Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd 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, on this day we listened first of all of the frustrations as shown in the prayers uttered by the Apostles, St. Peter and St. John, who at that time had just healed the sickness of a crippled man and restored him to full health in the Name of the Lord, and yet, they were oppressed, persecuted and treated like criminals, by the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council who wanted to stop them from performing miracles and teaching in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

They voiced out their frustrations at the stubbornness of all those who refused to believe in God and in His truth, and constantly placed obstacles in the path of the disciples of the Lord. But they trusted in the Lord and believed that He would not abandon them to their enemies. They prayed that God would guide and protect them as they embarked on the challenging and dangerous mission that He has commanded them to do.

And God sent them all the Holy Spirit, Who descended on them and filled their hearts and minds with courage and strength, with the desire and conviction to carry out the mission which has been entrusted to them. And as compared to how they were prior to receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples had undergone a great transformation in action and in their way of life. Where they were once fearful, doubtful and easily shaken in their faith, they became courageous defenders of the Lord from then on.

And this is what the Lord Jesus actually meant in our Gospel passage today, when He discussed with Nicodemus the Pharisee, on the matter of being born again in the Spirit. Nicodemus was initially puzzled when the Lord mentioned that for him to be able to see and witness the kingdom of God, he must be born again in God. He thought that to be born again meant that one had to literally go back into his or her mother’s womb, which was not possible.

But the Lord clarified it for him, and through the examples of the Apostles, all of us have also received the truth about what being born again truly means for each and every one of us. It means that each and every one of us must go through that profound change in our lives, that is just so profound and complete, that one must seem to be unrecognisable and transformed by the change, so as to be ‘born again’.

And this happens when we allow the Lord to enter into us, and perform His work through us, by the bestowing of His Holy Spirit and His Real Presence in each and every one of us. The Apostles as we have heard earlier, prayed, and the Holy Spirit was given to the discipled who were gathered with them, so that despite all of the challenges and difficulties that they had to endure, they endured them nonetheless with great courage and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have also received the same gift of the Holy Spirit, and God Himself has entered into our lives, being present in us and with us. However, many among us have not been able to make use of these gifts God has given to us, and we remain aloof and indifferent to the calling and the mission which God has called us to do. This is because of our own inability to recognise God being present in us, and how we have shut ourselves from God and His love.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our own lives, on how we have lived our lives all these while. Are we able to be truly born again in faith, by embracing what the Lord has given to us all in our own respective lives? And this requires us all to be more faithful and to be more committed in our faith in God. And perhaps, we should learn from the experiences and the examples shown to us by our holy predecessors, especially St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast day we are celebrating today.

St. Catherine of Siena was a very renowned saint of the Church, who dedicated herself into a life of sanctity and devotion to God from early on in her life. She did these all despite the oppositions from her family and the many challenges she had to encounter throughout her life. Yet, her commitment to God, her sanctity and great wisdom, in her many writings and letters inspired many others to return to their faith in God.

She was in fact so influential that she even had a crucial role in the ending of the great Western Schism, when rival Popes came to power being elected by the opposing factions and groups in the Church. She exhorted the faithful and the Pope to put their faith and obedience to God’s will as the first and foremost focus in their choice of action. And therefore the Lord showed His wonderful works through this faithful saint, by which many were saved.

Let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of St. Catherine of Siena, holy woman and servant of God, and also the examples of the Apostles and the many other holy disciples of the Lord. Let us all renew our faith and commitment, just as the disciples and St. Catherine of Siena had done, and live up to the calling which God had called us to, to be good and devoted Christians, all those whom God has called to be His own. Amen.

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 1-8

At that time, among the Pharisees there was a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus. He came to Jesus by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God to teach us, for no one can perform miraculous signs like Yours unless God is with Him.”

Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again from above.” Nicodemus said, “How can there be rebirth for a grown man? Who could go back to his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you : No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

“Because of this, do not be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again from above.’ The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 2 : 1-3, 4-6, 7-9

Why do the nations conspire? Why do the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth brace themselves and the rulers together take their stand against the Lord and His Anointed. They say, “Let us break their bonds! Let us cast away their chains!”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord looks at them in derision. Then in anger He speaks to them, terrifying them in the fury of His wrath : “Behold the King I have installed, in Zion, upon My holy hill!”

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to Me : “You are My Son. This day I have begotten You. Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall rule them with iron sceptre and shatter them as a potter’s vase.”

Monday, 29 April 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 4 : 23-31

As soon as Peter and John were set free, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices as one and called upon God, “Sovereign Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, of the sea and everything in them, You have put these words in the mouth of David, our father and Your servant, through the Holy Spirit : Why did the pagan nations rage and the people conspire in folly? The kings of the were aligned and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against His Messiah.”

“For indeed in this very city Herod with Pontius Pilate, and the pagans together with the people of Israel conspired against Your holy Servant Jesus, Whom You anointed. Thus, indeed, they brought about whatever Your powerful will had decided from all time would happen. But now, Lord, see their threats against us and enable Your servants to speak Your word with all boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and to work signs and wonders through the Name of Jesus Your holy Servant.”

When they had prayed, the place where they were gathered together shook, and they were all filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scripture passages, we are called to reflect on the nature of our life, and how we should go about in living our lives. Our life is not just about us, or about our preoccupations in this world, all the temptations and things we possess. Rather, our lives must be based on the foundation of faith, hope and love, the three greatest virtues of our Christian lives.

In this world, we are always subjected to ever changing expectations and demands, as well as diverging customs and ways, and that was why, in the Gospel passage today, the Lord showed His dissatisfaction at the people, whose lack of the Christian virtues troubled Him, in how they treated Him and the prophets, including that of St. John the Baptist. They refused to listen to the word of God and the truth delivered to them, and instead made biased judgments on those whom the Lord had sent to save them.

The Lord however showed that the way forward for us, is not to depend on the ever changing and therefore unreliable judgments and ways of this world. To the world, there is never a satisfactory standard, as different people judge based on their own individual expectations and personal standards, and that was why, what was good for someone might be bad for another, and vice versa.

Instead, the Lord wants us to have this firm foundation of faith, of hope, and of love, as the core tenets of our lives. Faith refers to our commitment to God, and our belief in Him, in His salvation and in His saving help. Meanwhile, hope refers to the hope which we have in God’s love, in His coming deliverance and in the promise which He has made, to all of us who has kept our faith in Him, that He will grant us eternal life and glory with Him.

But all of these, as mentioned in the first reading today, in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, are nothing if not based upon the foundation of the most important virtue of all, that is love. For love is the very reason for the faith and hope which we have in God. We believe in God’s love, and that is our faith, and correspondingly, we also hope for His love. The love of God is at the centre and the focus of our lives.

And from God, love has come into our lives, and we know love because God has given us His love. And love is truly the only constant in our lives, which is universal. It does not matter where we are, in whichever communities or places, love, and that is, true love, is always the same, the selfless giving of oneself and the genuine, compassionate care which one shows to another person.

Without love, then all the things we do in life are empty, meaningless. For first of all, as man, all of us exist fo the greater glory of God, to praise and worship Him Who has created us and loved us. Without God’s love, none of us would have existed. Without His love, we would have fallen into the eternal damnation because of our sins and wickedness. It was because of His love, that God sent us our Saviour, His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through Whom, He has released us from our bondage to our sins.

And it is love that makes the world move again, despite all the challenges and difficulties we mankind have encountered for countless millennia and ages. Through all the bitter trials and years of wars, conflicts, all sorts of destructions, it was love that eventually overcame all the bitterness, pain, hatred and sufferings. Indeed, there were many moments when vengeance, hatred, jealousy and all sorts of negative emotions have threatened to overcome us, but eventually love triumphed, again and again.

Without love, there can therefore be no faith, and no hope, and mankind would have always remained bitter forever. It is the warmth of love in our hearts that transformed us mankind from the people of darkness and wickedness that we were, into the people of light, and God’s beloved children. This is what each and every one of us as Christians have been called to, to be like God in all things, especially in love.

Because God is Love, and all of us who belong to God should therefore have love in our lives, in every actions we take and in everything we say and do. And today, we should follow the example of one of His saints, whose life and works were epitome of practicing love in our actions and life. And that saint is St. Januarius, Bishop of Benevento during the time of the Roman persecutions.

St. Januarius, also known as San Gennaro, was remembered for his great piety and dedication to his flock, and his commitment to the Lord became a great source of inspiration even long after he has passed away. His courageous defence of his faith and love for God allowed him to endure the sufferings and the bitterness of the great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, infamous for its brutality and cruelty.

It was love that allowed St. Januarius to continue to be faithful despite all the challenges he had to encounter, the love for God and for his flock. He chose to endure the bitter sufferings of persecution, rather than to betray the Lord he loved, or to scandalise the faith which would end up in causing his flock to be lost to the faith and fall into hell.

To that extent, God glorified St. Januarius with the gift of His grace, that by his martyrdom and courageous display of faith, he was made saint of the Church, and with a very tangible and visible sample of holiness, by the means of the relic of his blood, which miraculously liquifies during the day of his feast, which is today.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the courage and faith, and foremost of all, the love which St. Januarius showed us all, let us all as Christians therefore turn ourselves towards God with a renewed faith, hope and love in Him. Let us all devote our time, attention and love for Him, each and every days of our life, and not to forget our fellow brethren, in caring for the needs of those who need our love and attention, and more.

May the Lord bless us all and remain with us. May He continue to love us and bless us, each and every days of our life. Let us all be renewed and become, from now on, true disciples and followers of God, the One Who is Love and perfect in love. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 7 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What comparison can I use for the people? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain, ‘We piped you a tune and you would not dance; we sang funeral songs and you would not cry.'”

“Remember John : he did not ear bread or drink wine, and you said, ‘He has an evil spirit.’ Next, came the Son of Man, eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Look, a glutton for food and wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But the children of Wisdom always recognise her work.”

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 4-5, 12 and 22

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

For upright is YHVH’s word and worthy of trust is His work. YHVH loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. O YHVH, let Your love rest upon us, even as our hope rests in You.