Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th 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, on this day all of us heard from the Acts of the Apostles, an excerpt from which our first reading was taken, about the experience which St. Peter the Apostle had received, when he was called by God to visit an influential Gentile, or a non-Jew named Cornelius. St. Peter initially received a vision from God, of animals from various kinds, which are not counted among those considered clean by the Jewish dietary laws.

God commanded St. Peter through His voice, to eat those animals, which St. Peter refused to do so, because he had been obedient to the Jewish dietary customs and would not want to do something contrary to those rules and laws. But God rebuked St. Peter and said that, whatever He had deemed to be clean and worthy, St. Peter should not have considered as unclean.

This vision repeated for three times, and which came to his mind once again, as St. Peter came to the house of Cornelius and his family, who believed in God and were baptised as Christians after having heard the Good News. Then St. Peter realised what God’s true intention was when He showed him the vision three times. It showed him that God, ultimately loves each and every one of us, regardless of who we are and what our background is, regardless of our race or language, appearance or by whichever parameter we often categorise ourselves with.

He is our Shepherd, Who knows each and every one of us, as He mentioned it in our Gospel passage today. And He has called all of His sheep to Himself, and leading them to the right path towards salvation. He desires nothing else for us other than our reconciliation and happiness in Him. And to Him, every one of us are equally beloved and dear to Him, unlike the Israelites at the time of Jesus, who thought that the Lord loved them alone over all the other nations.

Indeed, God has called the Israelites first from among all the other nations. They were His first chosen people, but that time, God wanted to reveal the truth about Himself, that all people, from all races and from all sorts of origins and backgrounds are His, and they are dear to Him. He has thus called on all of them to come to Him, to be reconciled and to be reunited in one flock, led and guided by Him, the Good Shepherd of all.

And to them, He sent His disciples, such as St. Peter, and especially St. Paul, the Apostle who had the most interaction with the Gentiles. Through these devoted servants and messengers, He turned the hearts of many of them to Him, and many were called to the faith, just as Cornelius and his family had shown us. Those Gentiles showed great faith, just as much and in fact even more than the Jews themselves, and they received the same gift of faith and the Holy Spirit as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to remember the missionary nature of our faith. All of us have received this faith from someone else, be it from our own parents, or from someone who have instructed us in the faith. And they, in turn, have received the faith from others as well. Ultimately, all of us received our faith from God, through His Church, by the works of His Apostles and disciples, by which we have received the Good News and therefore made to share in His inheritance.

And many of these servants of God have suffered and died, just as the Apostles had, in order to bring us the faith and the Good News. Among them, today we remember two faithful saints, St. George and St. Adalbert, both of whom were martyred for their faith, and became source of great inspiration to many of the faithful throughout the ages. They have done all they could in order to bring God’s salvation to His people, imitating the example of He Who is the Good Shepherd.

St. George was a Roman soldier who served under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was renowned for his particularly intense persecution of Christians. St. George himself was secretly a Christian, and when the Emperor commanded a universal persecution of all Christians, their arrest and torture, and for all the members of the army to sacrifice to the pagan Roman gods and to the Emperor, St. George was said to have resolved to remain faithful to God, and embraced the likely fate of his own martyrdom.

St. George openly declared his faith before the Emperor, who in his outrage, sent St. George to be imprisoned and tortured, hoping that he would abandon his faith after having been subjected to torture, suffering, as well as persuasions and temptations. It was told that the Emperor even sent a beautiful young woman to seduce St. George, but it backfired, as the young woman was instead converted, after having been convinced as such by the holy saint.

In fact, it was told that the Empress herself was so touched by St. George’s faith that she herself became a convert, and henceforth known as St. Alexandra of Rome, martyred together with St. George for their faith in God. The Emperor was particularly angered by the fact that even his wife had been persuaded and convinced to accept the Christian faith.

Meanwhile, St. Adalbert was a faithful and devout servant of God, who in his capacity as the bishop of Prague in what is now Czech Republic, went to evangelise among the pagan peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. He was devoted to the mission entrusted to him, and despite challenges and opposition from those who disagreed with his ways, St. Adalbert persevered faithfully and his flock benefitted greatly from his commitment and hard work.

St. Adalbert devoted himself to missionary work, and many people were baptised under his work. Many souls were saved from certain damnation by his works, calling men to repentance and to be forgiven and reconciled with God. However, he did not have his work easily done before him, and instead, he encountered many challenges and opposition, not least from the pagans themselves, many of whom refused to be converted to the true faith.

That was how St. Adalbert met his martyrdom as he went on to preach to the Baltic pagans, many of whom refused to welcome him and accept the Lord as their Saviour. But, his perseverance and hard work won him the admiration of many among the faithful, as well as many others who walked in his footsteps throughout the years. As we can see, St. George and St. Adalbert have both shown us, how we can be faithful to the Lord, in the mission entrusted to them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we too, have been entrusted with the same mission. The Lord wanted all the people, all of mankind to be reconciled with Him, and there are still many out there who have not yet received the Lord and His Good News, and many still have rejected Him and wandered off His path. It is now up to us, to continue the good works that the Apostles, and the saints, St. George and St. Adalbert had begun.

May the Lord be with us and guide us in this journey, so that we may be able to find our own way to Him, and be able to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the mission and cause He has entrusted to us. May the Lord bless us all and our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 10 : 1-10

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. But the shepherd of the sheep enters by the gate. The keeper opens the gate to him and the sheep hear his voice; he calls each of his sheep by name and leads them out.”

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but rather they will run away from him, because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this comparison, but they did not understand what He was saying to them.

So Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, I am the Gate of the sheep. All who came were thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not hear them. I am the Gate. Whoever enters through Me will be saved; he will go in and out freely and find food. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness.”

Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 41 : 2-3 and Psalm 42 : 3, 4

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for You, o God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God?

Send forth Your light and Your truth; let them be my guide, let them take me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You reside.

Then will I go to the Altar of God, to God, my gladness and delight. I will praise You with the lyre an harp, o God, my God.

Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 11 : 1-18

News came to the Apostles and the brothers and sisters in Judea that even foreigners had received the Word of God. So, when Peter went up to Jerusalem, these Jewish believers began to argue with him, “You went to the home of uncircumcised people and ate with them!”

So Peter began to give them the facts as they had happened, “I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when, in a trance, I saw a vision. Something like a large sheet came down from the sky and drew near to me, landing on the ground by its four corners. As I stared at it, I saw four-legged creatures of the earth, wild beasts and reptiles, and birds of the sky.”

“Then I heard a voice saying to me : ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ I replied, ‘Certainly not, Lord! No common or unclean creature has ever entered my mouth.’ A second time the voice from the heavens spoke, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call unclean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all drawn up into the sky. At that moment three men, who had been sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were staying.”

“The Spirit instructed me to go with them without hesitation; so these six brothers came along with me and we entered into the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an Angel standing in his house and telling him : ‘Send someone to Joppa and fetch Simon, also known as Peter. He will bring you a message by which you and all your household will be saved.”

“I had begun to address them when suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon them, just as it had come upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said : ‘John baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ If, then, God had given them the same gift that He had given us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to resist God?”

When they heard this they set their minds at rest and praised God saying, “Then God has granted life-giving repentance to the pagan nations as well.”

Monday, 16 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened from our first reading, taken from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, about what had happened to St. Stephen, one of the seven first deacons to be chosen by the Apostles, who was also the very first martyr of the Church. As he performed his works among the people and teaching about the Lord Jesus and His salvation, those who were opposed to the Lord and His teachings came after St. Stephen and harassed him.

Nonetheless, even though they brought false witnesses against Him, just as much as they have also done against the Lord, St. Stephen spoke with great wisdom and clarity, defending the Lord with zeal and devotion. He pointed out how God had done so many great things and good deeds for His people throughout the ages, right from the beginning of time, towards the time of Abraham, and then Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, and then to the time of the prophets, but the people refused to turn away from their sins and repent.

Instead, they doubled down on their sins, and they rejected the Saviour Whom God had sent into their midst, Jesus Christ, Whose life and works St. Stephen was testifying on at that time before the Sanhedrin. And we saw later on, how these words further angered St. Stephen and made them to seize the holy servant of God, and stoned him to death. Thus, St. Stephen became the first martyr of the Church.

St. Stephen showed us that there will be challenges facing those who keep their faith firmly in God, as he himself had done. St. Stephen reminded us that if we want to follow the Lord and be His true disciples and servants, then we must first of all, believe in God and in all of His teachings, in all of our ways, in all of the words we utter, in all the actions we take and which we do in our daily lives, in how we interact with one another.

And if we truly believe in Him, and not just merely having a superficial faith, then all of us should be ready to defend our faith just as St. Stephen has done. No, it does not mean that we should all purposefully and intentionally seek martyrdom and death in God, but rather, we must be firm in our conviction and desire to live our lives faithfully and in full obedience to God’s will, regardless of what persuasions and temptations we meet in our lives may convince, persuade or even force us to do.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how many of us truly believe in God with all of our heart, our mind and our strength? How many of us are truly convinced that God’s ways are the way forward for us, and not that of our own? If we are true Christians, then we should indeed put God as the clear priority of our lives, turning towards Him in all of our ways and dealings, and turning away from sin.

But, the sad reality is that, many of us are so busy and so preoccupied with worldly concerns, for our needs, wants and desires in this world that we end up being distracted from God. Our priority in life is not God, but instead, the desire and pursuit for money, for success, for worldly prestige and honour, for sexual pleasures and for satisfaction of our ego and greed.

That is why so many of us have distanced ourselves from God, and unless we do something concrete in our lives, now and not delaying any further, we will end up falling into damnation in hell, when it is too late for us to turn back and regret all that we have done wrongly in our lives. Let us all therefore, spend time and effort to be more faithful to God, that each and every one of us, by our words, actions and deeds can be inspiration for one another, and also for all those who have yet to receive God’s salvation, that they too may be saved.

May the Lord bless us all and all of our endeavours, our good works and commitment to Him. May He strengthen us day after day, that we will always be faithful to the commandments and laws of God, and that we will always put God as our first and foremost priority before everything else just as St. Stephen, holy deacon and martyr had done. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 22-29

At that time, the next day after Jesus fed the five thousand men, the people, who had stayed on the other side, realised that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with His disciples; but rather, the disciples had gone away alone.

Bigger boats from Tiberias came near the place where all these people had eaten the bread. When they saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Master, when did You come here?”

Jesus answered, “Truly, I say to you, you look for Me, not because of the signs which you have seen, but because you ate bread and were satisfied. Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give it to you, for He is the One on Whom the Father has put His mark.”

Then the Jews asked Him, “What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do?” And Jesus answered them, “The work God wants is this : that you believe in the One Whom God has sent.”

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 118 : 23-24, 26-27, 29-30

Although princes conspire against me, Your servant will observe Your decrees. Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

When I explained my ways, You responded; instruct me then in Your precepts. Explain to me all Your ordinances, and I will meditate on Your wondrous deeds.

Keep me away from deceitful paths; be gracious and teach me Your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart upon Your laws.