Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, all of us are reminded that each one of us have been called by the Lord to follow Him and to do His will, to wherever that He will lead us to, just as He had done with the Apostles, the many saints and martyrs of the Church, our holy predecessors. Each and every one of us as Christians are expected to live our lives worthily of the Lord and to continue carrying out our activities in accordance with God’s will, doing whatever we can to serve Him and glorify Him at every possible opportunities. We should heed the Lord’s call and love Him as much as we should, just as how He Himself has loved us so much first, that He gave Himself for us that through His loving sacrifice for us, we may all be saved.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles regarding a conversation between Festus, the Governor and Procurator of Judea with King Agrippa, the Herodian ruler of the region, about St. Paul the Apostle, his works and ministry and how the Jewish authorities, members of the Sanhedrin had been accusing him of wrongdoing, and how St. Paul appealed to the Emperor for his case. Through what we have heard here, we are reminded of how God moved things and spared St. Paul from the hands of his enemies in Jerusalem, who no doubt would have wanted him destroyed. Instead, as the Lord Himself had told St. Paul earlier on, that He was sending him to Rome, to the last stop of his long missionary works, where he would evangelise and proclaim the Good News of God at the very heart and centre of the Roman Empire itself.

St. Paul could have chosen to stay away from trouble and from all the hardships facing him, just as the past few weekdays’ Scripture passages from the Acts of the Apostles could show us. St. Paul willingly embraced God’s calling and mission, embarking on this last missionary journey through Jerusalem, and then on to Rome, in which St. Paul would go on to do more great works at evangelisation, stopping by the island of Malta along the way where he laid the foundation of the faith there, and many more. Through the hard work of St. Paul and other early Christian missionaries, the Church grew rapidly amidst the many challenges and hardships that it had to face, persecutions and oppressions that many among the Christian faithful had to endure. Their faith remained strong and firm as the Lord guided and strengthened them, and empowered them through the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the calling of St. Peter the Apostle, and the mission which God entrusted to him as He reaffirmed him as the leader and shepherd of His entire flock, the Church. That happened at the shores of the Lake of Galilee, where after the Lord’s Resurrection, He went and met with His disciples just as He has promised them. And in this private moment mentioned in the Gospel passage today, the Lord asked St. Peter, not once but three times, ‘Peter, do you love Me?’, which St. Peter replied fervently and lovingly with, ‘Lord, You know that I love You.’ And the Lord told St. Peter to take care of His sheep, the flock of His beloved people, to feed them and to take good care of them, as a reminder of the mission which He had entrusted to him earlier as His Vicar, as the leader of the whole entire Church.

And why the Lord asked St. Peter three times? It is symbolic as a response to what St. Peter had done earlier on at the beginning of the Lord’s Passion, where as we all know that St. Peter denied knowing the Lord and denied Him a total of not just once but three times. St. Peter was likely driven by fear, the fear for suffering and for being persecuted and hence, in his moment of folly, he abandoned and denied the Lord back then. But the Lord, through this threefold questioning of St. Peter was showing that He loved him, forgave him from his past mistakes and lack of faith, and entrusted to him anew what He has entrusted to him, the guardianship and leadership over His whole entire Church. St. Peter was also told of the kind of suffering and martyrdom that he would have to endure for the sake of the Lord, and to the very end, St. Peter would remain firmly faithful to his calling and mission.

Today all of us are reminded that as Christians all of us are called from the world, from among the ordinary people to become extraordinary in the Lord. Often we are reluctant to follow the Lord or to do as He has commanded us to do because we thought that we are incapable of doing all the things like our predecessors had done. But as we all have seen and discussed, the Lord’s own disciples are those who have come from ordinary background, and were people who were imperfect and even weak in their faith at first. St. Paul himself was a great persecutor and enemy of the earliest Christians, and had a part in the sufferings and martyrdom of many among the faithful. St. Peter as we knew, abandoned and denied the Lord three times. Yet, all of them had a change of heart and mind, and committed themselves thoroughly to the Lord for the rest of their lives.

Today the Church also mark the feast of one great saint whose life and works may be great source of inspiration to all of us as we carry on living our lives as Christians in our world today. St. Philip Neri was known as a great priest and servant of God, known as the ‘Second Apostle of Rome’ after St. Peter himself, for all the efforts he has done for the glorification of God and for the spreading of the Good News of the Lord and His salvation. He founded the Congregation of the Oratory, which still remained busy and active to this very day, and he contributed a lot in his mission to reach out to the least fortunate and to many of those who have fallen into sinful ways in the community back then. He ministered to prostitutes and those who were often shunned by others, and many were inspired to follow his examples, and not few became followers of the Lord because of his efforts. He established a growing community of believers both within and beyond his Oratory Congregation, and brought many closer to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all thus be inspired to follow the Lord ever more faithfully following in the footsteps of St. Philip Neri and the other Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as many other among our holy predecessors, whose examples in faith and way of life should inspire each one of us to carry out our lives most worthily as Christians, that is as the disciples of the Lord. Let us all seek the Lord ever more faithfully and show greater commitment to Him, and entrust ourselves to Him and to His providence from now on, that we may always be worthy in our way of life and actions, and be inspiration for many others who desire to follow the Lord as well. May the Risen Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith and commitment. Amen.

Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 21 : 15-19

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”

Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 11-12, 19-20ab

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

The Lord has set His throne in heaven; He rules, He has power everywhere. Praise the Lord, all you His Angels.

Friday, 26 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 25 : 13b-21

As King Agrippa and his sister Berenice were to stay in Caesarea several days, Festus told him about Paul’s case and said to him, “We have here a man whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews accused him and asked me to sentence him.”

“I told them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over a man without giving him an opportunity to defend himself in front of his accusers. So they came and I took my seat without delay on the tribunal and sent for the man. When the accusers had the floor, they did not accuse him of any of the crimes that I was led to think he had committed; instead they quarrelled with him about religion and about a certain Jesus Who has died but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”

“I did not know what to do about this case, so I asked Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem to be tried there. But Paul appealed to be judged by the Emperor. So I ordered that he be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.”

Wednesday, 10 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are reminded that as Christians, all of us should be truly connected and linked to the Lord, attuned and in tandem with His ways and truth at all times. Unless we keep ourselves connected to the Lord and follow Him wholeheartedly, we may find it difficult to remain truly faithful to Him, and we may easily end up falling away from the path that the Lord and causing us to fall into eternal damnation if we are not careful and vigilant in how we live our lives. That is why we should heed to messages carried in our Scripture passages today so that we may truly know what the Lord has called us to, to a life and existence that is truly blessed and harmonious with His truth and love, to obey Him and to do as the Law and the commandments He had told us to do, with genuine understanding and appreciation of what we believe in.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles of the beginning of the narrative of the moment of time when the Church in its early and very rapidly growing days, began to be pulled into two opposite extremes, as we ourselves heard from the account of the Acts of the Apostles. Back then, the Church grew rapidly with the conversion of many of the Jewish people both in Judea and Galilee as well as in the diaspora, and not few of them came from among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Meanwhile, the Apostles and the missionaries of the Lord had also managed to get great inroads into the Gentile communities throughout the Mediterranean, as many among the Greeks and other local populace, as well as the Romans and many others began to heed the call of the Lord and embraced Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

The Pharisees and the teachers in particular, as mentioned, carried on their past baggage of beliefs and prejudices, as they began to argue and insist that the whole Church and all of the Lord’s believers should follow the full rigour of the Jewish laws and customs, as how the Pharisees themselves had observed and enforced. As we all ought to remember from the Gospels, the Lord Jesus Himself had often rebuked and criticised many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their overly strict interpretation and observation of the Law of God, which happened because of the accumulation of excesses and changes throughout the many centuries since the first time revelation of the Law through Moses during the time of the Exodus from Egypt. The Law of God had been passed down through the generations, and the interpretations of the Law had been changing ever since, with the Law by the time of the Lord Jesus having become excessive and difficult to observe by the people of God.

Not only that, but one of the main criticisms that the Lord laid on the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are the fact of their hypocrisy. This means that while they enforced the very strict interpretation of the Law and forced others to obey and to follow their way of observing the Law of God, but they themselves did not truly obey the Law the way that they themselves had prescribed. Then, in addition, their preoccupation and obsession with the extensive details of the Law and all the rituals and the complicated nature of the laws, rules and regulations had distracted and prevented them and others from becoming true believers, as they made idols out of their own obsession with the Law of God and their own preoccupation with the intricacies of the laws and rules that they had made in their way of observing the Law and the commandments of God.

And it is in idolising their own prejudices and preoccupations with the Law and how it ought to be observed and done that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had ended up separating themselves from the True Vine, that is the Lord Himself, Who manifested Himself through His Son, through Whom He wanted to make us know and understand all these things. In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples using the parable of the vines in order to deliver to them His intentions and teachings, and to remind them to remain firmly faithful to the teachings and truth of the Good News that He has brought upon them, and which has been revealed to them. They should not seek to find other focus or distractions, or put their emphasis and attention upon other things that may end up misleading them down the wrong path, as what many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done.

Through the parable of the vine, as well as by referring to Himself as the one and only True Vine, the Lord wanted all of His disciples and followers to remember that everything and especially all those who belong to the Church of God must be rooted in Him, in His teachings and truth. Anyone who separated themselves from the Lord will not have life or part with Him, and those who profess teachings and beliefs contrary to what the Lord Himself had taught His disciples, were wrong and mistaken, and unless they change their ways and beliefs, they would likely end up being discarded, damned and rejected at the end of days. They also can cause division and harm to the unity of the Church, as what happened back then during the time mentioned in our first reading today, was almost the case. Thankfully, the Apostles and the Church elders, guided by the Holy Spirit, convened the very first gathering of the Church, in what would be known as the First Council of Jerusalem.

Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church led by the Apostles resolved the situation and reaffirmed that the Church and all the Christian faithful ought to follow the Law and commandments of God as revealed and explained by the Lord, but not the grievous excesses, abuses and misrepresentations and misinterpretations of the Law as espoused by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. The Lord, as the True Vine, truly guided and gave help and life to the Church, and as long as the faithful remained firmly attached and faithful to Him, they would indeed be blessed and strengthened in their ways and life, and the Lord would provide for them. Unfortunately, a lot of people tend to prefer to depend on other things, and got distracted by the many temptations of worldly desires and attachments found all around us.

This is why today each one of us should look upon the inspiring and good examples set by our holy predecessors, the glorious saints and martyrs. Particularly as today we celebrate the feast of St. John of Avila, a holy priest and servant of God, let us be inspired by his life, works and devotion to God. St. John of Avila was a dedicated priest and missionary, who was renowned as the ‘Apostle of Andalusia’ for his tireless efforts in reaching out to the people of God, proclaiming the truth and Good News of God, calling on the people to repent from their sinful ways, and also encouraging and calling for the reforms in the Church and also reform in the way how the society and the communities of the people of God lived their lives, which were often full of wickedness and evils back then. He inspired many others to follow his examples in calling the people of God to a renewed life of holiness, and his extensive writings and works eventually led him to be declared one of the Doctors of the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be filled with zeal and faith anew, and be inspired by the good examples set by St. John of Avila and our many other holy and devout predecessors, in staying connected and true to our faith in the Lord, the one and only True Vine of all. May the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, Our King, Saviour and Good Shepherd be with us always, and may He empower each and every one of us with the strength and courage of the Holy Spirit, now and always, that we may be good role models and examples as devout and faithful Christians at all times. Amen.

Wednesday, 10 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 10 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 10 May 2023 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. John of Avila, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.

Friday, 28 April 2023 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are reminded that as Christians we have been called and chosen from this world to follow what the Lord Himself has revealed to all of us through His Church and through the Good News contained in the Scriptures. Each and every one of us have been made partakers of the New and Eternal Covenant that the Lord Himself had established with us through His Son, by His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, and by His Resurrection from the dead. All of us as Christians have confessed our faith in all of these truths, and we have been called to listen to these same truths and commit ourselves to proclaim the Good News to others.

As we heard from our Gospel passage today, we proclaim the same truth that the Lord Jesus Himself has revealed to all of the people He was speaking to, as He continued His discourse on Him being the ‘Bread of Life’ and the ‘Living Bread’ Who has come down from Heaven. The Lord told them all these not long after He had fed the multitudes of thousands of men and many thousands of women and children with the miraculous multiplication of loaves of bread and fishes. He told them all these because many of those people were seeking for Him because they were happy and satisfied as they were all well fed and received sustenance, but they were still lacking true and genuine faith in Him.

This means that many of them were still seeking Him for other motives and reasons that are not truly sincere, and many likely were trying to satisfy their own worldly needs and even greed. Hence, the Lord told them all that what He would give them, is that of the perfect gift surpassing what they had received earlier on, that is none other than the gift of His own Most Precious Body and Most Precious Blood, to be sacrificed, offered and broken for them, just in the manner that He had blessed, broken and shared with them all the bread and the fishes from the earlier miracle. But this time, what the people would receive, is not merely just bread and is something surpassing even the bread of the Angels, the manna, that the Israelites ate in the past.

The Lord essentially foretold what He Himself would do for the sake of everyone whom He loved and cared about. He foretold His own suffering and death on the Cross, and His gift of His own Precious Body and Blood for everyone. At the Last Supper, just before the Lord was about to enter into His Passion or suffering, He gathered all of His disciples and had the Passover meal with them, at which time He instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, the bread and wine which He blessed and then shared with His disciples, as the gift of His own Most Precious Body and Most Precious Blood. All those were completed as He took His Cross and suffered on His Cross, and as the Lamb of God laid dying on the Cross, what the disciples had partaken, have indeed been the Lord’s own Body and Blood.

This is what our Christian faith is all about, as we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour, and He has come into our midst as the perfect manifestation of God’s love and ever enduring compassion and mercy for us. The Lord has willingly chosen to embrace us with His perfect love, enduring the worst and most bitter of sufferings, rejections, humiliations and trials, so that by His suffering, pain, wounds and eventually death, He might free and deliver us from the tyranny and domination of our sins. By His perfect obedience, as the Son of Man and Son of God, He has shown us all the path to eternal life and salvation, and reminding us that sin is borne out of our disobedience against God and His will. And by His offering and sacrifice as our Paschal Lamb, He has offered the only worthy sacrifice and offering for all of the multitudes of our sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have been called and chosen by God to be His disciples and followers, and we have also received the grace of knowing and understanding His truth, just as He had done to one of His greatest enemies, as we heard in our first reading today, namely that of Saul, the young Pharisee. Saul, who would later on be known as St. Paul the Apostle, was a young and fanatical member of the Pharisee who persecuted many early Christians, launching a great hunt and campaign to destroy the Church and the holy people of God, causing untold miseries and sufferings, as many of the early Christians were arrested, persecuted and even martyred due to the works of Saul.

But God called that same young man, and called him to the path of salvation and truth, as He revealed just how wayward and misled his path had been to Saul himself. Saul was converted, and through baptism, he became a new man, and dedicated himself to serve the Lord from then onwards. From someone who had often caused misery and suffering amongst the people of God, greatly feared and was a great sinner, the Lord had turned him into one of his greatest champions and defenders, into a holy and devout man that dedicated his whole life to the proclaiming and spread of the Good News of the Lord, enduring untold sufferings, pains, rejections, humiliations just as the Lord Himself had suffered all those.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, all of us are also reminded of even more good examples of our holy predecessors, in the two saints whose feasts we celebrate. St. Peter Chanel and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort are two great servants of God who have dedicated themselves to the service of God, in proclaiming His truth and Good News to many of their fellow brethren. St. Peter Chanel was a renowned missionary, who ministered to the people in many mission areas, which led him to Futuna in distant part of the vast Pacific Ocean region. There he ministered to the people who had not yet known about Christ and evangelised to them, preaching about the Risen Lord to the people of Futuna, which eventually led to the desire for the local king’s son to be baptised, which led to the martyrdom of this good servant of God, persecuted and murdered for his faith and efforts.

Meanwhile, St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was the inspiration and founder behind the many Montfortian organisations present today, known for his dedication and passion for his ministry, in taking care of the needs the less privileged, the poor and the sick, and in the countless hours and efforts that he spent in taking care of them, both physically and spiritually. He was also known for his efforts in the Catholic education, caring for the needs of young boys and girls to be properly educated, establishing schools and institutions in order to allow this to happen. Through all these works, St. Louis Marie brought quite a lot of people from the brink of darkness and destruction back into God’s Light, and helped them to find the path to salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by their good examples, and do whatever we can as Christians, in order to do God’s will and to proclaim His truth and Good News to more and more of those whom we encounter in our daily living. Let our lives and actions, our words and interactions be good and exemplary, worthy and bring inspiration to others who witness our works and interacted with us, that they too may be moved and driven to follow the Lord and to believe in Him as we had done in our own lives. May God be with us always, and be with His Church in our every endeavours and efforts to proclaim Him, the one and only Saviour of all. Amen.

Friday, 28 April 2023 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 6 : 52-59

At that time, the Jews were arguing among themselves, “How can this Man give us flesh to eat?” So Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, if you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. The one who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood lives eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

“My Flesh is really food, and My Blood is truly drink. Those who eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, lives in Me, and I in them. Just as the Father, Who is life, sent Me, and I have life from the Father, so whoever eats Me will have life from Me. This is the Bread which came from heaven; not like that of your ancestors, who ate and later died. Those who eat this Bread will live forever.”

Jesus spoke in this way in Capernaum when He taught them in the synagogue.