Thursday, 29 April 2021 : 4th 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 Scripture, we are reminded yet again as we have constantly been reminded throughout this season of Easter of how fortunate we are to be beloved by God each and every moments of our lives. He has graciously given us all so many blessings and wonders throughout all these time that we are always beloved and taken care of by Him Who loves us dearly. All of us belong to God and God treats us as His own children.

In our first reading today, we heard the testimony of St. Paul as he preached to the Jewish people in diaspora in Antioch in Pisidia, as he was asked by the synagogue officials to give words of encouragement to the people assembled there on the Sabbath. He spoke of how God had saved His people from harm and destruction when He rescued them from their slavery in the land of Egypt. He reminded all of the people of the generous love by which God took their ancestors out of the land of their slavery and led them into the land promised.

And St. Paul also continued on speaking of how God sent His Saviour into the world, born of the House of David as predicted and prophesied by the prophets, and how St. John the Baptist came not long before Him, to prepare His way and call the people all to repentance and to embrace once again the truth of God and be forgiven from their sins through His Saviour, Jesus Christ, of Whom St. Paul was preaching about in all those occasions with great zeal and courage.

The Lord has sent St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples to all the people, the children of God, to be the bearers of His Good News and truth as He said in our Gospel today, and all those who listens to the ones whom He has sent, listens to Him, and they receive the truth and should they all remain in faith, then they shall be blessed and be saved. He has called on all to be His followers, and He has also called more and more to be like St. Paul, as those to whom He entrusts the mission of the conversion of sinners.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to all these from the Scriptures, we are then reminded that we ourselves as part of the Church have the same calling and obligation to be witnesses for the truth of Our Lord, to be His exemplary disciples and followers that by our lives and actions, by our words and dedication, our good role model and deeds, we may inspire many others like what St. Paul and the other Apostles, the saints and many holy martyrs had done with their own lives and throughout their respective ministries.

Today, we are all called to look upon the great example showed by one great woman and saint, whose life and dedication inspired so many of her time and beyond, and even Popes were listening to her advice and words. St. Catherine of Siena was renowned for her great piety and dedication to the Lord, that since her youth she has committed herself to the Lord, opposing the efforts made to marry her to a widower. And later on, after constant struggle and determination, through prayer and faith eventually St. Catherine of Siena managed to enter into life consecrated to God.

Throughout her life, St. Catherine of Siena had become great source of inspiration for so many others as she lived her life most virtuously and dedicated herself to a holy life of service to the people of God as she ministered to the poor and the sick in her community and beyond. She helped to rejuvenate the faith in many segments of the community and gained a lot of influence and trust from various members of the Church, including from the Popes, the Cardinals and the bishops in various places. Many sought her for advice and guidance.

St. Catherine of Siena was instrumental in helping the Church, then bitterly divided by factional tension and by various disagreements, by divisions that existed between rival claimants to the Papacy and the divided support from the Christendom which led to a fracturing of Christian unity. She helped to give advice to the Church leaders and elders, and encouraged the Pope to return to Rome and address all the problems and things that had led to the troubles in the Church at that time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the courage and the faith showed by St. Catherine of Siena, all of us are called and encouraged to follow the Lord in the same manner too. Are we willing to do so, brethren? Are we able to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, doing our very best to glorify Him through our lives, and inspiring one another and so many others who have not yet known the Lord. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 29 April 2021 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 13 : 16-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, the servant is not greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than he who sent him. Understand this, and blessed are you, if you put it into practice.”

“I am not speaking of you all, because I know the ones I have chosen, and the Scripture has to be fulfilled that says : The one who shared My table has risen against Me. I tell you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may know that I am He.”

“Truly, I say to you, whoever welcomes the one I send, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes the One Who sent Me.”

Thursday, 29 April 2021 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 88 : 2-3, 21-22, 25 and 27

I will sing forever, o Lord, of Your love and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

I have found David My servant, and with My holy oil I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him and My arm will sustain.

My faithfulness and love will be with him, and by My help he will be strong. He will call on Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.’

Thursday, 29 April 2021 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 13 : 13-25

From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and came to Perga in Pamphylia. There John left them and returned to Jerusalem, while they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent this message to them, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the assembly, please speak up.”

So Paul arose, motioned to them for silence and began, “Fellow Israelites and also all you who fear God, listen. The God of our people Israel chose our ancestors, and after He had made them increase during their stay in Egypt, He led them out by powerful deeds.”

“For forty years He fed them in the desert, and after He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took four hundred and fifty years. After that, he gave them Judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, and he was king for forty years.”

“After that time, God removed him and raised up David as king, to whom He bore witness saying : ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all I want him to do.’ It is from the descendants of David that God has now raised up the promised Saviour of Israel, Jesus.”

“Before He appeared, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. As John was ending his life’s work, he said : ‘I am not what you think I am, for after me another One is coming Whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.'”

Monday, 5 April 2021 : Monday within Easter Octave (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 28 : 8-15

At that time, the woman left the tomb at once in fear, yet with great joy, and they ran to tell the news to Jesus’ disciples. Suddenly, He met them on the way and said, “Rejoice!” The women approached Him, embraced His feet and worshipped Him. But Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid! Go and tell My brothers to set out for Galilee; there they will see Me.”

While the women were on their way, the guards returned to the city, and some of them reported to the chief priests all that had happened. The chief priests met with the elders, and decided to give the soldiers a large sum of money, with this instruction, “Say that His disciples came by night while you were asleep, and stole the Body of Jesus. If Pilate comes to know of this, we will explain the situation and keep you out of trouble.”

The soldiers accepted the money and did as they were told. This story has circulated among the Jews until this day.

Monday, 22 March 2021 : 5th Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 13 : 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62

There lived in Babylon a man named Joakim, who was married to a very beautiful God-fearing woman, Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter, whose pious parents had trained her in the law of Moses. A very rich man and greatly respected by all the Jews, Joakim was frequently visited by the Jews in his house adjoining a garden.

That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, in whom this word of the Lord became true, “Wickedness has come forth from Babylon, through the elders appointed judges, who were supposed to govern the people.” These men frequented Joakim’s house, and all who had legal disputes used to come to them.

After the people had left at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden for a walk. The two old men began to lust for her as they watched her enter the garden every day. Forgetting the demands of justice and virtue, their lust grew all the more as they made no effort to turn their eyes to heaven.

One day, as they were waiting for an opportune time, Susanna entered the garden as usual with only two maids. She decided to bathe, for it was a hot day. Nobody else was there except the two elders watching her from where they had hidden themselves. She said to the maids, “Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors while I bathe.”

When the maids had left, the two elders hurried to her and said, “Look, the garden doors are shut and no one sees us. We desire to posses you. If you refuse to give in, we will testify that you sent your maids away for there was a young man here with you.” Susanna moaned, “Whatever I do, I am trapped. If I give in to your desire, it will be death for me; if I refuse, I will not escape your persecution. I would rather be persecuted than sin in the eyes of the Lord.”

Susanna shrieked, but the old men shouted, putting the blame on her. One of them ran and opened the garden doors. Hearing the noise in the garden, the household servants rushed in by the side entrance to see what was happening. They were taken aback when they heard the elders’ accusation, for never had anything like this been said of Susanna.

The next day a meeting was held at Joakim’s house. The two elders arrived, vindictively determined to have Susanna sentenced to death. They ordered before all the people, “Send for Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter and Joakim’s wife.” They sent for her, and she came with her parents, children and all her relatives. Her family and all who saw her wept.

The two elders stood up and laid their hands upon her head. Completely trusting in the Lord, she raised her tearful eyes to heaven. The elders started making their accusation, “We were taking a walk in the garden when this woman came in with two maids. She ordered them to shut the garden doors and dismissed them. Then a young man came out of hiding and lay with her. We were in a corner in the garden, and we saw this crime from there.”

“We ran to them, and caught them in the act of embracing. We were unable to take hold of the man. He was too strong for us. He made a dash for the door, opened it and ran off. But we were able to seize this woman. We asked her who the young man was, but she refused to tell us. This is our statement, and we testify to its truth.”

The assembly took their word, since they were elders and judges of the people. Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman!” Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked.

Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have falsely testified against her.” Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.”

Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two men from one another and I will examine each of them.” When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said, ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s Angel receives your sentence from God.” Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust.”

“This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you. But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?”

The answer came, “Under an oak.” “Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s Angel waits to cut you both in two.” The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them. They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Daniel 13 : 41c-62

Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from You; You know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testified falsely against me. Would You let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?”

The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the Holy Spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman!” Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked.

Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have falsely testified against her.” Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.”

Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two men from one another and I will examine each of them.” When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning.”

“Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said, ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?”

The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.” Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s Angel receives your sentence from God.” Putting the first one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed yourself to be perverted by lust.”

“This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who out of fear have yielded to you. But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?”

The answer came, “Under an oak.” “Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s Angel waits to cut you both in two.” The whole assembly shouted and blessed God for helping those who hope in Him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbour was inflicted upon them. They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard of the mercy, love and benevolence of God Who has heard the prayers and pleading of His people, beginning with the prayer of Azariah, and the other friends of Daniel, who have been put into a most difficult situation, and they prayed before the Lord asking for His mercy and love, and then in our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord speaking about the parable of the ungrateful servant which is related to this matter as well.

In our first reading today, as mentioned we heard of the moment when king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sentenced the three friends of Daniel to be burnt in a great fiery cauldron that was made even hotter because they adamantly refused to worship a great golden idol that the king had built in his own image. The king demanded all of his subjects to worship the golden idol or be punished to death. Everyone obeyed the king’s commands except for the three friends of Daniel.

The king was enraged when the three of them not only refused to obey the king’s commands but reiterated and reaffirmed their faith in the Lord publicly before the king and all those who were gathered. Thus, they were condemned to death and they should have perished in the great furnace that was prepared for them and others who dared to disobey the king. But Azariah, one of the three, together with the other two friends of Daniel prayed to the Lord, showing their commitment and faith, while also showing the repentance of the people of Israel.

Through this, they represented the people of God who at that time was in exile, having lost their homeland and their Temple, their kingdom and honour. They expressed their regrets and sincere mournfulness over all of their sins. They also expressed their dedication and love for the Lord, and that they hoped their example and courage in standing up for their faith would finally move the Lord to show His mercy and forgiveness to His people.

The Lord sent His Angel to safeguard the three men, and they all miraculously survived the flame unharmed, and all those who witnessed this miracle, including that of the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, were astonished at what they had seen. Not only that the three men were unharmed, but they were released without injury and the king himself tore down the golden statue that he had built.

In the Gospel reading today, we heard of the parable of the ungrateful servant in which the Lord told His disciples about a servant who owed an immense amount of ten thousand pieces of gold to his master, who should have suffered the terrible consequence of his debt, having to lose his property and even loved ones. But the master took pity on the servant when the latter begged for mercy, and he was forgiven all of his debt, therefore becoming a person free from bondage and obligation of his debt.

Yet, as we heard, the servant was not grateful for what he had received, and instead he persecuted his own fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount of merely a hundred pieces of silver. Not only that the amount owed to him was a mere hundredth of what he used to owe the master, but as it was of silver rather than gold, this served to highlight just how much smaller that debt was in comparison to what the master had earlier on forgiven him.

That ungrateful servant was then on punished by the master for his lack of gratitude and for not forgiving his fellow servants when he himself had already been forgiven so much, and this parable together with our first reading today served to remind us all Christians that all of us are called to forgive much and to get rid of vengeance and all related things from our hearts and minds, just as we ourselves have been forgiven so much more by God.

We cannot be angry and be nasty to our fellow brothers and sisters, and we should not hold grudges and any sorts of negative feelings against our neighbours, just as the Lord Himself had willingly forgiven us from our sins when we come to Him seeking for forgiveness and mercy. This Lent, we are all challenged to be more forgiving and to be more filled with mercy and compassion in all of our actions and deeds, in everything that we say and do.

Today we can also be inspired by the examples shown by St. Frances of Rome, a mother of a family and a venerable woman who was remembered for her kindness, charity and compassion for others, especially for the poor and the less privileged. She also founded a community of Benedictine oblates who were committed to a holy life in the Lord but without professing solemn religious orders and vows. She was remembered for her care for the poor, and was generous in giving when there were others in need.

It was told that on one occasion, St. Frances’ giving so annoyed her father-in-law that he locked the supply room to prevent her from giving any more to the poor and the suffering. Yet, the same father-in-law returned the key to her when miraculously the supplies in the boxes were refilled just as St. Frances finished her prayers. And although she did encounter much difficulties during her own life, having to endure exile and devastations due to wars and plagues, St. Frances remained firm in her faith and in her charitable efforts, no matter what happened.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow the good examples set by St. Frances, and dedicate ourselves anew as Christians to be loving and more forgiving, to be more compassionate and committed in our faith and service to God, as well as to our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us all turn towards the Lord with a new conviction and desire to love Him, and do our very best to glorify Him by our actions and deeds in life. May God bless us all and may He be our guide, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 18 : 21-35

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle the accounts of his servants.”

“Among the first was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment. The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.'”

“The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When the servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his companions, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the neck and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His companion threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ The other did not agree, but sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. Now his fellow servants saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your companion, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry, so he handed his servant over to be punished, until he had paid his whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.”

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Daniel 3 : 25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud : Do not abandon us forever, do not reject Your covenant for Your Name’s sake. Do not withdraw Your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, Your friend, of Isaac, Your servant, of Israel, Your holy one, to whom You promised to multiply their race as the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore of the sea.

Lord, see, we have become the least among the nations in all the world, and we are humiliated because of our sins. At this time, we no longer have a king, or prophet, or leader. We cannot offer You holocausts, sacrifices, offerings, or incense. We have no place to present to You the first-fruits of our crops, and so obtain Your favour.

But at least when we present ourselves with a contrite soul and humbled spirit may we then be acceptable to You, more than by offerings of rams and calves as holocausts, and of thousands of fat lambs. May this sacrifice of ours today obtain for us Your favour for we know that those who trust in You shall never be disappointed.

And now, we serve You with our whole heart, we fear You and we seek Your face. Do not leave us in our humiliation, but treat us according to Your kindness and Your great mercy. Free us in keeping with Your wonders, and give us the glory of Your Name, Lord.