Saturday, 25 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding all of us that as God’s people and as His followers, we are called to serve Him and to do His will, and sometimes, throughout our journey and ministry we will encounter challenges and difficulties that may cause us to lose hope or even lose faith, as persecution, oppression and all sorts of difficulties may come in our path.

But regardless of the hardships and the persecutions that the faithful had to encounter throughout their lives, all of those did not prevent them from continuing to love God and to dedicate themselves to Him. Throughout the history of the Church there had been many occasions when the persecution of the Church and the faithful only led to the faith of the people of God to become even stronger.

And that is because the faithful people of God supported each other and comforted each other in times of sorrow and distress, in times of challenges and persecutions, amidst trials and all the obstacles that the world has arrayed against them. The examples and courage of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord in standing up for their faith and for their tireless dedication in service became a great motivation and inspiration for all the faithful.

The courage and steadfastness of the holy martyrs and saints became great inspiration and strength to all those who were suffering because of persecutions and trials of the world, and the fire and zeal the disciples and martyrs had shown inflamed the hearts and minds of all the faithful and became a beacon of hope and guiding light in times of distress and despair.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are also celebrating the feast of several holy saints of God whose lives have been truly exemplary and influential in inspiring the faithful throughout the centuries past, namely that of St. Bede the Venerable, Pope St. Gregory VII and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi. These saints have shown us all how we ought to act and believe as God’s people through their wonderful and loving actions.

St. Bede the Venerable was remembered for his dedication to the field of Christian teaching and contemplative life, having taught many of the renowned Christian authors and preachers of his time, and having dedicated much of his time to the study of the faith, as well as of philosophy and theology. Through his many works and contributions, his tireless dedication and commitment, many people received the goodness of God’s salvation.

Meanwhile Pope St. Gregory VII was meanwhile remembered for the struggle that he encountered in what was known as the ‘Investiture Controversy’ regarding the nature of secular and religious power. At that time, the secular powers of the world tried to gain advantage and influence over the Church and the Holy Roman Emperor then tried to impose his will on the broader Church, by implying that he had greater authority even that of the Pope, who is the leader of the Church.

Despite the challenges and difficulties, Pope St. Gregory VII persevered through the challenging times, resisting the many efforts of the secular rulers who tried to undermine the power and the influence of the Church, putting the interests of the Lord and His Church above that of the interests of the corrupt leaders of the world, both that of the secular powers and also those within the Church who succumbed to the temptations of power and money.

Then, St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi was a renowned religious and mystic who lived her life in total commitment to God, devoting her time, effort and attention to serve the Lord, and so attuned she had been to the Lord, that she experienced series of visions which she related and shared that others might also come to believe in God and in His truth and salvation. Ultimately, all these saints have shown us what it means for us to be true Christians, not just in words but also in actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the examples shown by these three saints, as well as the innumerable examples of the many other saints, holy men and women of God who had shown us how to be true disciples of the Lord in all the things we say and do in our lives. May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to strengthen us all as we continue walking down our lives with a renewed faith and desire to serve Him wholeheartedly. Amen.

Saturday, 25 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 18-21

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If the world hates you, remember that the world hated Me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world, since I have chosen you from the world; because of this the world hates you.”

“Remember what I told you : the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted Me, they will persecute you, too. If they kept My word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you for the sake of My Name, because they do not know the One Who sent Me.”

Saturday, 25 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Saturday, 25 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope St. Gregory VII, Pope and St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him.

As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by the message of the words of the Scripture which speak to us about the importance for us all to be firmly attached to the Lord, as we cannot be separated from Him and hope or expect to be able to receive His graces, much as a branch separated from the vine or the tree cannot survive on its own, having depended on the tree and the vine for nourishment and support.

That was why the Lord Jesus used the parable of the vine in order to bring His point across, as He revealed to them just how each and every one of us who believe in Him must be united to Him and with Him, so that we do not act in ways that create division, separation, dissension and cracks in the Body of Christ, the Church. We must not allow our own pride, ego and stubbornness from causing us to be divided against each other.

It is when we begin to put our own desires, our own wants and desires ahead of the commitment we have as Christians that we become detached from God and from His love and grace. It was never God Who cast us out from His presence as His great love and compassion for each and every one of us would not have allowed that to happen. Rather, it was our own conscious and persistent choice to sunder ourselves from God that had caused this to happen.

In the first reading today, we heard an example of this action happening as the Acts of the Apostles recounted to us what happened when a bitter friction and factional dispute arose between the disciples and the communities of the faithful, with the hardline Jewish Christians who wanted to adhere strictly and closely to the laws of Moses on the other side, and other Jewish Christians and those sympathetic to the Gentiles or non-Jewish people who wanted to relax the rigorous application of the Mosaic law.

Those who wanted to impose the whole laws of Moses and its rigorous practices as encapsulated within the traditions of the Jewish people refused to back down and insisted that all those who believe in Christ must also obey the laws of Moses in their entirety, or else they could not be members of the Church. But this created a lot of problems for those who wanted to be believers, and yet did not practice the Jewish customs.

In order to better understand the context and circumstances we should understand first that at that time, the Jewish customs were seen as strange and even abnormality by many of the people in the Roman Empire, especially the Greeks and the Romans who abhorred the practice of circumcision as well as the religious dietary prohibitions among many others that would very well have prevented many from being able to openly live as Christians should the laws of Moses be imposed on all Christians.

It was sadly however, the insistence and stubbornness of those who refused to back down from their argument and wanted their way to be pushed through that caused such bitter division and disagreement within the Church. And if we look through the whole history of the Church, the divisions and disagreements we see in the Acts of the Apostles is just one of many other disagreements and divisions within the Church.

And these divisions and disagreements cause the faithful to be separated from the True Vine that is God, as they began to focus on their own selfish desires and thoughts, their own ideas and their own ways rather than listening to and following the will of God. And this is where the devil will indeed have rich harvest, as those who have been separated from God will be easy picking for him to attack and conquer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, all of us should reflect instead on the life and examples of St. Rita of Cascia, a notable saint and holy woman whose life has precisely shown that all of us should put aside our differences and learn to find the path of peace and reconciliation with God and with one another. St. Rita of Cascia was remembered for her patience and dedication to her family.

She did not have an easy life, and from her youth, she had endured many forms of sufferings and troubles, and she had to witness her own husband killed by another family his husband’s family was feuding with, and left to care for her children on her own. She dissuaded her sons from taking revenge on her deceased husband, even though her husband’s family was trying to goad her sons to do so.

When her sons was seemingly set on seeking the path of revenge following what her husband’s family had demanded, St. Rita of Cascia prayed fervently to God asking for them to be taken away from this world rather than for them to sin because of violence and murder. And indeed, miraculously, both of her sons passed away within a year from a terrible disease that struck the place, saving them from mortal sins that could have made them to end in hell.

This is a reminder to all of us that we should seek to be united to God and to be reconciled with each other, following the passionate example of St. Rita of Cascia who tried to overcome the bitter divisions that affected her own family, and also of the Apostles who tried to unite the bitterly divided factions and groups in the early Church as mentioned in our first reading today.

Let us all draw closer to God and do our best in order to serve Him and put Him at the centre of our lives so that instead of being divided because of our own ego and pride, we can grow instead in the love of God and be more united with one another through Him. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (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, 22 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (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.