmelite nun and mystic who was devoted to the Lord, filled with prayer and commitment to God, devoting her whole time and effort in prayer and in contemplation, and she received visions of the Lord that became inspiration for others, including due to her piety and commitment through prayer. Many people venerate her for her deep devotion and piety, and great humility, as she was known to wear a crown of thorns regularly as self-mortification and as a sign of her faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the story of the faith of these saints, and reminded of the Lord’s promises and reassurance in our Scripture readings today, are we all willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner? We are all called to spend our time and efforts to serve the Lord, and to follow Him wholeheartedly. Let us all therefore serve the Lord and follow Him from now on with all of our heart and with all of our might. Let us all walk in the path of the Lord courageously and confidently from now on.

May the Lord be with us all and may He give us the strength and courage to walk in His path, at all times. May God bless us and our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests, Popes and Holy Virgins)

Mark 10 : 28-31

At that time, Peter spoke up and said, “We have given up everything to follow You.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive his reward.”

“I say to you : even in the midst of persecution, he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time, and in the world to come eternal life. Do pay attention : many who are now first will be last, and the last, first.”

Tuesday, 25 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests, Popes and Holy Virgins)

Psalm 49 : 5-6, 7-8, 14 and 23

Gather before Me My faithful ones, who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice. The heavens will proclaim His sentence, for God Himself is the Judge.

Hear, o My people, for I am speaking. I will accuse You, o Israel, I am God, your God! Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me.

Yet offer to God a sacrifice of thanks, and fulfil your vows to the Most High. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope, and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests, Popes and Holy Virgins)

Sirach 35 : 1-15

Keeping the Law is worthy many offerings. Being faithful to the commandments is like a peace offering. Returning kindness is an offering of fine flour; giving alms is a sacrifice of praise. Renouncing sin pleases the Lord, and shunning injustice is a sacrifice of atonement.

Do not appear before the Lord with empty hands. The commandment requires that you bring an offering. When the offering of the righteous is burnt on the altar, the fat drips down and a fragrant aroma rises to the Most High. The sacrifice of the just man pleases God and will not be forgotten. Honour the Lord with a generous heart and do not be stingy with the first fruits of your harvest.

Offer your gifts with a smiling face and when you pay your tithes do it gladly. Give to the Most High as He has given to you; give generously to the Lord according to what you have; the Lord will repay, He will reward you sevenfold. If you attempt to bribe Him with gifts He will not accept them; do not rely on offerings from dishonest gain.

The Lord is Judge and shows no partiality. He will not disadvantage the poor, He Who hears the prayer of the oppressed. He does not disdain the plea of the orphan, nor the complaint of the widow. When tears flow down her cheeks, is she not crying out against the one who caused her to weep?

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 : 7th 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 heard the story of St. Paul who was then in Ephesus, speaking among the gathered Church elders and the faithful. At that time we heard St. Paul saying to those assembled how he was led by the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News and the truth to the many peoples all across various parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. And he told those assembled in Ephesus that he would then be going to his suffering and martyrdom, as the Spirit led him on to go to the city of Jerusalem for the final leg of his mission.

St. Paul knew that he would be facing sufferings and trials, and he would have to be led in chains, imprisoned and brought from place to place, as later on he would be brought from Jerusalem to Rome, the capital of the Empire, after he appealed to the Emperor for the charges brought against him by the Jewish leaders and elders. He could have avoided that fate by not going to Jerusalem and staying on amongst those who cared for him like in Ephesus, but he followed and obeyed the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the truth in his last mission, and to bring that truth the city of Rome before he was to be martyred.

The same also happened to the Lord Himself as seen in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord was having His Last Supper with His disciples, and revealed to them how He would be taken away from them, and that He would no longer with them. This was a reference to how He would very soon be arrested, that very night, and would be condemned to death on the Cross and die for the sake of all. Again, here the Lord could have chosen to avoid it all, and if He had wanted to be out of all the trials He had to endure, He could have easily done it, for after all, is He not the Almighty One?

Yet, He willingly accepted His Cross and went on through all the sufferings, so that everything that He has designed and planned for the salvation of all could be fulfilled perfectly, right up to the moment of His death. He did so out of love for us and so that we can also be freed from the slavery to sin and death. If it not had been for His sacrifice on the Cross, all of us would still be enslaved to sin and have no hope or freedom from death. Instead, we have this hope and new light thanks to Our Lord and His love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, being a Christian is not something that is easy or simple, and it often requires plenty of effort, dedication and even sacrifices on our side. And we have to trust in the Lord and follow His guide, through the Holy Spirit that He has given us. We should not be afraid to follow Him, or give in to our doubts and fears. As the Lord Himself and St. Paul had shown us, we should entrust ourselves to the Divine will and providence, and we should allow Him to transform our lives, and how we are to act and do things in life.

Now, as we have received the truth of God, know of the mission that He has entrusted to us through His Church, and heeded His call and will to be Christians, what are we then going to do with our lives from now on? This is what we need to discern carefully from now on as we consider what it is that we all have to do in each and every moments of our lives that we may be good role models and examples for all of our fellow men, our brothers and sisters, that like St. Paul and the other Apostles and saints, we may encourage one another to be faithful and to be more committed and dedicated to God.

Today all of us celebrate the feast of Pope St. John I, one of the great and holy Popes, a faithful servant of God and martyr of the Christian faith that can be one of our great inspirations in how we are to live our lives. He was elected to the position of Pope, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff during a turbulent time in the history of the Church, as conflict between the Arian heresy adopted by the Ostrogothic king of Italy, Theoderic the Great and the Nicene faith of the rest of the Roman Empire came to head.

Pope St. John I, at that time, despite being frail and in poor health when he was elected to the Papacy, he dedicated his time and effort to mediate between both sides, as both were unwilling to give grounds and concessions to the other. In the end, Pope St. John I managed to gain a compromise, only for the Gothic king to arrest him and put him in prison, suspecting the Pope of cooperation and collusion with the Roman Emperor and the Nicene party. He died in prison a martyr not long afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow in the footsteps of Pope St. John I, in his courage and dedication to follow in the path set before him by the Lord. Despite the challenges and the risks he knew that he had to face, much like St. Paul and the Lord Jesus before him, he embarked on the mission entrusted to him nonetheless, and fulfilled faithfully all that he had been called to do, as a true Christian, a true follower and disciple of Christ to the very end.

Are we willing and able to do the same, brothers and sisters in Christ? We are all called to follow in the footsteps of those who had gone before us, and to bear our Christian faith in words, deeds and actions, in even the smallest things we do in life, from now on, if we have not done so yet. Let us hence seek the Lord with renewed zeal and vigour, and with the same energy and strength let us reach out to our fellow men, bearing witness of our Christian faith, at all times.

May the Lord be with us, being our Strength and Guide, through the Holy Spirit He has sent to us, to invigorate and empower us to be ever genuine and faithful Christian, always and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 17 : 1-11a

At that time, after Jesus said all that He had said to His disciples, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to Your Son, that the Son may give glory to You. You have given Him power over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to all those You entrusted to Him. For this is eternal life : to know You, the only true God, and the One You sent, Jesus Christ.”

“I have glorified You on earth and finished the work that You gave Me to do. Now, Father, give Me, in Your presence, the same glory I had with You before the world began. I have made Your Name known to those You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they kept Your word. And now they know that whatever You entrusted to Me, is indeed from You.”

“I have given them the teaching I received from You, and they received it, and know in truth that I came from You; and they believe that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those who belong to You, and whom You have given to Me. Indeed all I have is Yours and all You have is Mine; and now they are My glory.”

“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I come to You.”