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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

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

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 15 : 1-6

Some persons who had come from Judea to Antioch were teaching the brothers in this way, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Because of this there was trouble, and Paul and Barnabas had fierce arguments with them. For Paul told the people to remain as they were when they became believers. Finally those who had come from Jerusalem suggested that Paul and Barnabas and some others go up to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the Apostles and elders.

They were sent on their way by the Church. As they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria they reported how the non-Jews had turned to God, and there was great joy among all the brothers and sisters. On their arrival in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, the Apostles and the elders, to whom they told all that God had done through them.

Some believers, however, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees, stood up and said that non-Jewish men must be circumcised and instructed to keep the law of Moses. So the Apostles and elders met together to consider the matter.

Saturday, 30 April 2022 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us regarding the trust and faith that we must have in the Lord, because even with all the trials and challenges that we may have to face in this world, the Lord is surely with us and He will never abandon us, and He will guide and lead us down the right path, as long as we are willing to follow Him wholeheartedly. The Lord has also called His servants and those among us whom He had chosen to be the ones to care and minister to the needs of the Christian community as we heard in our Scripture passage today from the Acts of the Apostles.

In that first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the conflict that occurred in the early Church in the group called the Hellenists, which signified one of the earliest groups within the early Christian community, a division that was bound to happen due to the diverse nature of the first Christians and the community built by the Apostles. As detailed elsewhere in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, there were disagreements, divisions and even conflicts between the early Christians who still considered themselves part of the Jewish community and hence vigorously practiced and even pressured others to follow the Jewish practices, and the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people who became believers, and yet there were also the Jewish converts who were sympathetic to the Gentiles and desired to accommodate them, and those were the Hellenists.

Unfortunately, it was likely that those divisions and disagreements between the various parties led to the discrepancy in the distribution of goods and others to the Christian families and communities. As such, the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit decided to appoint several men who were tasked with the care of the community, making sure that all of the faithful and their needs are taken care of. These seven holy men dedicated by the Apostles would become the first deacons of the Church and hence became the institution of the Order of Deacons or the Diaconate.

Through those deacons, most renowned of which was St. Stephen, who would become the first martyr of the Church, the love of God and His providence were shown to all the people, as those deacons reached out to the people of God, ministering to them and caring for their needs. They were also at the forefront of the works of evangelisation and in facing the various peoples that they had been sent to, which in the case of St. Stephen resulted in him being persecuted and was then stoned to death by those who opposed him and the Christian faith and truth that he had been speaking about.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the moment when the Lord appeared before His disciples in the middle of a great storm in the sea of Galilee. They were in their boat, amidst all the storm and the winds, the waves and others, when the Lord appeared to them while walking on the water. The disciples were all frightened but the Lord reassured them that it was indeed Him that they had seen. The Lord then calmed the storm and the waves to the astonishment of the disciples. And through this, we had seen how God would not leave His beloved ones alone, and He would always take good care of them.

In that Gospel passage we see the symbolism of the Church through the disciples and their boat in the midst of the storm. The boat is the representation of the Church, with the disciples representing all of us the faithful people of God. The storm and the waves represent the many trials and challenges facing the Church, all the opposition, persecution and difficulties that we as the faithful may encounter in our lives as Christians. But we must not be afraid as the Lord will always be with us and He will never abandon us in our time of need. God will always be by our side no matter what.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we have the calling and mission to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters, committing our lives to the good works entrusted to us through the Church. We are all the successors of the Lord’s disciples and the ones who are tasked to be His witnesses in our world today. Each and every one of us by our calling have been entrusted with the mission to preach the Good News of God’s salvation to more people all over around the whole world. As His witnesses and disciples we are called to proclaim His light and hope amidst our darkened world.

Today, we should draw inspiration from one of our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Pius V, a great and dedicated leader of the Church who led the Church and all the faithful during a particularly difficult period of time in the Church history. He was prominent in his role in the Ecumenical Council of Trent and also his contributions before he even became the Pope and thus leader of all Christendom. He led the Church during the crucial years in which it was fighting both internal divisions and the changes and instabilities caused by the Protestant heresy and falsehoods, among other political conflicts, as well as the external threats from the forces of the Ottoman Turks threatening to conquer the lands of Christendom.

Yet, Pope St. Pius V persevered through all those challenges and entrusted himself and the Church to the Lord. He led the Church to implement the many important reforms and changes made at the Council of Trent, and helped to enforce its decrees on the many segments of the Church, rooting out the corruptions and excesses within the Church, while restoring many of the people who had been misguided and misled by falsehoods back into the truth of God in the Church. He also helped to assemble the great Christian alliance that managed to win a great victory over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the great examples set by Pope St. Pius V and the many other holy saints, holy men and women of God, let us all continue to strive to be faithful to God, to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. Let us all do our best, in whatever way we can, to dedicate ourselves to the Lord and to proclaim His truth and love in our various communities, even through the smallest things we say and do in our lives. May God bless us all and may He empower each one of us to be faithful to Him, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Saturday, 30 April 2022 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 16-21

At that time, when evening came, the disciples went down to the shore. After a while they got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the sea, for it was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to them. But the sea was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing.

They had rowed about three or four miles, when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and He was drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but He said to them, “It is I! Do not be afraid!” They wanted to take Him into the boat, but immediately the boat was at the shore to which they were going.

Saturday, 30 April 2022 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 32 : 1-2, 4-5, 18-19

Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, praise is fitting for the upright. Give thanks to Him on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises.

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

But the Lord’s eyes are upon those who fear Him, upon those who trust in His loving-kindness to deliver them from death and preserve them from famine.

Saturday, 30 April 2022 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 6 : 1-7

In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the so-called Hellenists complained against the so-called Hebrews, because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

So the Twelve summoned the whole body of disciples together and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God to serve at tables. So, friends, choose from among yourselves seven respected men full of Spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them to this task. As for us, we shall give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”

The whole community agreed and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and Holy Spirit : Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenus and Nicolaus of Antioch who was a proselyte. They presented these men to the Apostles who first prayed over them and then laid hands upon them.

The Word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly and even many priests accepted the faith.

Thursday, 20 January 2022 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember the love that God has shown us by His many ways of extending His help and providence to us. God reached out to us through the people we encounter in our lives and He also sent us none other than His own beloved Son to be our Saviour. Through Him and His coming into our midst, we have heard the Lord’s love manifested and giving us all a new hope.

In our first reading today we heard the account from the Book of the prophet Samuel in which the story of David and how he was almost harmed by King Saul out of jealousy and fear was brought to us. At that time, David was a servant of the king, a great warrior and leader entrusted with the forces of the Israelites, and David became very famous especially after he managed to defeat the great Philistine champion, Goliath, the story of which we heard just earlier yesterday.

David had also been anointed as the new chosen King over the Israelites by Samuel himself, as the one whom God had chosen to be the leader over His people in place of King Saul. Saul came to know that David was the one chosen to be his successor, and he was overcome with fear, resulting in him attempting to bring harm upon David. Fortunately for David, he came to befriend Jonathan, one of the sons of King Saul who favoured and liked him. As such, he was able to evade Saul’s attempts to harm him.

David had to endure difficulties and challenges because of his growing popularity and the fact that God had chosen him as the successor to Saul, and he even had to go into exile and hiding when Saul wanted to kill him. Jonathan, the son of Saul helped him to escape and from then on, David went on a journey from place to place, evading Saul while trying to do good for the people of God. God was with him all the way, and eventually he would become the King of Israel.

Then, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus and His disciples were going around from place to place, ministering to the people of God, and He healed many of those who were sick among them, casting out demons from those who were possessed and delivering the truth of God, revealing the true purpose and intention of the Law so that they may come to believe in God and be saved by following His path in their lives.

The Lord’s coming into this world, Him dwelling in our midst as the manifestation of God’s love in the flesh, to be our Saviour, is a proof of His ever enduring love and compassionate nature, in all that He has done for us, in calling us to follow Him and in showing us the way and path towards eternal life and true happiness with Him. And as long as we remain faithful to Him and walk in the path that He has shown and taught us through His Church, we shall have that assurance from God.

We have no need to be afraid of the challenges and trials facing us, because God Himself is with us, journeying with us and guiding us down our way. Just as He has provided for David, He will also provide for us all as well. Today, we have two saints whose feast we are celebrating, whose lives can be great inspiration for us to follow. These two servants of God, Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian had endured great tribulations for their faith, and yet they remained faithful to the Lord, enduring those sufferings with great faith and commitment to the very end.

Pope St. Fabian was the leader of the Universal Church during the difficult years of persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperors and the state. He was chosen when according to tradition, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the shape of a dove, in the sight of the assembled faithful. He was credited with the evangelisation and the efforts to spread the Good News in Gaul, what is today part of France. This happened during a relative lull and relaxation in the harsh persecution of Christians.

However, the rise of Emperor Decius to power ended the temporary halt to persecutions and this was accompanied with renewed attack against the Christian communities, in which many of the faithful were arrested and persecuted, and many among them suffered martyrdom for their faith. He ordered all the subjects of the Empire to offer incense to the images and figures of the Roman deities, the pagan gods and the idol of the Emperor, which were refused by the Christian communities as idolatrous.

That was how Pope St. Fabian became one of the first to suffer persecution and then martyrdom under the reign of the new Emperor, either through imprisonment or execution according to different Apostolic traditions. Pope St. Fabian remained faithful to his mission to the very end, giving himself wholly to the works entrusted to him by the Lord. And through his courageous defence of the faith and zeal of evangelisation, he inspired all of us on how to become good and faithful disciples and followers of the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Sebastian was a soldier who was a high ranking member of the Roman military and likely one of the elite members or even captain of the Praetorian Guards involved in protecting the Emperor. At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian and the other leaders of the Roman state ordered a particularly harsh and brutal persecution of Christians, as they forced the faithful to either obey the order of the Emperor to give offerings to the pagan idols and to abandon their faith or face certain suffering and death.

St. Sebastian according to tradition was involved in the conversion of several prisoners, who became Christians and helped some others to be freed from persecution. Eventually he himself was discovered and when he was confronted to reveal the truth about his conversion, put under arrest and was tied to a tree, and archers were told to shoot their arrows at St. Sebastian. Miraculously, even as endured the torture and pain,St. Sebastian never flinched from his sufferings. He remained strong in faith and was eventually martyred later after he rebuked the Emperor and his actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have seen from our two holy predecessors, we have no need to be afraid or fearful, just as Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian had been courageous in the living of their faith to the very end. Like King David, who entrusted himself to the Lord, and God protected him, then we too shall be in God’s good hands. Let us not be afraid against those who can only harm us in body but not our souls. By following God wholeheartedly, we shall find the path to eternal glory and true joy with Him. May God be with us all, and may He empower each one of us to live in His presence, at all times. Amen.

Thursday, 20 January 2022 : 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 : 7-12

At that time, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the lakeside, and a large crowd from Galilee followed Him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that He was doing.

Because of the crowd, Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him, to prevent the people from crushing Him. He healed so many, that all who had diseases kept pressing toward Him to touch Him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But He warned them sternly not to tell anyone Who He was.