Saturday, 23 April 2016 : Fourth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the opposition which the Jews and the Pharisees showed to the works of St. Paul and the other Apostles as they went about to preach about the Lord. These people were not happy that the Apostles were preaching their teachings and were gaining plenty on followers, many people who abandoned their old ways and listened to the truth, believing in Jesus and became members of the Church.

And in addition, those Jews and influential Pharisees were also irritated at the fact that St. Paul and the other Apostles, St. Barnabas and others, who preached the faith and salvation also to the non-Jews, or the Gentiles. These people at that time would refer to the Greeks, the Romans and all others whom the Jews regarded as those who did not belong to the chosen race of Israel, and also those who did not obey the laws of Moses as they did.

In order to understand this, we have to understand the dynamics of the society and the communities of the people of God at that time. The people at the time of Jesus, especially in Judea and in some other regions were divided between the Jews and the Gentiles or the non-Jews. The Jewish people, or the descendants of the people of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel kept the laws of Moses faithfully, all the ordinances, rules and laws descended through the generations to them.

And the Jews often kept to themselves and observed those laws strictly, and in many occasions, many of them kept the laws without truly knowing the true intention of those laws as originally intended by God when He gave it to His people through Moses. And in the end, because of the fact that God had chosen them to be His people, they developed the superiority feelings and attitude in their dealings with the Gentiles.

How is this so, brethren? The Jews often treated the Gentiles as those who were not worthy of God’s salvation, and that they alone were worthy to receive God and His grace. And those others were not chosen by God and therefore were heathens and pagans. This is one of the explanation why the Jews were not happy when St. Paul and the other Apostles were preaching that the non-Jews could also be saved by believing in Jesus.

Even within the Church itself at that time, there were Pharisees who believed in God, who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. And yet, if we read through the subsequent parts of the Acts of the Apostles, we will see in some parts, the tension and disagreements between them and St. Paul and the Apostles based on their works with the Gentiles and about their salvation in Jesus.

In all these, we see how mankind often placed their trust in things other than God. Even though the laws of Moses were originally given to the people of Israel by God, but over the many centuries that followed, its true meaning and purpose had been twisted beyond recognition by the many different interpretations and modifications that those people throughout the ages had done to the Law of God.

And these people resisted any change or modification to what they thought was right, and they refused to believe in the truth revealed by God through Jesus His Son. And when the Apostles tried to continue the good works of God, by preaching that same truth to them and to those who have not yet heard of it, they resisted and even persecuted the Apostles and the holy servants of God.

It is a reminder for us all that each and every one of us as those who have believed in God and who have been charged with the same responsibility to preach the Good News to all mankind, will not have it easy for us to live this life in good faith. We will encounter difficulties, challenges and even persecution for enduring to be faithful and remaining committed to God and His cause.

But we should not give up or give in to the world and its demands, just as in the past, St. Adalbert and St. George, the saints whose feasts we are celebrating today, have been devoted to God and were committed to a holy life, and for the salvation of their fellow brethren, even though they were threatened with suffering and even with a painful death.

St. George the Martyr was a great soldier, a soldier in the Roman army, who served during the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was renowned for his particularly oppressive attitude against the Church and all Christians. But St. George did not hesitate at all to resist the Emperor, when he pronounced the persecution of Christians throughout the Empire. And when he ordered all the soldiers to renounce their former gods and offer sacrifices to the Emperor and the pagan gods, St. George refused to do so.

Thus, St. George courageously stood by the faith which he had in the Lord even in the face of suffering and death. He faced his death without fear, knowing that the Lord would be with him, and through his examples, many others would be inspired to remain strong in their faith as well, and thus avoid damnation and destruction which is awaiting all those who refuse to believe in God.

St. Adalbert on the other hand was a renowned bishop of Prague, known also as St. Adalbert of Prague. He was a great servant of the Lord, a faithful worker who spread the Good News among the then still pagan peoples of the region known as Bohemia and Prussia, in what is now northern Germany and western Poland. St. Adalbert continued to minister to the people there despite challenges and opposition, and even when his life was threatened, he did not give up.

And thus, when he was martyred in the midst of doing his works, he did not fear and he was filled with joy knowing that, just as St. George had done before him, and just as many other holy saints and martyrs had done before him, he will be rewarded gloriously for all that he has done for the sake of the people of God, out of love for his Lord and Master.

Let us all also therefore be inspired to live faithfully as these holy saints had lived, and let us all fill our lives with good deeds and commit ourselves to God in all that we do. May this Easter season be a time of renewal for us all, that we may draw ever closer to the Lord our God, and be closer to His saving grace. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 23 April 2016 : Fourth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 14 : 7-14

At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples at the Last Supper, “If you know Me, you will know the Father also; indeed you know Him, and you have seen Him.”

Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough.” Jesus said to him, “What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever sees Me sees the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?”

“All that I say to you, I do not say of Myself. The Father Who dwells in Me is doing His own work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; at least believe it on the evidence of these works that I do.”

“Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in Me will do the same works that I do; and he will even do greater than these, for I am going to the Father. Everything you ask in My Name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon My Name, I will do.”

Saturday, 23 April 2016 : Fourth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

Saturday, 23 April 2016 : Fourth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 13 : 44-52

The following Sabbath almost the entire city gathered to listen to Paul, who spoke a fairly long time about the Lord. But the presence of such a crowd made the Jews jealous. So they began to oppose with insults whatever Paul said.

Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out firmly, saying, “It was necessary that God’s word be first proclaimed to you, but since you now reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we turn to non-Jewish people. For thus we were commanded by the Lord : I have set you as a light to the pagan nations, so that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Those who were not Jews rejoiced when they heard this and praised the message of the Lord, and all those destined for everlasting life believed in it. Thus the Word spread throughout the whole region.

Some of the Jews, however, incited God-fearing women of the upper class and the leading men of the city, as well, and stirred up an intense persecution against Paul and Barnabas. Finally they had them expelled from their region. The Apostles shook the dust from their feet in protest against this people and went to Iconium, leaving the disciples filled with joy and Holy Spirit.

Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the last Sunday of the current liturgical year, where the cycle of the Church’s liturgical celebrations reached a culmination in the celebration of Christ our Lord and King, as the One Who is the true ruler and authority over all things throughout the universe. Today we mark the occasion of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Lord and Master of all things that are in existence.

Through the Scripture passages today, we heard about the Lord Jesus Who is a King, and the One True King from Whom all authority, power and wisdom came from. Yet, His kingship is not akin to one that is of the world, that is, His kingdom is not like the kingdoms that exist in this world. On the other hand, His kingship and His kingdom transcends the worldly boundaries of power, authority and majesty.

Why is this so? That is because the kingdoms of this world, their rulers and masters are all very bound and affected by the worldly aspects of glory, of fame, of influence and affluence, of human praise and positions of fame, and they continue to strive ever more for the greatness in accordance of human measures, and that is why the kingdoms and the powers of this world are ever concerned about the self-aggrandisement and gathering of more power and glory for themselves.

Human and worldly powers are always fragile and temporary. These powers did not last beyond certain criteria and requirements that need to be met in order to preserve the powers in accordance with the ways of this world. This is why much misery, sufferings and injustice occurred in the world, both past and present, because of the tempting nature of having in possession such power and authority, and thus our reluctance and unwillingness to let them go from us.

Just for an example, the kings, princes, dukes and other worldly powers went to war with each other because each of them wanted to increase their dominion, influence and power. And because they have given themselves in to the ways of this world, therefore, accordingly, they wanted to preserve what they had, even at the expense of morality and justice.

This is why, if we look at the many rulers and governments that are maintained with iron fist, they are always in constant fear of losing their power to those who do not belong to the ruling elites. And they would use all things and armaments in their disposal in order to protect themselves and avoid their own fall from power and glory. This was exactly what Jesus said to Pilate, about if His kingdom were to be of this world, His supporters would have gone out all the way to save Him.

Instead, Jesus clearly stated that His kingdom and His kingship are different from all that, from all the traditional notions of power and glory that we mankind and this world are familiar with. This is because His kingdom is a kingdom of truth, of justice, of righteousness, and ultimately His kingdom is a kingdom of love. He leads as a King, not by fear and tyranny, nor by anger or hatred, but through genuine leadership shown through example and perfect love.

We have to realise that all of us are truly fortunate to have been placed under the grace and sovereignty of our Lord’s eternal and universal kingship. His kingship is eternal because it is a kingdom which reign and rule will never end, and God’s rule will persist forever without end. And His great rule will extend all over the entire universe, over all of creation and over the entire existence, since He has created all things, and therefore rightfully, He also lords it all over all of them.

But He did not despise all those that He had created, nor did He oppress them and treat them as if they were slaves. This is unlike the common action and perception of the kings and princes of this world, who stand above the rest of their respective peoples and treat them as subjects and subordinates that need to serve their needs in all things.

Instead, God is a loving Master, Who had not just expected from us obedience and genuine faith, but He also gave us the love, care and commitment that is equivalent if not greater than the obedience, faith and commitment that He is expecting from us. His kingship is a kingship of love and justice, and He as the King, leads all by His examples, through servant leadership.

Do we all still remember what Jesus frequently told His disciples about Himself? That He came into this world to serve and not to be served, meaning that even though He is King, and truly the King and Master of all the universe, but all these did not make Him proud or haughty, but instead, in order to fulfil perfectly the love and compassion which He has for us, He came down into this world, not as a great conquering King, but instead as a humble and poor Man.

Yes, and He came offering Himself to be our Deliverance and as our Saviour, to save us from our distress, and by giving Himself up, He showed us an example how a leader should lead others, by example and not by power and tyranny. We know the phrase that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is a reminder that we should not be obsessed with worldly power but rather we should look up at our Lord and see His good examples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how is this relevant to us? It is very relevant indeed, since all of us by partaking in our Lord and as we become the members of His Body, we have also shared in His divine and eternal kingship. We have been called to be a shepherd, priest and king through our baptism, and in the divine kingship we share with our Lord, we have our responsibilities to play.

And it is that all of us should live righteously before the Lord, leading one another by example through our own actions, that in all the things we do, we become paragons of righteousness, virtue, love and justice. Let us all remember this even as we rejoice and honour our Lord Jesus Christ, King of all kings and King of all the universe, that we also have a share in His kingship, both in the privilege and honour, as well as in its responsibilities.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, our King, Lord and Master be with us always, and may He guide us on our path, that we shall become ever better guides for our own brethren, and may through our actions and deeds, more souls shall come closer to the Lord and His salvation. Be with us, Lord, our Master and King. Amen.

Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 18 : 33b-37

At that time Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Does this word come from you, or did you hear it from others?”

Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed You over to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship does not come from this world. If I were a King, like those of this world, my guards would have fought to save Me from being handed over to the Jews. But My kingship is not of this world.”

Pilate asked Him, “So You are a King?” And Jesus answered, “Just as you say, I am a King. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears My voice.”

Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 1 : 5-8

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him Who loves us and has washed away our sins with His own blood, making us a kingdom and priests for God His Father, to Him be the glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

See He comes with the clouds and everyone will see Him, even those who pierced Him; on His account all the nations of the earth will beat his breast. Yes. It will be so. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, He Who is, Who was, and Who is to come : the Master of the universe.

Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

The Lord reigns, robed in majesty; the Lord is girded with strength.

The world now is firm, it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o Lord, from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your house day after day without end, o Lord.

Sunday, 22 November 2015 : Thirty-Fourth (34th) Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Christ the King, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Daniel 7 : 13-14

I continued watching the nocturnal vision : One like a Son of Man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into His presence. Dominion, honour and kingship were given Him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served Him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; His kingdom will never be destroyed.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the well known teaching of our Lord Jesus on the matter of the paying of taxes to Caesar. From there came the words we all must have known, that we ought to pay back or give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God. This is a clear reminder for us, to do our duties to the Lord, which we often forget and neglect.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters? It is because we are often so occupied by the many things of this world to the point that we forget about giving glory to God. It is too often that we seek to please the world and give in to the demands of the world, at the expense of our faith in the Lord and at the cost of our conviction to walk in the way of our God.

We try to please the world, try to be accepted and not to be different from the opinion of the majority, trying to be seen as being open and receptive, all so that we may feel the acceptance by the world, that the world may welcome us and even praise us for what we have done, and also to give us that sense of comfort. But at what cost, brothers and sisters in Christ?

At the cost of our very own soul and our own salvation. We have been given much by the Lord, from our lives to our talents and skills, and all the other graces and blessings He had granted us. But at the same time, this cannot mean that we ought to be on the other extreme, that is to give honour to the Lord alone and rejecting all that is in the world.

For this will mean bringing and unnecessarily causing the opposition of the world upon us. Yes, indeed in the ages past and even now, many have suffered persecution, oppression and even martyrdom for their faith, but this does not mean that we have to purposefully look for this kind of trouble by actively opposing the world and rejecting the world completely and entirely.

Truly, what we should do is just as what Jesus had advocated in the Gospel today. It is the middle way between the two extremes. The Pharisees had tried to trap Jesus in His own words, that if He chose any of the two choices, then they would condemn Him. If He chose to say that we should obey God alone, then the Pharisees would condemn Him before men, before the Roman leaders. If He chose to say that we should obey human authority alone, then they would also condemn Him because then He would have blasphemed against God.

In the same way therefore, we must walk the path of compromise between the two. Remember, give to the world what is due to it, and give to the Lord, what we owe to the Lord. We owe the world the obedience to the human norms and laws, taxes and other things that bind us as people of this world. On the other hand, we owe the Lord even more, namely our love and obedience, our obedience to His laws and commandments, and ultimately our lives itself is due from the Lord.

What we have to take note is, we must be very careful and vigilant, that in observing the laws of this world, we do not make compromises that undermine the wholeness of the truth of the Lord which we have received, and the wholeness of the faith which we have for the Lord. We should be good citizens and follow the customs of the world, but not to the point of sacrificing or giving in to worldliness in the matter of faith and in the matter of our obedience to God.

Today we celebrate the feast of two great martyrs, St. Marcellinus and St. Peter the Martyr, both of whom were Roman martyrs of the early Church, who were martyred at the time of the great persecution against the Church and the faithful by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. They were likely martyred because of their opposition to the Emperor’s demands that all Romans, including Christians, must offer sacrifices to the pagan gods and to the Emperor.

Most if not all Christians at that time were good citizens, paying taxes and obeying the laws as far as they do not impinge on the core tenets of the faith. When the Emperor and the Roman state began to encroach upon this and force things that would cause the people to sin against God, many of them refused to follow suit and as a result were martyred, as St. Marcellinus and St. Peter were martyred.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on this today, so that we may find our true path in this world, that while we conform to some ways of the world, we will be careful not to let anything to sway or distract us away from our true allegiance to the Lord our God. May God Almighty be with us always and guide us, so that we may resist the temptations of the world and remain faithful to Him. Amen.