Wednesday, 18 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 8 : 1b-8

This was the beginning of a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem. All, except the Apostles, were scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church. He entered house after house and dragged off men and women, and had them put in jail.

At the same time, those who were scattered went about, preaching the word. Philip went down to a town of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. All the people paid close attention to what Philip said as they listened to him, and saw the miraculous signs that he did. For, in cases of possession, the unclean spirits came out shrieking loudly. Many people who were paralysed or crippled, were healed. So there was great joy in the town.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 7 : 51 – Acts 8 : 1a

Stephen said to the Council, “But you are a stubborn people, you hardened your hearts and closed your ears. You have always resisted the Holy Spirit just as your fathers did. Was there a prophet whom your ancestors did not persecute? They killed those who announced the coming of the Just One Whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the Law through the Angels but did not fulfil it.”

When the Council heard the reproach Stephen made against them, they were enraged and they gnashed their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared : “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.”

But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying : “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Then he knelt down and said in a loud voice : “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he died. Saul was there, approving his murder. This was the beginning of a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem.

Monday, 16 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 6 : 8-15

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some persons then came forward, who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. They argued with Stephen but they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

As they were unable to face the truth, they bribed some men to say, ‘We heard him speak against Moses and against God.’ So they stirred up the people, the elders and the teachers of the Law; they took him by surprise, seized him and brought him before the Council.

Then they produced false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against our Holy Place and the Law. We even heard him say that Jesus the Nazarean will destroy our Holy Place and change the customs which Moses handed down to us.” And all who sat in the Council fixed their eyes on him, and his face appeared to them like the face of an Angel.

Monday, 26 December 2016 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we remember and celebrate the memory of St. Stephen, the first martyr or Protomartyr of the Church. He was one of the first seven Deacons of the Church, who in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles was described as a man filled with the Holy Spirit and with the grace of God, but who was persecuted by the Jewish authorities, who pressed false charges against him and eventually made him to suffer and die.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us must be wondering why are we celebrating the memory of a martyr, so brutally tortured and made to die by stoning as described in the Acts of the Apostles, just one day after Christmas, a day of rejoicing and celebration for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It must have felt very weird to rejoice on one day with festivities and celebration, and suddenly on the next day, to remember the memory of a great martyr persecuted for his faith.

But this is the reality of our faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, that St. Stephen had made very clear in his defence before the elders and the Jewish authorities. St. Stephen made a long and passionate defence of himself and what he believe in before those leaders as seen in the Acts of the Apostles, where he cited how God had made His salvation through Jesus Christ His Son, tracing it right down from the beginning of time to the time of Christ.

And yet, those leaders and many of the people refused to believe in God even after seeing and witnessing all that Jesus had done before them. There were still many who were stubborn and refused to believe because they have hardened their hearts against God and His love. And these persecuted those who believe in the Lord, and spoke out against those who believe in the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.

It is a reminder for all of us that our faith is not just about rejoicing and happiness, not just about Christmas and its festivities. It is also about the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and His suffering, which the world had inflicted upon Him, because they were against Him. There are always going to be many people who are adamantly against the Lord and His ways, and in their stubbornness, they oppose us and made us to suffer, as they themselves had done upon our Lord.

Jesus Himself had said that all who followed Him would suffer, from the persecution by the world and from rejection by all who rejected His message. That was what happened to the Apostles and to the many disciples of Jesus. Many had to grapple with the many problems they encountered when they had to choose between obeying their families and their societal norms and rules against their faith in the Lord.

It is important for us to take note of this as Christians. As those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will endure difficulties and obstacles in our lives, and from time to time we will be challenged and we will be asked to stand up for our faith. Are we then ready to stand up and defend our faith as St. Stephen had done? St. Stephen stood up for his faith, and he was richly rewarded for that faith.

Are we able to do the same, brethren? Are we able to devote ourselves to our God in the same way? It is important that we are able to stick closely to what the Lord had taught us, and not to falter in the face of persecution and challenges. We should not be those who choose what we want to believe and what we do not want to believe.

In this season of Christmas, and particularly on this day when we honour St. Stephen, the great martyr and servant of God, let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, and find in ourselves the courage and the determination to live faithfully in all our ways, so that in everything we say and do, we will always honour God and give glory to Him. Let us not forget that out of His great love for us, He has willingly given Himself as a willing and worthy sacrifice for our sake, that we may be saved.

He wants nothing else but love and commitment from us. Let us all use this opportunity to thank Him and to show Him our love, by following in the footsteps of St. Stephen, be loving and caring to our brethren in need, and be forgiving for those who have slighted us and persecuted us. Let us be courageous to live in accordance with our faith, and not be fearful anymore, for surely God will be with us. May God bless us all, and may St. Stephen intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Monday, 26 December 2016 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Matthew 10 : 17-22

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of Me, so you may witness to them and the pagans.”

“But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it is not you who will speak, but the Spirit of your Father in you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn again parents and have them put to death.”

“Everyone will hate you because of Me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Monday, 26 December 2016 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 30 : 3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17

Be a Rock of refuge for me, a Fortress for my safety. For You are my Rock and my Stronghold, lead me for Your Name’s sake.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit; You have redeemed me, o Lord, faithful God. I will rejoice and be glad in Your love, for You have seen my affliction.

Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, from those after my skin. Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me in Your love.

Monday, 26 December 2016 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Acts 6 : 8-10 and Acts 7 : 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some persons then came forward, who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. They argued with Stephen but they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When the Council heard the reproach Stephen made against them, they were enraged and they gnashed their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared : “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.”

But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying : “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”