Friday, 21 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the occasion when St. Paul stood before Festus, the governor of Judea and king Agrippa the Roman client ruler of the country, as he waited for his transfer to Rome following his decision to appeal his case to the Emperor himself. St. Paul was accused and condemned by the Jewish leaders and elders who opposed him and his efforts to spread the Christian faith among the Jews and the Gentiles alike. At that time, he testified about Christ before the two men, and tried to convince them about the truth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

In our Gospel passage today, then we heard St. Peter and his conversation with the Lord at the Lake of Galilee, when after His Resurrection, the Lord appeared to His disciples as they were fishing by the lake. St. Peter was the very first one to recognise the Lord and he quickly came ashore to meet Him. The Lord called St. Peter aside after He had breakfast with the disciples, and we then heard what He told St. Peter in today’s Gospel, first asking him whether he loved Him, not just once but three times, again and again.

Through this action, the Lord showed that He has forgiven St. Peter’s thrice denial of Him at the time when He was arrested and brought before the chief priests during His Passion, and not only that but He also reaffirmed St. Peter as the leader of all the Apostles and as His Vicar, commissioning him as the first Pope and Leader of the Universal Church, to be the one to take care of His vast flock, all the people of God, together with the other Apostles and leaders of the Church.

This was also clearly not an easy task because the Lord Himself said how while in his younger years, St. Peter was free to go wherever he wanted and free to do whatever he wanted to do, in his old and end of days, he would be led in chains, endure prison and suffering, and all sorts of trials and challenges, all sorts of humiliation and ridicule for the sake of the Lord and his faith in Him. This is a revelation of how St. Peter would one day suffer and die for the sake of his faith, as he would go on to Rome, just as St. Paul also went to Rome, and while St. Paul would be beheaded at the end of his journey in Rome, St. Peter would be arrested, condemned to death and crucified upside down in the place where today stands the great Basilica of St. Peter.

The two Apostles had been called and chosen by the Lord to be His witnesses and missionaries among the various people they had been sent to. They responded with dedication and commitment, and they showed their love and devotion by committing themselves and all of their efforts to reach out to those who have not yet known the Lord, and they gave themselves wholeheartedly to the mission, even though they knew that they would have to suffer for all that they had done. They endured it all through faith.

Today, all of us are reminded through these two Apostles that being Christians and followers of the Lord require from us a total commitment, effort as well as dedication. And we should also trust the Lord in whatever that He has led us into, as we must believe that He is with us, guiding us at all times, through the Holy Spirit that He has given us, leading us through life. Often times we will have to make tough decisions and to resist the temptations to walk away from the Lord’s path. And that is why we must always anchor ourselves strongly to the Lord at all times.

Today we should be inspired by the examples set by St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions, holy martyrs of the faith, who have steadfastly dedicated themselves to the glory of God. St. Christopher Magallanes was a devoted priest in Mexico who lived and endured through the difficult years of persecution of the Church and Christians by the government that was deeply anticlerical and even anti-Christian at that time, as seminaries and schools ran by the Church were forced to close and many were deprived of the sacraments.

St. Christopher Magallanes was among the many priests who had to endure the most challenging conditions as everything were arrayed against them. Although he preached patience and refused to support pro-Christian rebellions, he was accused falsely of promoting rebellion and arrested under false charges. He was summarily executed with other Christian faithful, and to the ver end, he remained faithful and committed to the mission that God has entrusted to him and others. Many other Christians also perished during that time, and yet, their continued devotion to God despite the worst that happened to them became a great inspiration for many.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by the examples of these great saints and martyrs who have gone before us. Let us follow in their footsteps and walk ever more courageously in the defence of our faith in the Lord, speaking up the truth of God and living our lives to the fullest possible as best as we can. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 21 : 15-19

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”

Friday, 21 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 11-12, 19-20ab

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

The Lord has set His throne in heaven; He rules, He has power everywhere. Praise the Lord, all you His Angels.

Friday, 21 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 25 : 13b-21

As King Agrippa and his sister Berenice were to stay in Caesarea several days, Festus told him about Paul’s case and said to him, “We have here a man whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews accused him and asked me to sentence him.”

“I told them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over a man without giving him an opportunity to defend himself in front of his accusers. So they came and I took my seat without delay on the tribunal and sent for the man. When the accusers had the floor, they did not accuse him of any of the crimes that I was led to think he had committed; instead they quarrelled with him about religion and about a certain Jesus Who has died but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”

“I did not know what to do about this case, so I asked Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem to be tried there. But Paul appealed to be judged by the Emperor. So I ordered that he be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.”

Thursday, 12 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are brought to attention of the sufferings of the followers of Christ just as the Lord Himself had suffered at the hands of those who opposed Him and refused to believe in Him. And because of this, we have to keep our faith in God strong and keep up our hope in Him even as we face trials and challenges in this life.

The Lord wants us all to be strong and to keep the faith, and because of that He has constantly reassured us through His servants, the Apostles and the saints, whose lives become our inspiration and strength, that we may continue to follow Him with zeal. And today, in particular, we recall the glorious life and inspirational faith of St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, holy bishop of the Lord and martyr of the Church.

St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was a monk of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth a few hundred years ago, at the time when the Christian faithful were divided between those who obeyed the Pope and are in communion with him, both the Roman Rite and the ones following the Eastern Orthodox communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

By that time the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople had been separated due to the Great Schism for over five hundred years, and the sum of mutual distrust, political circumstances and greed by others involved in the matter led to increasingly distant and hostile relationship between the two sides, and consequently, the faithful also ended up becoming ever more divided and hostile against each other.

St. Joseph Kuntsevych was a monk who eventually rose to the position of leadership within the Church as an Archbishop. At that time, a significant majority of the local Ruthenian population in the region now known as Belarus and Ukraine sought to be reconciled with the Pope led by the Metropolitan of Kiev and other bishops, who worked towards reconciliation that culminated in the Union of Brest.

Through that Union many communities of the faithful were led by their bishops and the clergy into full communion and reconciliation with the Pope and therefore becoming once again a member of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. However, this did not mean that the reunification of the Church occurred smoothly, as there were significant opposition from some segments of the faithful, both the clergy and laity alike.

It was in that situation that St. Josaphat Kuntsevych became a leader and shepherd for his flock, despite the rising tensions and clashes between those who were supportive of the Union and those who opposed the Union. He had the difficult job of trying to resolve the tensions and differences between the feuding factions of the faithful. Nonetheless, he dedicated himself as best as possible and did what he could to steer the faithful through to the right path despite the challenges.

And this was also accompanied by his personal holiness, exemplary conduct and life, constantly mortifying the flesh and resisting the temptations to sin. Nonetheless, amidst the rising sectarian tensions and violence eventually it led to the martyrdom of this faithful and holy man of God, as the townspeople who were opposed to the Union with the Pope rose against St. Josaphat and attacked him, tortured him and threw his dead body into the river.

As we can see from this case, St. Josaphat Kuntsevych showed us that being faithful to God is often not an easy task and is likely to be a challenging journey. But we must not lose hope or faith in God as the Lord will be with us, guiding us in our journey together towards Him. We must remain faithful, no matter what challenges we may encounter, that when the Lord comes again, we can confidently say that we have kept the faith, and will be worthy of His eternal glory.

May God bless us all and guide us, strengthen us in our journey that we may draw ever closer to Him, with each and every moments of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, 12 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 17 : 20-25

At that time, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was to come. He answered, “The kingdom of God is not like something you can observe, and say of it, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘See, there it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you.”

And Jesus said to His disciples, “The time is at hand, when you will long to see one of the glorious days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Then people will tell you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go with them, do not follow them. As lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will it be with the Son of Man; but first He must suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.”

Thursday, 12 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 145 : 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

The Lord sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Thursday, 12 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philemon 7-20

I had great satisfaction and comfort on hearing of your charity, because the hearts of the saints have been cheered by you, brother. Because of this, although in Christ I have the freedom to command what you should do, yet I prefer to request you in love. The one talking is Paul, the old man, now prisoner for Christ. And my request is on behalf of Onesimus, whose father I have become while I was in prison.

This Onesimus has not been helpful to you, but now he will be helpful both to you and to me. In returning him to you, I am sending you my own heart. I would have liked to keep him at my side, to serve me on your behalf while I am in prison for the Gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your agreement, nor impose a good deed upon you without your free consent.

Perhaps Onesimus has been parted from you for a while so that you may have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave. For he is very dear brother to me, and he will be even dearer to you. And so, because of our friendship, receive him as if he were I myself.

And if he has caused any harm, or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this and sign it with my own hand : I will pay it…. without further mention of your debt to me, which is you yourself. So, my brother, please do me this favour for the Lord’s sake. Give me this comfort in Christ.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the words of the Lord speaking to us and reminding us of the need for us to be faithful to God and to dedicate ourselves to Him despite the challenges, trials and persecutions we may encounter through life, and this is because the Lord has always been faithful to the Covenant that He has established with each and every one of us. We have nothing to fear and trust that a great and wonderful future and inheritance have been prepared for us by the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard what St. Paul wrote in his Epistle to St. Timothy, one of the earliest leaders of the Church as bishop and successor to the Apostles. St. Paul encouraged and strengthened St. Timothy as his mentor in the faith, that he ought not to lose courage and hope even in the midst of challenges that he might face throughout his own ministry given how often St. Paul had to endure persecution and ridicule during his missionary journeys.

St. Paul encouraged St. Timothy to continue in his mission and dedicate himself to the service of God, to ‘fan into flame’ the zeal and the Spirit that God had given unto them, referring to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which St. Paul had received from the Apostles, and which St. Timothy had also received together with other members of the faithful. St. Paul uttered the powerful and encouraging words, that ‘God had not given us the spirit of fearfulness, but the spirit of strength, love and good judgement.’

St. Paul reassured St. Timothy and as such all of us as Christians, that he trusted completely in the Lord that no matter what, as he knew that for all the sufferings he had to endure, in the very end, the Lord will vindicate him and grant him and all the faithful ones, true joy and eternal glory, and St. Paul emphasised how the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world had triumphed against sin and death, darkness and evil, and showed us all the path to freedom from all of these, through Christ.

And all these are related to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard of the encounter and exchanges between the Lord and the members of the Sadducees, one of the two most powerful and influential groups within the Jewish community at that time. While the Pharisees represented those who zealously guarded the traditions and spiritual life of the people, the powerful intellectual and religious elite who had great influence over the society, the Sadducees represented the secular and powerful societal elites who were mostly irreligious and worldly in their attitudes and bearing.

The Sadducees rejected spiritual aspects of the Jewish customs and teachings, refusing to believe in the presence of Angels and the Spirit, as well as the concept of the afterlife. They rejected the notion that there is life after death and Resurrection after death into a new life. To them, this life on earth is the only life they have and are living through, and no other things matter more than to enjoy the world as it is, and thus, they tend to live an excessive lifestyle, and had self-serving and selfish attitudes.

But the Lord rebuked them well when they came up to Him and tried to test Him with the trick question, asking if seven brothers all shared a woman as their wife, as according to the Jewish laws and customs, when a man died without having any descendant to continue his name and lineage, it was his brother’s responsibility and obligation to take the widow of the deceased man to be his own wife, and the firstborn child of the union would be considered as the child of the deceased brother.

Based on what we have heard, the Sadducees showed their disdain and lack of belief in anything spiritual, on the matter of afterlife and faith, by their worldly way of thinking, desiring for worldly pleasures and joys, including having wives and therefore perhaps other forms of worldly desires and wants. Their preoccupation with such matters showed that their attachments to the world prevented them from being able to follow the Lord and have faith in Him.

This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, in this world, all of us as Christians are challenged to overcome our excessive attachments to the world and to be more trusting in God and allow Him to guide us in our path. St. Paul had shown this in our first reading today, as he reminded all of us not to worry about worldly trials and persecutions, or even to suffer and to endure ridicule and rejection from the world as we live our lives in a most Christian manner. Instead of worrying about our lives now, let us instead focus our attention on the assurance of the life that is to come, the fullness of life and true joy in the kingdom of God.

Today, coincidentally we celebrate the feast of saints whose lives and examples essentially explain what we have been discussing today. The Holy Martyrs of Uganda, namely St. Charles Lwanga and his many companions, missionaries and local converts to the Christian faith, martyrs of brutal persecutions against them, show us what it truly means for us as Christians to remain faithful to the Lord even amidst opposition, and at times, danger and threats to our livelihood and existence.

At that time, as Christian missionaries began to come to the region now known as Uganda, those missionaries were quite successful in their efforts and quite a few people came to believe in the Lord and gave themselves to be baptised as Christians. Before long, the missionary works and efforts led to conversions among the local populace, and quite a few of the local nobles and high-ranking officials also converted. Unfortunately, this caused members of the faithful, the missionaries and the local converts to be caught up in the bitter political struggle for control at that time.

Very soon, the king who was suspicious and wary of the rapid growth of the Christian faith and its rapidly growing followers, began to persecute the Christians from all walks of life, from the common men right up to even those among the nobles and the officials. Christian objections and opposition to some of the immoral attitudes and actions of the king and the then still pagan members of the community made opposition and persecution against them to become even more rampant and powerful.

It was at Namugongo just outside of modern day Kampala, the capital of Uganda, that dozens of Christians, including St. Charles Lwanga, the chief page or servant of the king, were burnt to death because of their refusal to recant their Christian faith and embrace the immoral actions ordered by the king. As the chief page, St. Charles Lwanga often did his best to protect the victims of the king’s immoral actions and behaviours from his efforts and advances at fornication and sin with them. St. Charles Lwanga became a Catholic and baptised many hundreds of his fellow compatriots in the faith secretly, even from the time when he himself was just merely a catechumen.

When the Christian converts refused to abandon their newfound faith in God, they were tortured and brutally put to death, mostly by burning on the stake. Their courage in standing up for their faith, their steadfast refusal from abandoning their faith and safeguarding their own personal desires and safety, knowing that God was always with them and standing by them, became a great source of inspiration and example for many Christians over the years. At the site of their martyrdom now stands a great Basilica, the Basilica of Holy Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo which draw regularly over two million pilgrims every year.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard and seen the faith of St. Paul the Apostle, the courage and faith of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda we are all called to reexamine our way of life and our faith. Are we able to trust in God and to have faith in Him as our holy predecessors had shown us all? Are we able to detach ourselves from worldly excesses, from worldly temptations and the allures of worldly pleasures? Let us all reorientate our lives so that from now on, we live no longer for the purpose of attaining our own selfish desires, but rather to glorify God with every single actions and deeds in life.

May the Lord be with us always and may He be our guide, that we may always have that courage and strength in us to carry on living with faith even though we may endure ridicule, suffering, pain and even persecution because of our dedication to the Lord. Let us all be ever more genuine followers of Christ from now on. O Holy Martyrs of Uganda, St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, pray for us all your brothers and sisters in faith, that we too may have the strength and courage to follow the Lord as you have done. Amen.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 18-27

At that time, the Sadducees also came to Jesus. Since they claim that there is no resurrection, they questioned Him in this way, “Master, in the Scriptures Moses gave us this law : if anyone dies and leaves a wife but no children, his brother must take the woman, and with her have a baby, who will be considered the child of his deceased brother.”

“Now, there were seven brothers. The first married a wife, but he died without leaving any children. The second took the wife, and he also died leaving no children. The same thing happened to the third. In fact, all seven brothers died, leaving no children. Last of all the women died. Now, in the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife? For all seven brothers had her as wife.”

Jesus replied, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry, but are like the Angels in heaven. Now, about the resurrection of the dead, have you never had thoughts about the burning bush in the book of Moses?”

“God said to Moses : I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is the God not of the dead but of the living. You are totally wrong.”