Monday, 30 June 2014 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of the very first martyrs of the faith, most likely those who suffered great persecutions under St. Paul when he was still an unbeliever, Saul, as well as those who were persecuted by the Roman authorities, particularly those who were martyred during the first official persecution by the Emperor Nero, who also martyred the two saints, St. Peter and St. Paul, later known as the patron saints of Rome and the Universal Church.

These faithful people did not abandon their faith in exchange for their safety and life. They chose to remain faithful even though they had to suffer for their faith and for their obedience to the Lord and to His ways. That was why they were honoured and raised to the glory of the altar as the holy martyrs and saints of the Church. These martyrs therefore became the source of great inspiration to countless others who would follow in their footsteps and seek the Lord as they once had done.

As the Gospel reading today highlighted to us, following the Lord is not an easy or a simple matter. For indeed, following the Lord requires from us complete and extensive dedication and commitment, as well as readiness to face difficulties and oppositions from many sides. We already know quite well that this world stands often in direct opposition to the Lord and His ways, and as a result, we who follow Him and His ways, will also stand in the way of the world and its ways too.

This does not mean that we should hate the world or refuse to have anything to do with the world, or withdrawing entirely from the world, as this is not the right way to do things. This withdrawal and ignoring attitude in fact can be seen as our inability to accept the reality of things and our responsibilities and the risks of following the Lord. Indeed, if I am to be bluntly honest, that is tantamount to running away from the difficulties of the world, which were not what the martyrs had done.

The martyrs had a choice, whether they would remain faithful and committed to the Lord, and suffer grievous death and torture, as many of the tales of the martyrs had enlightened us with, or to save their own lives and live comfortably in peace of the world, but forsaking their faith and trampling on the cross, on the Lord Himself. Similar tales were also heard all over the different parts of the world, where persecution of the faithful were rampant and vicious.

They had a choice, to face the truth, or to run away. Running away does not always mean turning one’s back to the Lord or to be an apostate, namely someone who betrays the Lord, but in fact, if we avoid doing our responsibilities and avoid the challenges presented to us in this world, we are no different from those who ran away from their faith to the Lord into eternal damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we may think that martyrdom is a thing of the past, and it is no longer relevant in today’s world. However, if we look at it more closely, persecution of the faith and the faithful is still rampant at every part of the globe. Many were still ridiculed and worse still, suffered grievously for believing and walking in the way of the Lord, and yet many of us are still oblivious to this fact.

How do we then overcome this? Yes, how do we overcome our fear of the world and the suffering it may bring to us? None other than by having a good and living relationship with our God, just as the first martyrs of the Church once had. They placed their trust in God, and they therefore did not fear, for they knew that God would take good care of them. They also prayed often, as prayer is the way for us to connect with God, as a two-way conversation between Him and us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all emulate the examples of the first martyrs and the many other holy men and women who had lived their lives according to the will of God. Let us walk in their ways and remain truly faithful and dedicated to the Lord our God. God be with us all and may He guide us on our way. Amen.

Monday, 30 June 2014 : 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 : 18-22

When Jesus saw the crowd press around Him, He gave orders to cross to the other shore. A teacher of the Law approached Him and said, “Master, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Another disciple said to Him, “Lord, let me go and bury my father first.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Monday, 30 June 2014 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 49 : 16bc-17, 18-19, 20-21, 22-23

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

You join a thief when you meet one; you keep company with adulterers. You have a mouth of evil and a deceitful tongue.

You speak ill of your brother, and slander your own mother’s son. Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you.

Give this a thought, you who forget God, lest I tear you to pieces with no one to help you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 30 June 2014 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Amos 2 : 6-10, 13-16

Before them nations are appalled, and every face turns pale. They attack like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. Marching in line, they move onward without swerving from their course, without jostling one another, everyone of them marches straight ahead; amid a hall of arrows they run, they press without breaking ranks.

They rush upon the city; they leap over the walls; they break into the houses, like thieves enter through the windows. Before them the earth shakes and the heavens tremble, the sun and moon grow dark and the stars lose their twinkle.

Rend your heart, not your garment. Return to YHVH, your God – gracious and compassionate. YHVH is slow to anger, full of kindness, and He repents of having punished. Who knows? Probably He will relent once more and spare some part of the harvest from which we may bring sacred offerings to YHVH, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, proclaim a sacred fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the people, sanctify the community, bring together the elders, even the children and infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bed, and the bride her room.

Message and Reflection on the Occasion of the Great Feast Day of the Church, Solemnity of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and Vicar of Christ, and St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, the Patron Saints of Rome

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate in this moment, the great celebration of the Church, both of the Church of Rome, and the entirety of the universal Church, of the whole world, for we celebrate today the feast day of the two pillars that established and built up this Church, namely St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of the Apostles and the first Vicar of Christ, leader of the entire Universal Church, Keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

And then the other one, St. Paul the Apostle, who was once a great sinner and enemy of the faithful, then called and made to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, to be the one to bring the Word of God’s salvation to all mankind, beyond the limitations of the Jews. And so, while St. Peter stood at the heart of Christendom, St. Paul is the brave and courageous evangeliser who spread wide the Christian message.

These two saints are two great saints and great role models for us, but they were also once ordinary and simple men, coming from unexpected origins, but ended up serving the Lord through their works and ministry to God’s people. And we celebrate their lives and their works today, and we hope that we all will be inspired by what they had done for the sake of God and His faithful.

St. Peter was a fisherman of the Lake Galilee, who was called by Jesus to be the shepherd of His sheep, that is all of us. He was made a fisher of man, as Jesus Himself had said when He called Peter and the other disciples to Himself. Meanwhile, St. Paul was an upper class Jew, who was brought up in strict and orthodox Jewish teachings, becoming kind of a fanatic who ended up persecuting many of the faithful in Israel, before he met the Lord on the way to Damascus and be converted to the cause of the faith.

In both of their stories, the two great saints, St. Peter and St. Paul had encountered a profound change in their lives after they met the Lord and professed their faith for Him. St. Peter was a brave person, but yet he feared death and persecution when the enemies of the Lord came for Him, and thus despite having vowed before the Lord that he would die for Him, he disowned the Lord three times before the Lord’s Passion and death.

And St. Paul was a great enemy of the faithful, the scourge of the believers, hunting down the faithful with zeal, but zeal that is mistaken in purpose and nature. He caused the death and suffering of many, and many would naturally have hated and feared him, but this was not what God intended from him. He was called and taken away, in an ultimate coup-de-grace against Satan, and was made to be the greatest champion of God’s cause in the world.

Both of them went on to spread the Good News to many parts of the known world of that time, the Roman Empire, together with the other Apostles and disciples of Christ who spread the Word of God to the ends of the earth. They went on to spread the Gospel to many cities, towns and villages across the Mediterranean, facing rejection and persecution in many places, but also acceptance by those who willingly received the Word for themselves.

They were persecuted by the Jews and the chief priests, who arrested them many times, harassed and tortured them many times, and handed them to the Romans to be jailed and punished many times. And in the end, both St. Peter and St. Paul went to Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire, ministering to the people of God there and eventually was martyred for the faith there.

The Empire was initially neutral and did not care about the faithful, but as time went on, the Empire and the Emperor Nero became hostile to the Christians, who were made as scapegoats of the many failures and disasters that befell the Empire, including the Great Fire of Rome. The Great Fire of Rome was allegedly started by Nero himself to build himself a grand palace in place of the rubble and ruins. He blamed the fire on the Christians, and as a result, many were martyred and sent to gladiatorial games to be butchered by lions and other wild animals.

St. Peter was martyred by crucifixion, but he did not feel it right to die in the same way as Jesus his Lord and God had died. Therefore, he asked to be crucified upside down, so that he would not die in the same way as his Lord and God. St. Peter embodied the faithfulness and indeed, true faith in God, that he faithfully carried out until the end. For St. Paul, he was beheaded in Rome as part of the great persecution against the faithful by the Emperor, and his blood was spilled that more seeds of faith might grow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we who are in the Church of God are the continuation of the ministry and the divine mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles, chiefly among which, St. Peter and St. Paul, who went to be martyred at the heart of the Empire that persecuted the faithful, marking the beginning of the long history of our Church, centred firmly on the authority of the Apostle Peter, whom the Lord had entrusted His Church to, and the entirety of the faithful ones of God that are part of that Church.

Today, we stand strong and courageous with the whole Church, inspired by St. Peter and St. Paul whose examples had inspired us in our own faith. St. Peter taught us to be faithful, and to keep that faith strongly in our lives that our lives may be truly based on a firm and living faith. Then St. Paul taught us how to love others, and how to bring the Lord’s salvation to all men as the manifestation of that love we have for each other.

And we also stand together with our Pope, as our leader, the shepherd of shepherds, and the vicar of the Chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is, as the Bishop of Rome, of that city where St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred, the successor of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ on earth, the leader of the entire Universal Church, through whom we keep our unity, that we may stay and remain as One Body in Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ had entrusted Peter with His sheep, the flock of His faithful, whom He asked Peter to take care and keep well. In that way, He entrusted His entire Church to Peter and His successors, the Popes, and they become the symbol of unity and the point of reference, through which the entire Church and the faithful drew their faith to God from.

Indeed, throughout history, sometimes the Popes had been corrupt and abused their power, but as a whole, the office of the Papacy, regardless of its past mistakes, remains as a very important and crucial institution, in particular in this increasingly confused and darkened world, where Satan grew in power day after day. And in addition, St. Paul also reminded us that it is important for us to go forth confidently to spread the Good News to all nations and all peoples.

We cannot evangelise most efficiently if our house itself is not in proper order. We have to ensure that the foundation of our faith is strong, so that we may grow stronger in faith and bring others to salvation. And this strong foundation of the faith can be found today in the Popes, and in the entirety of the teachings of the entire Magisterium of the Church, which the Popes are custodian and guardian of.

That is why we also pray and hope that our Church will be one, and all the estranged members of the Lord’s Body, that is the Church, will repent and come back to the Holy Mother Church, under the leadership of the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ, whom Jesus had appointed to be the leader of all of His faithful ones and to be the one to represent the Chief Shepherd on this world, a world darkened by the power of evil, the wolves trying to devour the innocent sheep and lambs of the Lord.

We pray that our brethren in the see of St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, and in the see of St. Mark, and those in the ‘communion’ born from the insistence and the greed of King Henry VIII and many others who had been misled by false prophets and leaders of the faith, will return to the Lord and be one again with us, even as we celebrate this feast day, and we ask that the two great saints pray for this to happen. For indeed, the unity of the Church is needed, as there is a need for us, greater than ever to stand up for the Lord against Satan and his forces marshalled against us.

The primacy of St. Peter must be upheld, and the primacy and supremacy of his successor the Pope must be upheld by all who believes in Christ, for once again, he is the one on whom the Lord had built His Church on, as the focal point for all the faithful in their faith to the Lord. Those who doubt this fact, fail to understand the meaning of the words when Jesus said, and His commission to Peter, to feed and support His lambs.

Our Church therefore must stand strong and remain truly faithful, and not an iota of its teachings, the teachings of the early Church fathers of the faith, must be lost or contravened. We cannot let this Church which Christ had built on solid rock foundation of Peter and His successors to stumble on the high waves and the storms of this world today. There are indeed many oppositions and currents trying to push the Church in the wrong direction, in the name of adjustment, accommodation and many other reasons, but I say brethren, that we ought to stay faithful as St. Peter had been faithful to the end! And we pray that our Pope, as the successor of St. Peter will keep his duty faithfully and keep close to the teachings of the entire Deposit of the Faith and the Apostolic Tradition.

And ultimately, in the spirit of St. Paul the Apostle, our Church must also be brave to stand up to the faith and spread it to those who are still in darkness and in ignorance or opposition to the faith, as St. Paul had once done. For too long in the recent decades that our Church had become timid in the face of opposition and rejection by the world. We need to rediscover that zeal of the faith and the commitment that St. Paul had once shown through his tireless ministries to the faithful throughout many places until his own martyrdom.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us pray for one another, and pray for our Church, that first, it may grow stronger in faith and grow more united in the faith to the Lord. May the Lord strengthen us all, that we may become more loving children of God, and a more loving and living Church. May St. Peter and St. Paul intercede for us and help us on our path, that we too may follow their examples in faith and love. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 29 June 2014 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles and Feast Day of the Church of Rome (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 16 : 13-19

After that, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them You are John the Baptist, for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Sunday, 29 June 2014 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles and Feast Day of the Church of Rome (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Timothy 4 : 6-8, 17-18

As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness with which the Lord, the just Judge, will reward me on that day; and not only me, but all those who have longed for His glorious coming.

But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength to proclaim the Word fully, and let all the pagans hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will save me from all evil, bringing me to His heavenly kingdom. Glory to Him forever and ever. Amen!