Saturday, 29 April 2023 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin 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 called to remain firm in our faith as Christians, as those who have been called by the Lord and responded with faith, to follow Him in all things. We are called and reminded to stay by His side no matter what challenges and trials may come our way, just as many of our predecessors can attest to God’s loving providence and His constant presence in their lives and works. We should continue to strive to live our lives worthily as Christians, doing whatever we can in order to proclaim the Risen Lord in our communities and among those whom we encounter daily and regularly in our lives and ministry. As Christians, we are expected to uphold all of our tenets and beliefs, faithfully and sincerely in our every day moments and lives, and to be exemplary in our actions and way of life.

In our first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the works of the Apostles, especially that of St. Peter who went from place to place, ministering to the people of God and proclaiming His truth and Good News, speaking to many who were convinced by him to become disciples and followers of the Lord. After the conversion of Saul, who became St. Paul the Apostle, the early Church as mentioned, had reprieve and moment of calm between the persecutions, and the Church rapidly grew as the disciples of the Lord, the missionaries and the faithful went on great journeys and missionary works, spreading the Good News of the Gospels to more and more of the people, to the people in the Jewish diaspora and to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people alike. More and more people turned to the Lord and believed in His words, thanks to the dedication of the Apostles and the others who had given their all to the service of God.

For example, as we heard from the actions of St. Peter, we heard how he helped and ministered to the sick and the dying in the community, as he performed many miracles just like how the Lord used to do when He was still around. This authority and power has been given to St. Peter, to the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord from God Himself, through which God showed forth His might and power, the truth of His words and everything that the Church has proclaimed in His Name. St. Peter healed the paralysed man Aeneas in the Name of the Lord, brought Tabitha, the faithful old woman and servant of God, back to life after a period of illness, and everyone who witnessed all these works, and the dedication which St. Peter had shown must have been really impressed by what they had heard, experienced and seen.

St. Peter and the other disciples of the Lord were proclaiming essentially what the Lord Himself had told His disciples, followers and all the people in our Gospel passage today. Today is the culmination and end of the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse by the Lord in which the Lord Jesus referred to Himself specifically as the Living Bread from Heaven, by which all the life originated from, and without Him, there can be no true life and existence. He spoke of how all those who partake, eat, drink and share from His Body and Blood will live forever, and that He would give Himself to those who believe in Him, being broken and offered on the Altar of His Cross at Calvary, His Precious Body crushed and broken for us, and His Precious Blood poured out and shared for us to drink, coming down from His Cross, as the manifestation of God’s ever enduring love and compassion towards us.

Thus, St. Peter and all the other disciples were proclaiming to the whole world of the Good News that Christ our Lord, Who has risen triumphantly from the dead, has indeed fulfilled everything that He has promised to them, and fulfilled all that God has promised to mankind since the beginning of time. The Lord has not abandoned us or cast us out from the promises He has made, but have again and again reaffirmed His love and kindness towards us, patiently showing us and guiding us the way towards Him. And although we have repeatedly disobeyed Him, stubbornly resisting and rejecting Him, committing sin one after another against Him, but the Lord still patiently desired us to be reconciled to Him, that we may find our way back to Him, be reconciled and reunited fully with Him, and that we may once again enjoy the fullness of His love and grace.

This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is what all of us as Christians are reminded of, the love of God that has been most wonderfully shown to us through His beloved Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Each and every one of us have received the fullness of God’s love manifested before us in the flesh, in the Holy Eucharist that we partake, that is our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood, that we share among us, as members of the same Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We believe that what we partake is no mere bread and wine but the bread and wine had been completely and wholly transformed into the essence, reality, substance and matter of Our Lord’s Body and Blood. The same Most Precious Body and Blood we have received in the Eucharist is the same Body and Blood of the Lamb of God broken and sacrificed on the Altar of the Cross at Calvary.

As Christians, we believe in this truth and fact, but as we heard in our Gospel passage today, many of the Lord’s disciples and followers left Him behind once He told them about this truth, how He would give them His own Body and Blood to partake. The disciples themselves groaned and complained that this truth was too hard and too difficult for people to accept. However, although many of the Lord’s disciples and followers left Him, His closest collaborators and disciples stayed by His side despite all the discomfort and uneasiness surrounding His revelation of the truth to the people. The Lord Himself also predicted His own suffering, persecution and death to His disciples, which must have also been difficult for quite a few among them to accept or understand, but those who have kept their faith in the Lord shouldered on and kept on going, and remained faithful to Him. Those were the same ones who began the expansion and growth of the Church, led by St. Peter and the other Apostles.

Therefore, we should follow the good examples of the Apostles and the many other saints, holy men and women of God, including that of St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Catherine of Siena was known for her great piety and dedication to God, in her holy way of life, in her commitment to live a holy and devout life aligned with God and His Law and commandments. She refused the efforts of her parents to marry her off to a man who was her elder sister’s widower. She spent her time fasting and keeping herself pure despite the efforts of those around her to make her to do otherwise. She dedicated herself to the Lord completely, and offered herself as a perpetual Virgin consecrated to God. Her great piety and dedication to God inspired many others to follow her inspiration and examples, and her great intellect and ability to connect to various peoples of different origins led her to be involved in many of the political discussions and struggles during her time.

St. Catherine of Siena was well-known for her involvement amidst the often politically tense situations in the region, acting as peacemaker and bridge builder in connecting the rivals and the conflicting parties. She was even involved in the efforts and was instrumental in bringing the Pope back to Rome after having reigned from the enclave in Avignon for many decades. She helped other parties to work together towards peaceful solutions amidst their conflicts, among many other efforts that she had done. St. Catherine of Siena was also known for her many letters and writings, which influenced many people after her time, and her great and exemplary faith became inspiration for many others as well, inspiring many of the people of God to follow Him more faithfully and to carry out the similar works as what this great and holy woman of God had done.

May the Risen Lord, our God and Saviour Jesus Christ continue to be with us and guide us always, and may He continue to empower and strengthen us so that we may persevere faithfully and continue to commit ourselves to His path, much as how our early Christian predecessors had done, in their missionary and evangelising zeal. May all of us be drawn to love the Lord more and to dedicate ourselves to a holy life and existence much as St. Catherine of Siena has shown us with her great and exemplary life. May God be with His Church always, and bless its every works and good efforts. Amen.

Saturday, 29 April 2023 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 60-69

At that time, after the Jews heard Jesus, many of His followers said, “This language is very hard! Who can accept it?”

Jesus was aware that His disciples were murmuring about this, and so He said to them, “Does this offend you? Then how will you react when you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, not the flesh. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

From the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him. So He added, “As I have told you, no one can come to Me unless it is granted by the Father.” After this many disciples withdrew and no longer followed Him. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Will you also go away?

Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We now believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Saturday, 29 April 2023 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful.

O Lord, I am Your servant, truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s son. You have freed me from my bonds. I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord.

Saturday, 29 April 2023 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 9 : 31-42

Meanwhile, the Church had peace. It was building up throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria with eyes turned to the Lord and filled with comfort from the Holy Spirit.

As Peter travelled around, he went to visit the saints who lived in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas who was paralysed, and had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!”

And the man got up at once. All the people living in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. There was a disciple in Joppa named Tabitha, which means Dorcas or Gazelle. She was always doing good works and helping the poor. At that time she fell sick and died. After having washed her body, they laid her in the upstairs room.

As Lydda is near Joppa, the disciples, on hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter went with them. On his arrival they took him upstairs to the room. All the widows crowded around him in tears, showing him the clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them.

Peter made them them all leave the room and then he knelt down and prayed. Turning to the dead body he said, “Tabitha, stand up.” She opened her eyes, looked at Peter and sat up. Peter gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the saints and widows and presented her to them alive.

This became known throughout all of Joppa and many people believed in the Lord because of it.

Wednesday, 8 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, all of us are reminded that each and every one of us have been made good and perfect by God, and all of His Creation have also been good and wonderful, full of His grace and love, as all of His created things and beings are filled with goodness and His love for each one of us. However, it was because of our refusal to obey Him or listen to Him and His words that we have fallen into the path of sin. Due to our inability to resist the temptations of evil and worldly desires, and inability to restrain our pride and ego, we have ended up falling into the ever deeper trap of sinfulness and wickedness, and we end up slipping ever further down the slippery path towards damnation. Unless we then make a conscious effort to resist those temptations, how can we be ever more committed as Christ’s followers and disciples?

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Genesis the story of the moment when God created our ancestors, the first Man, Adam, from dust of the Earth, in the Gardens of Eden, and later on shortly, the first Woman, Eve, from Adam’s own flesh and bone. Mankind were created in the very image of God Himself, and was the pinnacle of all of His Creation, made in His own likeness and filled with all graces and blessings. We heard how God was happy with everything He had created and how everything were good and perfect, filled with the great bliss of heavenly joy, and that is what we have always been intended to enjoy, from the very beginning, to be with God and to live forevermore in His loving presence, in the wonderful Eden, paradise that He has prepared for us, and that was what God has always intended for us all.

Yet, our ancestors chose to disobey Him, and to listen to the lies and falsehoods of Satan who disguised himself as a snake, tempting Adam and Eve with the false promises that if they were to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, then they would become like God, in knowing everything and in understanding everything. Thus, that was how we ended up falling into sin, as sin came forth from disobedience, from our refusal to listen to God, and from the malice that sprang forth from within us, from the pride and ego, the greed and the desires that we indulged in, and allowed to control us, and all those things led to us walking down the path of evil, of sin against God, of wickedness and evil. If only that we put more effort to restrain those desires, temptations and resist the pressures exerted on us to live in the state of sin, we could have still existed in the state of grace in Eden, and not to suffer all the pain and sufferings of this world.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples and all the people assembled of the nature of how we all can be corrupted by sin and the wickedness that come forth from within us, from our hearts and minds, and not from what we take in from the outside, not from any food or any worldly things that we encounter and have in this world. This must be understood in the context of how back then, the Law of God as revealed through Moses and passed down through the generations to the people of God contained restrictions and prohibitions of the consumptions of certain food and items, which were considered as unclean and inappropriate to be eaten by the people. The Law itself prescribed that should anyone eat of those unclean food, then they themselves would be considered as unclean as well, and thus, had to purify themseelves and face the consequences.

The Lord highlighted that such a belief was erroneous, and the truth was that, the things which made us to become corrupted and wicked, all came from within us, as He pointed out that God did not create evil, and everything that God had created were good, perfect and wonderful. Even Satan himself when he was created by God was a great, brilliant and mighty Angel known as Lucifer, the brightest and most brilliant of the Angels. Unfortunately, his vanity and pride led him to disobey God and fall into wickedness and evil, as he aspired to rule over all the Universe and to sit on the Throne of God, in trying to supplant and overthrow his own Master and Creator. Thus, in the same way that Satan had fallen, our ancestors and all of us mankind had also fallen in the same manner as well. Our downfall into sin was caused by our vulnerabilities and succumbing into our internal misalignments from the path of the Lord, and from the wickedness within us.

That is why today, as we listened to these words of the Scriptures, each one of us are reminded to be vigilant over ourselves and our actions in life. We must be careful lest the temptations of pride, greed, desires and all other obstacles in our path and journey towards the Lord might end up leading us down the path of damnation and destruction. We are reminded that our ancestors had fallen into the trap of sin that Satan and all of his forces had laid before them, and the same traps and threats are facing us all as well. Unless we remain vigilant and strong in our faith, we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the wrong path, and may end up getting further and more distant from the Lord and His righteousness and grace. We are all called to reflect on our way of life so that hopefully we may realise just how much we need to repent from our many sins and evils.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us should be inspired by the examples shown unto us by two great saints of God, whose lives and dedication to God can inspire us to live our lives ever more worthily of Him. The Lord has presented to us on their feast days, the great saints, St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita. St. Jerome Emiliani was a great humanitarian and generous man, the founder of the Somaschi fathers, a group of priests and brothers committed to a holy life dedicated to God and to the people of God. He was remembered for his great piety and even more so for his great generosity and charity, particularly towards the sick, the hungry and the orphans. He spent a lot of effort in caring for those who were less fortunate and had none to care for them, establishing orphanages and hospitals, and many other institutions designed to help them find their way in life.

Meanwhile, St. Josephine Bakhita was a devoted holy virgin, who was once a slave hailing from the area now known as Sudan. She was abducted from her family in a very young age and was forced to be a slave, and was sold from master to master for many years, being tortured and abused by many of her masters, before finally ending up in the hands of the Italian Vice-Consul who was much kinder to her, and who eventually returned to Italy with St. Josephine Bakhita in tow. Eventually, after some more ordeal and hardships, St. Josephine Bakhita was declared a freedwoman and became a part of the Canossian sisters, as a convert and as a novice, eventually taking perpetual vow and dedicating her whole life to serve the Lord through the Canossian Sisters community that she was living in. She was remembered for her great love for God and others, and for her great and tender care and love for the members of her community.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by the good examples showed by St. Jerome Emiliani and St. Josephine Bakhita, our holy predecessors, and do whatever we can to glorify the Lord by our lives. Let us all purify ourselves from the wickedness of sin, by seeking God and His forgiveness, and by turning our back against our sinful past, embracing wholeheartedly the righteousness and grace of God from now on. May God bless us always, and may He bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Mark 7 : 14-23

At that time, Jesus then called the people to Him again and said to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean. Let everyone who has ears listen.”

When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about this saying, and He replied, “So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and is finally passed out?” Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean.

And He went on, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him, for evil designs come out of the heart : theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.”

Wednesday, 8 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 27-28, 29bc-30

Bless the Lord my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Wednesday, 8 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jerome Emiliani, and St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Holy Virgins)

Genesis 2 : 4b-9, 15-17

On the day that YHVH God made the earth and the heavens, there was not yet on earth any shrub on the fields, nor had any plant yet sprung up, for YHVH God had not made it rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the earth, but a mist went up from the earth and watered the surface of the earth.

Then YHVH God formed Man, dust drawn from the clay, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and Man became alive with breath. God planted a garden in Eden in the east and there He placed Man whom He had created. YHVH God caused to grow from the ground every kind of tree that is pleasing to see and good to eat, also the tree of life on the middle of the garden and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

YHVH God took Man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and to take care of it. Then YHVH God gave an order to Man saying, “You may eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you will die.”

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the commitment, the hard work, efforts and the challenges that we all may face in the process of us walking faithfully in God’s path as Christians, as those who have chosen to listen the Lord’s call and follow Him. Each and every one of us are reminded that being Christians do not mean that we can be idle or ignorant of our calling in life, the mission that we have in our lives and works, in our everyday living that God has entrusted to us. All of us must be active in living our faith through our actions and works in life, and we cannot be idle and remain aloof of what the Lord has told and taught us to do, in obeying His Law and commandments, and to be role models and inspirations for others.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard from the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews that the faithful people of God have to undergo hardships, challenges and trials in the midst of their lives and daily actions. They may have to encounter a lot of tribulations and obstacles as they continue to progress through life and as they encounter others. Yet, they must not allow themselves to be swayed by fear or insecurities, and they should not stop being faithful simply because they were afraid of being rejected and cast aside by the world, or by their communities, and even by their own families and friends. In the past, all these had happened to the faithful people of God throughout history, how the Church and many Christians were persecuted for their faith, and many were martyred for their continued obedience to God.

Yet all that did not dampen the passion and desire of many among the faithful in following God and devoting themselves to Him. They endured a lot of hardships, opposition to their faith and way of life. Many of them remained firm in their commitment to God and chose to suffer and even die rather than to abandon their faith and betray the Lord. Some among them faltered and gave up their faith because of the intense persecutions, and yet even some among those returned back to the faith and were martyred afterwards as well. The Lord has shown them His love and guidance, gave them all His strength and providence, not letting their enemies to have their ways with them. Although they might have to suffer and endure many hardships, but they knew that the Lord was with them and they remained steadfast henceforth in refusing the pressures and demands from the world.

They helped and supported each other in times of distress and persecution, with many risking their lives in order to help and support their fellow Christian brethren. This happened to both the ordained and the laity alike, as we may remember many tales and stories of how many great Popes, bishops and priests dedicated their lives to serve their flock, the people of God entrusted to them, and how they were persecuted and martyred for their faith, and their dedication and courage to the very end became great source of inspiration to other fellow Christians throughout history. Many among the laity themselves were also doing the same thing, risking their lives and placing a lot of effort and good works in contributing to the good works and missions of the Church. Their dedication and great examples were also great sources of inspiration themselves.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples using a parable regarding the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. He was teaching to them and revealing to them how the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven is really like. He compared the Kingdom to a man scattering seeds upon the soil and allowing them to grow well, nurturing them and taking care of them well, and also brought up the example of the mustard seed, which was a truly very small seed barely visible to our eyes, and yet, once grown, the mustard tree is among the largest garden trees around, a truly magnificent and huge increase in size and scale as compared to the humble seed that it was growing from. Through these examples, the Lord wanted each and every one of His disciples and followers to understand what we all need to do to be His disciples in this world.

Linking to what we have discussed through the first reading today, the persecutions and hardships that the faithful are expected to encounter in their lives are just like the challenges faced by farmers in growing their seeds and crops. There are a lot of challenges faced by the growing plant as they germinate and then grow into adult, mature and healthy plants. There are important conditions that the seeds and then later the young plant require in order for them to grow, such as adequate sunlight, availability of water and nutrients, the right temperature and other conditions. By using the parable, the Lord was actually linking to the examples that many among His disciples would be familiar with, as many among them would have been either directly or indirectly connected to the world of agriculture in their daily lives.

Like those seeds and plants, our faith in the Lord need specific conditions in order to grow well, and at the same time, we are likely going to encounter challenges and difficulties as well. But if we continue to be patient and continue to nurture our faith in the Lord, building up our relationship with Him and getting closer to Him, then surely we will grow ever more in faith and we will become ever more faithful and dedicated as Christians. Persevering in faith and enduring many hardships and challenges are never easy, but as long as we remain firm in our faith, and as long as we do our best to follow the Lord and His path, and encourage one another to remain firm in faith, then surely the path forward for us will be clear and straight towards God and His grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we can also follow the examples of our holy predecessor, namely St. Angela Merici, a great saint and holy woman of God, whose life and dedication to God can become a great source of inspiration for us. She was renowned for her great faith and dedication to God, as well as great piety and holy life, having devoted herself thoroughly to God and committing herself to a life of prayer and service to the Lord and His people. She founded the Company of St. Ursula and eventually many young women joined her ideals in developing a thorough Catholic and good education for young girls in particular, reaching out to the many out there who were less privileged and lacking access to basic rights and education among other things.

May the Lord continue to guide us that we may persevere faithfully in our faith, and may He empower each one of us to live ever more worthily of Him in our every moments and in every days of our life. May He bless our every good works and efforts, and may He grant us His grace in all things, in all that we do and act at every moment. Amen.

Friday, 27 January 2023 : 3rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Angela Merici, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Mark 4 : 26-34

At that time, Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this : a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself : first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting : the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.”

Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to His disciples He explained everything.