Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of God in the Sacred Scriptures we are reminded to put our faith in the Lord and to trust in Him, asking Him for strength and guidance in our respective journeys of life. We are all called to follow Him and to walk in His path, modelling ourselves and our lives based on all that He has taught us through His Apostles and disciples, and through all the holy men and women, all those who have dedicated themselves to walk in the path of the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard of the time when King Solomon of Israel, the son of King David who succeeded him as the king over all the people of God, the Israelites. We heard how Solomon, who was then still young and inexperienced, asked the Lord for wisdom and guidance so that he might be able to follow in the great examples set by his father. He prayed for wisdom to be a good leader for the people of God, asking the Lord to show him the path forward as he took over the kingship and leadership from his father.

The Lord did not just grant Solomon what he had asked for, because he did not ask for more wealth, power or glory unlike what most people would have asked for. He humbly asked for wisdom and guidance to be a good leader for the people of God, and God gave him just that, a wisdom unsurpassed by others, which made him famous beyond the lands of Israel. At the same time, God gave Solomon wealth, power and glory unsurpassed and unmatched, and this made the kingdom of Israel to be a great kingdom at the height of its power.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the works of the Lord and His disciples as they went from place to place ministering to the people, proclaiming the truth of God and the Good News of His salvation. There were so many people following them and desiring to listen to the Lord that the disciples were often overwhelmed. They could not even have a proper time to rest. As we heard in our Gospel today, even when they finally managed to get away to a secluded place on their own, the people managed to figure out where they were going and went there ahead of them.

There, despite the tiring works that He had done earlier, the Lord still ministered to the people, teaching them and speaking to them, spending a lot of time with them. It was at that time when the disciples were likely given a time to rest while the Lord continued to work tirelessly, reaching out to His people. We saw in that occasion just how beloved each and every one of us are to God, and how fortunate we are to have been beloved in such a manner by the Lord. God has sent to us His only begotten Son to be our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Through what we have heard today, we have seen how God loves us, wants to be reconciled and reunited with us, that He reached out to us and bestow upon us His blessings and graces. However, more often than not, we are not able to grasp His love and efforts because we are too busy with our many preoccupations and worldly desires. We are often too busy thinking about our many concerns and plans in life to notice God and His presence in our lives, only remembering Him when we have need of Him, and forgetting Him when we do not need Him.

Today, all of us are called to be like Solomon, in humbling ourselves before the Lord and asking for His guidance and wisdom, so that we may discern carefully our path in life going forward from now on. And we also should model ourselves based on the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, whose feast we celebrate today. St. Agatha of Sicily, a renowned martyr and saint from the time of the Great Persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperors can indeed inspire us to be better Christians in true deeds and actions.

St. Agatha was born into a noble Roman family and she made a vow of holy and perpetual virginity, which she offered to God freely and wholeheartedly. Her great beauty was noted by a pagan Roman prefect named Quintianus, who did all he could to try to persuade and coax her to marry him. But despite his best efforts, his pressure and even threats, all those could not sway St. Agatha from abandoning her vow of virginity and her faith in the Lord. She remained resolute in her conviction and desire to follow the Lord.

As that time coincided with the intense persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Decius, which was a particularly brutal period of intense persecution against Christians, the displeased and disappointed prefect reported St. Agatha to the authorities, and as the prefect Quintianus himself presided over the trial, he hoped that the threat of suffering and death would make St. Agatha to give up her stubborn resistance and refusal to abandon her faith in God. Instead, St. Agatha remained even more ardent in her faith and refused to give up.

She prayed to the Lord saying, “Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, You know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am Your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil.” And despite the efforts the prefect tried to incarcerate, torture and make her life difficult, St. Agatha would not be swayed and she remained faithful to the very end. She was tortured with all sorts of punishments, and had her breasts cut, surviving a burning at the stake before eventually dying in prison, remaining faithful to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all be inspired by the great examples set before us by the young King Solomon and by St. Agatha, the great Holy Virgin and Martyr. Let us all follow their examples in faith and commit ourselves to walk in the path of faith and grow ever stronger in faith and loving God more and more with each and every passing moments. Let us all seek the Lord with ever greater conviction and ask Him for guidance and strength that we may draw ever closer to Him, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 118 : 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

How can young people remain pure? By living according to Your word.

I seek You with my whole heart; let me not stray from Your commands.

In my heart I have kept Your word, that I may not sin against my YHVH.

Praise to You, o YHVH; instruct me in Your statutes.

That, with my lips, I may declare all Your spoken decrees.

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Kings 3 : 4-13

The king used to sacrifice at Gibeon, the great high place; on the altar there he had offered a thousand burnt offerings. It was in Gibeon, during the night, that YHVH appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you want Me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown Your servant David my father a great and steadfast love because he served You faithfully and was righteous and sincere towards You. You have given him proof of Your steadfast love in making a son of his sit on his throne this day.”

“And now, o YHVH my God, You have made Your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a young boy who does not know how to undertake anything. Meantime, Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen – a people so great that they can neither be numbered nor counted.”

“Give me, therefore, an understanding mind in governing Your people that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to govern this multitude of people of Yours?”

YHVH was pleased that Solomon had made this request. And He told him, “Because you have requested this rather than long life or wealth or even vengeance on your enemies; indeed, because you have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I shall grant you your request. I now give you a wise and discerning mind such as no one has had before you nor anyone after you shall ever have.”

“I will also give you what you have not asked for, both wealth and fame; and no king shall be your equal during your lifetime.”

Friday, 5 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us as Christians are reminded to be holy and pure in all things, in our dealings and in our relationships. In particular today we are called to focus on the nature of marriage and family that is truly sacred in the eyes of the Lord. Then we are also called to reflect on the courage that St. John the Baptist in upholding the sanctity of this marriage against even the powerful ruler of his time when he disobeyed the Law and committed adultery.

In our first reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminded the faithful to keep up their faith and to continue showing the love as they had been instructed and commanded to by the Lord. The author wanted all the faithful especially among the Jewish populations not to be afraid of the opposition and challenges from the community at large and in particular from the authorities who might be trying to prevent them from practicing their faith.

The author reminded all of the people that God was with them and that they would not walk the journey all alone, as God would be journeying with them. The Lord was by their side and walked with them even against the world, and therefore they should not be afraid. In the same way, their predecessor in faith, namely St. John the Baptist himself had suffered and endured bitter struggles for his commitment and faith in the Lord.

St. John the Baptist had been arrested and imprisoned for having rebuked the king, Herod Antipas for his adulterous and sinful behaviour in taking the lawfully wedded wife of his own brother, Herod Philip, as his own wife, when Philip was very much still alive. Such an action was tantamount to adultery and wicked, and a very immoral act for someone who ruled as the king over the land.

Hence, just as St. John the Baptist had earlier on rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their hypocrisy and lack of faith in doubting his work and authentic ministry, thus he did the same against even king Herod, earning especially the wrath and enmity from Herodias, the wife of Herod, the one with whom Herod committed adultery with. Yet, as we can see, St. John the Baptist was not afraid to do so.

Even in prison, he would continue to speak out against the king and his immoral actions, being faithful to the very end. When he was eventually martyred after Herodias tricked king Herod into killing the man of God by using her own daughter as a pawn in the process, St. John the Baptist showed us all what it truly means for us to be a follower of God and to be faithful to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all respond to God’s call to be His faithful servants, and let us all be inspired by the faith that had been shown by St. John the Baptist. Let us all not be deterred by the challenges and trials that we may face throughout our journey, all the temptations and pressures that may persuade or force us to abandon the faith and the efforts to live a genuine Christian living.

Today we also commemorate the feast of St. Agatha, a renowned saint and martyr of the faith, who have died defending her faith and purity in commitment to God. Also known as St. Agatha of Sicily, she lived a virtuous Christian life throughout her youth, and despite the efforts of a pagan Roman prefect who desired her, she resisted the temptations and efforts, and this led to her arrest and torture.

But St. Agatha remained firm and resolute in her faith, and not even all the sufferings and trials could dim her dedication and zeal to the Lord. Despite all the sufferings she experienced, tortured and struck with iron hooks, burnt with torches and even had her breasts cut out with iron pincers, she remained true to her faith, to the very end, as the perfect example of dedication and commitment of a true Christian, one that we can be inspired by and follow.

The Lord has called us all to be His faithful servants and followers. He has called us to be exemplary in our lives and to be inspiration in our way of life such that so many others could be inspired to follow in our footsteps and be saved as well. Let us all pray for the grace of faith and strength, of courage and the ability to dedicate our lives and actions daily for the Lord, in keeping ourselves true to our faith. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 5 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of his bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Friday, 5 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 26 : 1, 3, 5, 8b-9abc

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fail; though war break out against me, I will still be confident.

For He will keep me safe in His shelter in times of misfortune; He will hide me beneath His roof, and set me high upon a rock.

I seek Your face, o Lord. Do not hide Your face from me nor turn away Your servant in anger. You are my Protector, do not reject me.

Friday, 5 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 13 : 1-8

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to offer hospitality; you know that some people have entertained Angels without knowing it. Remember prisoners as if you were with them in chains, and the same for those who are suffering. Remember that you also have a body.

Marriage must be respected by all and husband and wife faithful to each other. God will punish the immoral and the adulterous. Do not depend on money. Be content with having enough for today for God has said : I will never forsake you or abandon you, and we shall confidently answer : The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Consider their end and imitate their faith. Christ Jesus is the same today as yesterday and forever.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are told first of all, of another occurrence when king David of Israel sinned against God besides his adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of his captain Uriah. King David wanted to know the might of his power and the glory of his kingdom and thus, he asked Joab his commander to conduct a great census over all of Israel and Judah, which was abhorred by God because it implied that David had fallen into pride.

And David only realised his folly later on, when the Lord rebuked and reminded him of how futile his pursuits had been. For even if God were to grant him more people to rule over and even a greater kingdom to rule over, it was by the grace of God that David has enjoyed all the wonders and glory, and not by his own strength and power. At that moment, David gave in to his momentary weakness and allowed the devil to tempt him with the temptation of grandeur and worldly glory.

How is this then related to what we heard in our Gospel passage today? In that Gospel passage today we heard of how the Lord Jesus went to His own hometown, that is Nazareth, and began teaching and performing His works among His own townspeople, many of whom had known Him since He was still very young. Almost immediately they doubted and judged Him, wondering how the Son of a simple village carpenter could have spoken so well and performed so many wonders and miracles.

They questioned the Lord in that manner, and because of their lack of faith, the Lord could not do much work and progress in that area, a fact that He Himself lamented and He also mentioned how the prophets of old also devoted their time and efforts to bring God’s truth and guide the people into the right paths, and yet it was the same people who rejected the prophets and persecuted them. The people of Israel and Judah to whom the prophets belonged to refused to listen to them, although those prophets were known to them.

It was the people considered as pagans and idolaters that listened to the prophets, like the widow of Zarephath in Sidon who gave the prophet Elijah a lodging and food during his time away from the land of Israel. It was also Rahab the prostitute in Jericho who helped the scouts of the Israelites to hide from those who wanted to look for them. It was the Samaritans who welcomed the Lord Jesus when He was rejected by His own countrymen and even those from His own village.

All of these show us that when we mankind become proud and allow ourselves to be swayed by the temptations of the devil, we will end up falling into his trap and we may be like those Israelites who failed to welcome and accept the truth of God through the prophets because they were too engrossed with themselves and their pursuits for worldly happiness and glory. The devil knows this very well and he will do whatever he can to prevent us from opening ourselves to God and allowing Him to touch our lives.

Are we willing and able to welcome the Lord into our hearts and open them for Him to enter? His own townspeople and countrymen rejected Him out of their pride and existing prejudices, their reluctance to listen and change according to what the Lord has revealed to them. But we can be better than them, and we are called to follow the Lord and be attuned to His truth and love. Today, we have a great example in St. Agatha, a great holy woman and martyr of the faith, who can inspire us through her life and faith how we should live our lives with faith.

St. Agatha, also known as St. Agatha of Sicily was one of the most highly venerated and famous saint of the early Church for her great courage in defending her faith. She was born into a noble family and encountered great trouble when a Roman prefect made advances on her and she rejected it because she dedicated herself in a holy vow of virginity to God. The Roman prefect, angered by her rejection, brought St. Agatha to be arrested and persecuted under the then vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius.

Despite all the persecution and suffering that she had to face, St. Agatha refused to renounce her faith in God and she also was remembered for her prayer for courage before Lord, asking Him to guide and protect her as she was led like a lamb into the midst of wolves. She suffered all sorts of terrible torture and assault, humiliation and actions that would have made any other people to give up, but St. Agatha remained firm in her faith until she died in martyrdom eventually in prison. She remained true to her faith in God till the very end, and her example inspired many others through the centuries and more afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Agatha has shown us what it means to truly have faith in God and to be faithful to Him, with a living and genuine faith that allow God to enter into our lives so that our lives and actions may be transformed by His grace and love. Are we able to devote ourselves to God in this manner? Are we able to spend our time and commit ourselves to God as St. Agatha and many other of our holy predecessors had done? Let us not allow the devil from penetrating into our hearts and minds, and definitely we must not allow him to tempt us into sin.

Let us all discern carefully the path that we will take in life so that we may truly serve God with all of our hearts and minds from now on with faith, as St. Agatha and innumerable other saints and holy men and women of God had done. May the Lord help and guide us through this journey, and help us to resist the temptations of pride and desire, and love Him with ever greater devotion and sincerity from now on. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 1-6

At that time, leaving the place where He raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, Jesus returned to His own country, and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and most of those who heard Him were astonished.

But they said, “How did this come to Him? What kind of wisdom has been given to Him, that He also performs such miracles? Who is He but the Carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the Brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here among us?” So they took offence at Him.

And Jesus said to them, “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives, and in their own family.” And He could work no miracles there, but only healed a few sick people, by laying His hands on them. Jesus Himself was astounded at their unbelief. Jesus then went around the villages, teaching.”