Tuesday, 2 June 2020 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scripture we are presented with the calling for us to deepen our relationship with God, to follow Him and to obey His Law and commandments. We are called to reflect on our lives’ actions and whether they truly proclaim God’s glory and whether we have been faithful in doing what God has commanded and taught us to do in our lives.

In our first reading today, we listened to the words of St. Peter the Apostle reminding the faithful to remain steadfast in their faith, not to be deceived by the words of the false prophets and teachers, that they hold fast to the true and authentic Christian faith and truth as had been taught and revealed to them by the Apostles. Indeed, in time to come, there would be many who spread heresies and falsehoods among the people, causing confusion and division, because these people did not have strong and genuine faith in God.

Many of them put their own human and worldly desires, wants, and ambitions ahead and above their faith and obligation to stay true to that faith in God. They propagated their own ideas and false ways, and in the end, causing division and bitterness among the members of the Church, the faithful people of God. St. Peter therefore in his Epistle today forewarned of what would happen to the faithful community, and reminded them all to keep their faith.

Then in our Gospel passage today we heard about the Lord speaking to the Pharisees, sent by the elders and the teachers of the Law to set Him up and test Him, as the latter group wanted to find a reason to have Christ arrested and sentenced for His ways and teachings which the Jewish elders and the elites found to be unnerving and against their own way and teachings. At that time, the Pharisees used the matter of paying taxes in order to trick the Lord into a seemingly inescapable situation.

Why is that so? That is because no matter what the Lord supported of doing, it would end up hurting Him and His credibility, and through the Pharisees, the elders and the teachers of the Law wanted to use this opportunity as strong evidence against the Lord. At that time, paying of taxes was a topic that could bring about bitter argument, disagreement and violence among the people. Many people at that time despised paying taxes and only did pay grumblingly.

That is because many among the Jewish people did not like being ruled by the Romans, who had recently taken over control of Judea and the surrounding regions. And no one likes to have their incomes taxed and burdened with fees that they have to pay, less still to the so-called conquerors and overlords. That was why at that time, the tax collectors were also often hated and reviled in the society. If the Lord answered that the people ought to pay taxes to the Romans, then the Pharisees could gather strong evidence against Him by the people.

In addition, as the taxes must be paid with the Roman coins, in denarius or sestertius at the time, which were casted with the image of the Roman Emperor, to some among the Jews, it would be tantamount to acknowledgement of the Emperor’s divine status and also a form of idolatry which made the matter even more complicated. Thus, if the Lord had supported the paying of taxes, He could have landed Himself in a very big trouble.

On the other hand, if the Lord had said that the people should not pay the taxes, then the elders could quickly construe that as an act of disobedience and rebellion against the Romans, and as the Romans took acts of treason and disobedience, less still rebellion, very seriously, it could have led to a very adverse and troublesome ending for the Lord and His disciples. But the Lord solved the situation in a very ingenious way that certainly none of His opponents had expected.

He simply said that, ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God’. This means that the denarius and sestertius coins used in the tax payment indeed belong to man, and since the government decreed it that way, that all the citizens and other people living in the Empire must pay their due to the state and the Emperor then they ought to obey it. And in the same way, if we obey the law of the state and give what the state demands, then we must also obey the Lord and give to Him what He has asked from us.

It is something that all of us ought to discern carefully and consider, whether we have been truly faithful to God or not in our lives. Have we given Him what we should have given Him, our love, our faith, fidelity and obedience, our commitment and dedication? Or have we instead been distracted by various worldly concerns and desires, by the many temptations of life that we end up forgetting our obligations and responsibilities as Christians?

As what St. Peter had reminded the faithful of the need for us to put our faith in God and to stay steadfast in our devotion to Him, this is where we have been called and challenged to do so, in our daily living. And today, we also celebrate the feast of two great saints and martyrs, whose life examples, courage and faith can inspire us to be good Christians on our own. St. Peter, who was named after St. Peter the Apostle, and St. Marcellinus were two renowned martyrs of the Church.

Both of them were known as faithful servants of God who died during the particularly harsh persecution of Christians under the rule of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. St. Peter and St. Marcellinus were faithful to the Lord and even though there was not much known about them, but their life stories and commitment must have been so powerful and moving for many, that their commemoration were widespread and they were respected as faithful servants of God to the very end of their lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to reexamine our lives and how we have lived them all these while. We have our holy and dedicated predecessors, like St. Marcellinus and St. Peter to show us their courage and commitment, that they were willing to suffer and die for their faith amidst the tough and challenging persecutions of their faith by the Roman Emperor and the administration. Let us do our best, in our own lives, to be good servants of God, to be faithful in all things, and at the same time, be good citizens of this world, obeying the rules and laws of the land as long as they do not contradict our Christian Law and commandments.

May the Lord help us and give us the strength needed for us to persevere in faith from now on, following the examples of the saints and martyrs, and become inspirations ourselves for our fellow brothers and sisters. Let us all listen to the Lord, and follow His advice, ‘to give to the world, what belongs to the world, and most importantly, give to God, what belongs to God, that is our hearts, our whole existence, our whole beings.’ May God bless us in our every good endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 12 : 13-17

At that time, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees with members of Herod’s party, with the purpose of trapping him by his own words. They came and said to Jesus, “Master, we know that You are truthful; You are not influenced by anyone, and Your answers do not vary according to who is listening to You, but You truly teach God’s way. Tell us, is it against the Law to pay taxes to Caesar? Should we pay them or not?”

But Jesus saw through their trick and answered, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a silver coin and let Me see it.” They brought Him one and Jesus asked, “Whose image is this, and whose name?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they were greatly astonished.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 89 : 2, 3-4, 10, 14 and 16

Before the mountains were formed, before You made the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity – You are God.

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night.

Seventy years to our life, or eighty if we are strong; yet, most of them are sorrow and trouble; speeding by, they sweep us along.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. Let Your work be seen by Your servants and Your glorious power by their children.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

2 Peter 3 : 12-15a, 17-18

As you wait for the day of God, and long for its coming, when the heavens will dissolve in fire, and the elements melt away in the heat. We wait for a new heaven and a new earth, in which justice reigns, according to God’s promise.

Therefore, beloved, as you wait in expectation of this, strive, that God may find you rooted in peace, without blemish or fault. And consider, that God’s patience is for our salvation. So then, dearly beloved, as you have been warned, be careful, lest those people who have gone astray, deceive you, in turn, and drag you along, making you stumble, and finally fall away.

Grow in the grace and knowledge of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ : to Him be glory, now, and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us and reminding us about faith that each and every one of us should have in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Mediator between us and God, through what He has done lovingly for our sake, by His sacrifice, suffering and death on the Cross. We must have that trust in His love and providence as what we have heard the army centurion had done in our Gospel today.

For the context, the army centurion or commander who was mentioned in the Gospel today and met the Lord Jesus on the way, asking for His help in healing his very sick servant, was likely a non-Jewish person or a Gentile. That was because the whole region of Judea, Galilee, Samaria and indeed the entire Mediterranean region were under the power and rule of the Roman Empire. Even though at that time parts of the Israel was still somewhat autonomous under the rule of the descendants of King Herod, but many of the state apparatus and the military had been subsumed by the Romans.

It was likely that the army centurion was either a Roman or at least a Greek. And in that context, we can see an even greater surprise and astonishment that would have happened among all those who followed the Lord. The disciples of the Lord definitely would not have expected that an army centurion of such a high rank, feared by many and considered as a pagan would act in such a way that showed just how great his faith was in God and how firm he was in his belief.

The Jews at that time held firm in their pride of being the descendants of God’s chosen people, the Israelites and looked down upon the Gentiles as pagans and unworthy people, and in particular, the many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law exhibited this bias in the strongest manner. Imagine their astonishment if they can see just how strong the faith and how genuine the dedication that army centurion had in the Lord.

And the irony was such that those same people who took great pride in themselves being God’s chosen people, refused to believe in the One Whom God Himself had promised since the beginning of time, the Saviour Whom He had promised to send into the world to bring about its salvation. Instead of welcoming Him and listening to His truth, many of the Pharisees, teachers of the Law and the Jewish people rejected the Lord and refused to believe in Him.

Yet, it was that army centurion, supposedly pagan and unworthy in the eyes of the Jews who truly welcomed the Lord into his heart and mind, putting his whole trust to Him without condition and hesitation. And when the army centurion asked of the Lord for a favour saying that he is not worthy to have Him in his place and just by His words alone that his servant would be healed. That in fact showed just how much he trusted in the Lord.

Why is that so? That is because it is often that we need to see and to experience something directly in order for us to believe in something. For someone to be able to trust just by the weight of words alone means someone must have really trusted in the other person, and that is exactly what the case is for the army centurion in his belief in the Lord. Are we able to have this kind of faith in us, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, we have to ponder on the examples set by two saints whose feast we celebrate, namely that of Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian. Pope St. Cornelius was the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Church during the particularly vicious persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Decius. St. Cyprian meanwhile was the influential Bishop of Carthage and Church leader whose works with Pope St. Cornelius were important for the strengthening of the Church through the turbulent times and for the salvation of many souls.

At that time, there was a bitter division in the Church led by the influential Novatian, who held the position that Christians who have left the Church or obeyed the state’s commands of offering sacrifices to the pagan gods and idols could not be welcomed back into the Church and that the Church remained shut off to those people. Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian vehemently opposed this argument and strove to show the Church that welcomed sinners who returned to the faith.

Eventually, Pope St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian would be martyred for their faith, but this is not before they had worked hard to convince the Church and the Christian communities to remember how each and every one of them were sinners before God, and also for us, remembering what we have listened from the Scriptures, that we must never be proud or be exclusive in our attitudes in faith.

Just as the army centurion was able to show such a great and wonderful faith in God despite being supposedly a pagan and most unlikely to have faith, therefore, we cannot take the position of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, or that of Novatian, who took pride in their status as God’s chosen people to the exclusion of others whom they thought to be less worthy or inferior.

Let us all then be open to God’s love and also be open-minded in our interactions with one another, with the intention for the good of one another’s condition in life and faith. Therefore let us all together as one people be more committed and be more faithful, looking upon in particular, the faith of the army centurion which is so genuine and real, and aim that our own faith and devotion to God may be like his. May God bless us all and continue to guide us in this journey of faith. Amen.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 7 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus had finished teaching the people, He went to Capernaum. A Roman military officer lived there, whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade Him to come and save his servant’s life. The elders came to Jesus and begged Him earnestly, saying, “He deserves this of You, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.”

Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house, when the Roman officer sent friends to give this message, “Sir, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy to welcome You under my roof. You see, I did not approach You myself. Just give the order, and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to the other, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” The people, sent by the captain, went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 27 : 2, 7, 8-9

Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your innermost Sanctuary.

YHVH is my strength, my shield; my heart was sure of Him; I have been helped and my heart exults; with my song I give Him thanks.

YHVH is the strength of His people, the saving refuge of His anointed. Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance, be their Shepherd and carry them forever.

Monday, 16 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Timothy 2 : 1-8

First of all, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for rulers of states, and all in authority, that we may enjoy a quiet and peaceful life, in godliness and respect. This is good and pleases God. For He wants all to be saved, and come to the knowledge of truth.

As there is one God, there is one Mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, Himself human, Who gave His life for the redemption of all. This is the testimony, given in its proper time, and of this, God has made me Apostle and herald. I am not lying, I am telling the truth : He made me teacher of the nations regarding faith and truth.

I want men, in every place, to lift pure hands, in prayer, to heaven, without anger and dissension.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day first of all we listened to the tribulations and difficulties that were faced by the Apostles, as they were assailed by the opposition from the chief priests and the elders of the people, who refused to believe in their teachings, which proclaimed the Risen Lord. They first of all have refused to listen to the Lord and to His teachings when He was in their midst, and then, they refused to listen to His disciples.

Yet, despite the challenges they encountered, the disciples continued to serve the Lord and obeyed His will to the very end, carrying out His works in many places and among many peoples, calling on many to repent from their sins and turn to the righteous ways of the Lord. This was despite the threats and challenges they faced, having been warned by the elders of the people and the whole council of the Sanhedrin.

In the same manner, saints and martyrs throughout the ages and the history of the Church have faced similar difficulties and persecutions. There were many martyrs who died defending their faith because they refused to abandon the Lord or to betray Him. They would rather perish in their earthly existence rather than being condemned to an eternity of suffering in hell.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Stanislas, a holy bishop and martyr, a Polish bishop of Krakow who lived approximately eight hundred years ago. St. Stanislas was a great servant of God who helped to establish the Church and its teachings more firmly in the land of Poland. However, he had to contend with a king, who eventually would be the one to slaughter him in cold blood, king Boleslaw II the Bold.

The king’s heavy handed and unfair treatment of the Church as well as many other segments of the society, and his rumoured sexual immorality and wicked behaviour led to the courageous bishop to rebuke the king publicly and opposed him in several occasions. In the end, the bishop St. Stanislas excommunicated the king. The king was furious, and sent armed men to strike the bishop. When these were afraid to do as the king commanded, the king himself struck and killed the martyr.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard of the tale of the Apostles and the disciples, as well as the martyrs like St. Stanislas, we see how being a devout Christian and a true follower of our Lord is not an easy path. That would require commitment and even at times, taking risk and suffering. But all of these, they have done, all the faithful servants of God, for the sake of God, He Who has given us everything and loved us dearly with all of His heart.

God has loved us so dearly, just as He Himself said it through His conversation to Nicodemus, the good Pharisee. He said that God so loved the world, that He gave us all His only beloved Son, as He was speaking about Himself, that through His coming into the world, by His dwelling among us, and by the Good News He had brought unto our midst; and ultimately, by His suffering and death on the cross, all of us who believe in Him will not perish but live forever with Him in glory.

That is because, God has paid for us the price of our liberation in His own Blood. He has shed His own Blood on the cross, and paid the ultimate price for our own good and for our lives. If He, Our God, has given us so much, then how can we His people, all of the believers, members of the Church, all Christians, not love Him in the same manner? God does not ask much, just our love and dedication, as much as He has loved us first.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore be exemplary in our faith and in our lives. Let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, and spend time with Him through prayer and commitment to love Him. Let us all show one another, the love which God has given us, and which we now share amongst us, that many more people, having seen our faith made alive through our actions, may come to believe in Him as well, and answer God’s call to salvation, just as the Apostles had done long ago.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our path, and bless us in all of our endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Stanislas, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 3 : 16-21

At that time, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through Him the world is to be saved.”

“Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God. This is how the Judgment is made : Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

“For whoever does wrong hates the light, and does not come to the light, for fear that his deeds will be seen as evil. But whoever lives according to the truth comes into the light, so that it can be clearly seen that his works have been done in God.”