Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures to be faithful to God and to follow His teachings and ways, rejecting the falsehoods of the world and to resist the temptations to sin against God. And we are also reminded to put our trust and to have faith in God, and not to be afraid, for God is and will always be by our side.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos, we heard of the words of the Lord through Amos chastising His people for their lack of faith and sinfulness. At that time, the Israelites and their descendants had veered away from the path that God had shown them, persecuted the prophets sent into their midst to remind them and to guide them back to the path of righteousness.

As the people continued to sin and disobey God, that was why the Lord reminded His people to listen to Him and to His prophets, that they ought to turn away from sin and embrace once again the path of the Lord, for those who have sinned against God, they all know what the terrible consequences of their choices were. Their sins were by their own conscious choice and by their deliberate actions in following the temptations of their desires, ego and pride that led them to their downfall.

Then, in the Gospel today, all of us heard of the narrative of the moment when the Lord and His disciples were travelling in a boat in the middle of the lake of Galilee when a great storm raged over the waters, with terrible winds and waves that were so great that the disciples all feared for their lives. They panicked and begged the Lord to save them all, and the Lord rebuked them for their little faith in Him. They had not yet placed their complete trust in Him and that was why then the Lord showed them, they had truly nothing to fear.

By taming and calming down the storm, the Lord showed all of His disciples that it is folly for them to trust in any worldly powers or matters, and not to trust in the Lord. If we trust in the Lord, then in the end, everything will be fine for us even though in the journey we may encounter challenges, trials and difficulties. We need to remain faithful and endure the difficulties and obstacles in our path if we are to follow the path of the Lord as good and devout Christians.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, celebrating the memories of the martyrs of the great persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, during the time of the Great Fire of Rome and the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. These Christians were the victims of slander and false accusation, as scapegoats by the Emperor who was allegedly the one responsible for the Great Fire of Rome, and yet, put the blame squarely on the Christians living in Rome.

And thus, many of the Christians there faced persecution, arrests, imprisonment, and many suffered martyrdom for their faith. And some among them were the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, whose great Solemnity we celebrated just yesterday. This feast today marks the memory of all the other martyrs of the faith, who had also suffered in this first wave of great persecution of Christians, those who trusted in the Lord and remained faithful despite the sufferings they had to endure.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, when we are facing the great storm of uncertainty in our lives, are we able to trust in the Lord to lead us through the difficult moments and persevere through the challenges without losing our faith in Him? Let us all trust in the Lord more, and be inspired by the faith of the Holy Martyrs of Rome, whose memory we glorify and remember today. Let us all follow the Lord with ever greater commitment and faith, and let us all be righteous and just in all of our words, deeds and actions from now on.

May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us, and may He strengthen us all in faith, and may He empower us all to be His faithful and good disciples. And may the First Holy Martyrs of the Roman Church intercede for us as well, praying for us sinners still living in this world and enduring the temptations and sufferings of life. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 8 : 23-27

At that time, Jesus got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a fierce storm burst upon the lake, with waves sweeping the boat. But Jesus was asleep.

The disciples woke Him up and cried, “Lord save us! We are lost!” But Jesus answered, “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith?” Then He stood up and rebuked the wind and sea; and it became completely calm.

The disciples were astonished. They said, “What kind of Man is He? Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 5 : 5-6, 7, 8

You are not a God Who delights in wickedness; evil has no place in You. The arrogant cannot stand before You. You hate all who do evil.

You destroy all who speak falsehood, who thirst for blood and live on lies; all of them YHVH detests.

But I, by Your love and grace, may come into Your house. In reverence, I bow down and worship at Your holy Temple.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Amos 3 : 1-8 and Amos 4 : 11-12

Hear this word which YHVH speaks against you, people of Israel, against the whole family which He brought up from the land of Egypt. YHVH said, “Only you have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will call you to account for all your wrongdoings.”

“Do two walk together unless they have agreed? Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey? Does a young lion growl in its den unless it has seized something? Does a bird get caught in a snare if the snare has not been baited? Does a tiger spring up from the ground unless it has caught something?”

“If a trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If disaster strikes a city, has not YHVH caused it? Yet YHVH does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants, the prophets. If the lion roars, who will not be afraid? If YHVH speaks, Who will not prophesy?”

“I overthrew you, a divine punishment, as happened to Sodom and Gomorrah; you were like a brand snatched from the blaze, yet you never returned to Me,” says YHVH. “Therefore, I will deal with you in My own way, Israel, and since I will do this to you, prepare, Israel, to meet your God!”

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in what we have heard in our Scripture passages today, we heard of the ‘farewells’ made by two different people, both following the will of God, in fulfilling their part in their calling and ministry, as both were going on to encounter great sufferings and persecutions, which eventually would lead to their respective deaths. Today we heard of the story of St. Paul who was in Ephesus just before he was to depart for Jerusalem to confront his final ministry, and we also heard about the prayer of the Lord Jesus for His disciples which He made during His last moments before He embarked on His Passion.

In our first reading today, St. Paul met with the elders and leaders of the community of the faithful in Ephesus, as he was on his way back from his extensive missionary journey towards Jerusalem, the early centre of Christendom and the capital of the Jewish people at the time. At that time, St. Paul already had received revelation from God that his journey to Jerusalem this time would be his very last one before he was to be tried for his alleged crimes and sent to Rome to appeal to the Emperor, and he would not have the chance to see the elders and the community in Ephesus again.

For someone so dedicated to the cause of the faith, filled with so much enthusiasm in preaching the Good News like that, it must have been difficult for St. Paul to say farewell to all the people, some of whom must have been known to St. Paul for many years during his almost three decades of missionary works, in which he passed through Ephesus quite a number of times. We must not forget that St. Paul also wrote Epistles or letters to the Church in Ephesus, showing that the Church there must have been close to his heart.

But St. Paul was greatly encouraged knowing and believing that God would be with all of them and ensure the continued growth of the Church there even long after he had gone and departed from this world. St. Paul therefore also prayed over the elders and the community of the faithful, praying that God would continue to guide them and remain with them through their good and bad times. And St. Paul also uttered the words to the elders in Ephesus as what he also uttered in another occasion to St. Timothy, for which he is now famous, that, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.’

Our first reading today, as well as even our Gospel today can basically be summarised by that phrase. Both St. Paul and the Lord Jesus had done wonderful works among the people, making countless people to believe in God through them, performed miracles and wonders, and brought God’s truth and salvation closer to many. And that they were both coming to the end of their earthly journey and ministry, both of them thanked God for having been with them throughout, as St. Paul thanked and praised God for His constant guidance, and the Lord Jesus also thanked His heavenly Father for the same.

And most importantly, is that both of them accepted their roles in the works of salvation and what would happen to them as God has revealed to them. St. Paul accepted his eventual martyrdom for the sake of his faith, and willingly went on to Jerusalem to accept the punishment from the Jewish authorities, for which accusations he decided to claim the right for appeal to the Emperor which led him to go to Rome, to be martyred but also with the opportunity to preach and work among the community in Rome. In the same way, the Lord Jesus also accepted the role that He had to suffer and die on the Cross for the salvation of all.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what do all these then show us? It is that as Christ’s followers and disciples, all of us must be ready to detach ourselves from worldly desires and concerns, from the attachments to worldly matters and all the things that prevent us from being able to fully give ourselves to the service and the greater glory of God. Too often we have allowed ourselves be swayed and tempted by all these worldly matters and concerns that we have ended up down the wrong path.

St. Paul could have evaded issues, troubles and sufferings by staying in Ephesus or at other places he was welcomed or having friends in, but he chose to face his challenges, departing for Jerusalem where he knew all his enemies were gathered to give witness to his faith and to proclaim the Lord to more people especially in Rome, to where God had sent him to evangelise. In the same way, the Lord Jesus could also easily have evaded His arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion, but He chose to obey the will of His Father, and devoted Himself to His Passion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what we also have to take note of, that we have to be ready to follow the Lord, to listen to Him and to trust in Him rather than to be distracted, tempted, and pulled down by various worldly desires and concerns. We have to keep our focus clear, to trust in the Lord and the path He has set before, and do our best through whatever He has given us to contribute to the greater good of the Church and for God’s greater glory.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Neri, one of the very famous saints of the Church, famously known as the Second Apostle of Rome who was remembered for his extensive works in establishing important congregations and religious orders, especially the Confraternity of the Holy Trinity and Congregation of the Oratory. St. Philip Neri himself was born into a noble and wealthy family, but he chose to abandon everything after God had called him into a life dedicated to His service.

St. Philip Neri was remembered for his great labours among the poor and the sick in the city of Rome, ministering to even prostitutes and others normally shunned by the rest of the community. All of his hard work and efforts are what made him to be called the ‘Second Apostle of Rome’ as mentioned earlier, following in the footsteps of both St. Peter and St. Paul, who went to Rome, ministered there and were eventually martyred for their faith. St. Philip Neri dedicated himself to the congregations he founded, and was remembered for his intense personal piety.

All of these inspired many others to follow his good examples, and many joined his congregations which grew rapidly and played important roles in the rejuvenation of the faith among the faithful, especially those who have lapsed from their faith. The examples of St. Philip Neri should inspire us all to follow his examples, and to live our lives from now on, following what God has called us to do, and follow Him with zeal and commitment, and with the desire to love Him more and to serve Him faithfully.

Are we willing and able to entrust ourselves to the Lord, and be ever more devoted to Him as our holy predecessors had done? We do not have to abandon the world as what St. Philip Neri had done, or to follow St. Paul into his sufferings and persecutions. Rather, what we are called to do is for us to live our lives as good and devout Christians that in everything we do in our respective areas, in whatever calling and vocations we have been called to, in our families and in our communities, we will always focus our attention on God, and that we do everything for the sake of God and following whatever He has shown and taught us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all live an ever more genuine Christian living from now on, and let us dedicate more of our time, effort and attention to walk in the path of Christ, following the inspiring examples of our Lord Himself, of St. Paul the Apostle, St. Philip Neri and many other holy saints and martyrs of God. May God be with us always throughout this journey of faith in life, and may He strengthen us all that we may follow Him wholeheartedly. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.”

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 67 : 10-11, 20-21

Then You gave a rain of blessings to comfort Your weary children. Your people found a dwelling and in Your mercy, o God, You provided for the needy.

Blessed be the Lord, God our Saviour, Who daily bears our burdens! Ours is a God Who saves; our Lord lets us escape from death.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 20 : 17-27

From Miletus Paul sent word to Ephesus, summoning the elders of the Church. When they came to him, he addressed them, “You know how I lived among you from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, how I served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that the Jews caused me.”

“You know that I never held back from doing anything that could be useful for you; I spoke publicly and in your homes, and I urged Jews and non-Jews alike to turn to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.”

“But now I am going to Jerusalem, chained by the Spirit, without knowing what will happen to me there. Yet in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that imprisonment and troubles await me. Indeed I put no value on my life, if only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, to announce the Good News of God’s grace.”

“I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom of God will ever see me again. Therefore I declare to you this day that my conscience is clear with regard to all of you. For I have spared no effort in fully declaring to you God’s will.”

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis M. Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to remember the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the great first martyr of the Church, who in our first reading suffered greatly at the hands of the Sanhedrin members who opposed him and were angry that St. Stephen spoke in such a way about the truth of God that they became hostile to him and wanted to kill him, even though he really was speaking the truth. They stoned him to death for affirming what the Lord Jesus Himself had said, that He was the One sent by God and proclaimed by the prophets to be the Saviour of the whole world.

St. Stephen was only speaking the truth against the efforts of the Sanhedrin who tried very hard to silence him and accuse him, even putting forth false witnesses to implicate him with blasphemy, making false accusations and testimony that St. Stephen had blasphemed against God by his words and actions. This was exactly what they had done with the Lord Jesus as well on the night of His arrest, when they tried to blame Him with blasphemy and sentence Him to death. Thus, St. Stephen endured partly and shared in what the Lord had been suffering during His Passion and death.

St. Stephen devoted himself to the Lord, Whom in our Gospel passage today told everyone the truth about Himself, that He is the One true Bread, the Bread of Life by Whom everyone would receive life and the promise of eternal life. Those who share and partake in the Bread of Life will rejoice forever and have part in the inheritance and grace that God promised to His people, and many at that time were also skeptical or even outrightly refused to believe in the Lord.

At the start of today’s Gospel passage we heard how the Jews questioned and doubted the Lord Jesus on the authority of His teachings and miracles, and they wanted Him to show them miraculous deeds and powers even though it was likely that many among them had witnessed those miracles earlier on. They doubted and would not believe because they had hardened their hearts and minds, refusing to admit that what the Lord had done was indeed real and authentic. Instead, they rather placed their trust in their own flawed human sense and judgment.

It was this same attitude that many among the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees had adapted as they refused to listen to St. Stephen and his words of God’s wisdom and truth, and ended up killing him in cold blood. Yet, St. Stephen remained true to his faith and dedication to the very end, not worrying even about his own life and the suffering he had to face, because he put his trust in the very Christ rejected by his persecutors and all of his enemies.

As the Lord Jesus Himself said that He is truly the Bread of Life, the One Who gives life and strength to all who believe in Him, thus St. Stephen entrusted himself fully in this Bread of Life, in the promise of eternal joy and life surpassing all things that can be found in this world. The Lord has promised all of His faithful ones the new life and existence through Him, and that was why beginning with St. Stephen, so many of our holy and dedicated predecessors gave their all to the service of God, with some enduring suffering, persecution and even martyrdom for their faith.

What is the significance of this truth for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is a reminder that to be Christians it means that we are the bearers of Christ’s truth and we are also witnesses of His resurrection. We have received the same Holy Spirit as St. Stephen had, and we have been called to faithfully live our lives so that our every actions, our every words and deeds truly proclaim the glory of God and show His truth and salvation to all the peoples around us.

But in order to do so, we need to anchor ourselves firmly in faith, in the Lord Jesus, our Bread of Life, the One Who can sustain us through our journey of faith and the One through Whom we will be saved and brought into the promised glorious existence together with Him. Many of us have not yet been truly faithful in our lives and we have often allowed our many worldly concerns and the many temptations in life to affect us and to prevent us from finding our way towards the Lord.

Are we then able to overcome these temptations and distractions in life? Are we able to put our trust firmly in the Lord from now on? Let us all not worry about our lives and how we are to live our lives but instead learn to be more faithful to God, seeking to allow God to guide us in our lives that day by day we may draw ever closer to Him and be more attuned to His truth. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith and dedication, that even though we know that sufferings and challenges may be in our path, with Christ everything is possible for us.

Today we also celebrate the feast of two great saints whose lives may be great inspiration for us on how we should continue living our lives from now on. First of all, St. Peter Chanel was a renowned priest and also a martyr of the Church who was remembered for his piety and his hard work as a missionary for many years in serving the people of God and proclaiming the faith in far-off lands. St. Peter Chanel joined the priesthood and was credited for a successful rejuvenation of a parish that his bishop had entrusted to him as parish priest for three years long.

When St. Peter Chanel was finally allowed to embark on his missionary journey, he travelled to the most distant parts of the world, travelling to the islands in the Southern Pacific Ocean, spreading the Good News to the people there, until he finally arrived at Futuna where he was eventually martyred after a brief opportunity of evangelisation to the point that he was even successful in persuading the son of the local king to be baptised. This made the king angry and ordered the execution of the missionaries including that of St. Peter Chanel.

St. Peter Chanel’s courage allowed him to persevere through and he entrusted himself in the Lord so completely that he did what he could to spread the truth and salvation of God to many people even when he had to suffer and endure rejection. This is similar to what St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, commonly known as St. Louis de Monfort, had experienced throughout his ministry to the people of God.

Although St. Louis de Montfort did not endure martyrdom unlike St. Stephen and St. Peter Chanel, but he also had to endure difficulties and challenges from some people who disliked him, as it was told that his courageous and fiery sermons while appreciated by many, but it enraged some of the community who refused to listen to him and became angry at his words, much like how St. Stephen was hated, and St. Louis de Montfort was even poisoned because of this before, though he survived through that.

Through St. Louis de Montfort’s effort and his dedication, his many years of service, many people also came to know God and sought to be reconciled with the Lord and the Church. He was also instrumental in the establishment of several congregations, inspiring quite a lot of people who wanted to follow his examples in serving the Lord. He was also influential in the improvement of Christian education and the formation of the people of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect on all these, and think of how we can be better Christians by devoting more of our time and effort, to proclaim God’s truth and love through our own lives, by our own actions and deeds. Let us all love one another, and let us spend our lives to glorify God and to be inspirations to each other that we may be ever more willing to walk in the path that God has shown us.

May the Lord, our Bread of Life, be with us always and guide us, that we may be courageous like St. Stephen, be missionary like St. Peter Chanel and be loving and dedicated like St. Louis de Montfort. May God bless our efforts and our many good endeavours, and may He be with us throughout this journey of faith. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis M. Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 6 : 30-35

At that time, the Jews said to Jesus, “Show us miraculous signs, that we may see and believe You. What sign do You perform? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert; as Scripture says : They were given bread from heaven to eat.”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven. My Father gives you the true Bread from heaven. The Bread God gives is the One Who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.” And they said to Him, “Give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in Me shall never be thirsty.”