Friday, 21 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (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 called to reflect on what the Lord had told us through the accounts of David and how he spared Saul, the King of Israel, and not killing or harming him despite having the perfect opportunity to do so. Then we also heard the calling of the Twelve Apostles as those whom the Lord had chosen as the ones to be His chief helpers in spreading the Good News and in reaching out to as many people as possible.

First of all, as we heard from the first reading from the Book of Samuel, we heard how David who was pursued by King Saul had to go into hiding from place to place, and had to go into the cave in which they were cornered. But Saul and his men were not aware that David was just within their reach. At that moment, when Saul was sleeping, it was the perfect opportunity for David to strike at Saul and claim the Kingship of Israel for himself. After all, he had been made the rightful king and the chosen, anointed one of God through the prophet Samuel.

Yet, David did not do so, and only cut a part of the king’s robe, and even that was regretted by him. He knew that Saul himself was anointed by God like himself. Although God had indeed chosen him as the new King over all Israel to replace Saul, but David still acted with honour and recognised him still as king, and he did not want harm to come either to Saul or any of his men. If David had wanted it, he could have grabbed the opportunity and ended his own suffering and trials, seizing the power that was rightfully his. But he did not do so.

That is where we see what kind of man David was. He was truly filled with love for God, a true and genuine love for his Lord and Master. He did everything to serve the Lord and to glorify His Name, and because of that, he put himself in the righteous way of the Lord. For although he has been chosen as the new King of Israel, but that should not have given him the justification to murder a person in the time of his weakness, and less still to do so for the pursuit of power and personal glory. He chose to entrust himself and his fate to the Lord, and made his peace with Saul. It was at that very same occasion in which Saul recognised David as the next, rightful King or Israel.

In the Gospel passage today, we then heard from the story of the calling of the Twelve Apostles, whom God chose from among all of His disciples. The Lord called His Apostles to be the ones to do His works and to bring forth the Good News of salvation to more people, as they did in those years after He has ascended into Heaven. The Apostles went to many places, doing the Lord’s works and establishing the foundations of the Church and building the Christian communities in those places.

They led the faithful through their righteous and just leadership, and through all that they had done in putting God’s works before everything else. They sacrificed a lot in their efforts, suffering persecutions and even having to shed blood and die for the glory of God. They had to endure exile and other forms of difficulties, and yet, they remained virtuous and patient, full of faith in the Lord and they did not allow the temptations and pressures from the world around them to sway them otherwise.

Today, all of us are also presented with the good faith and examples as set by St. Agnes, a renowned Roman martyr from the time of intense persecutions of Christians and the Church. St. Agnes was born into a noble family in Rome, and she was also born as a Christian. At that time, the Roman state and the Emperor were very much against the Christian faith and the Church, and in one last brutal attempt to eradicate them and destroy the threat that Christianity posed to the traditional Roman beliefs and religion.

St. Agnes as a young Roman noblewoman had many suitors and those who were interested in her. Many of those suitors were rejected by St. Agnes as she had dedicated herself to the purity of her dedication to God. She consecrated herself and her virginity, not allowing any of those men to desecrate her virginity and sanctity. This led to some among her suitors to be angry at her, and reported her to the authorities as a suspected Christian, which was a crime then punishable by death.

The Roman prefect, named Sempronius condemned her to death and attempted to kill her by various methods. However, the attempts by several men to defile her virginity failed because they were immediately struck blind before the deed. The attempts to hurt her by other means such as burning on a stake also failed when the flames refused to burn the wood. Eventually, it was by beheading or being stabbed in the throat that St. Agnes met her end through martyrdom, and yet her reward in God is glorious.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have just discussed and through the life of St. Agnes of Rome, we can see how God was always with us and He has always guided us and protected us just as how He prevented those men from defiling the sacred virginity of St. Agnes. The Lord has always been with us and He will guard us against those that intend to harm us. We must have faith in Him and believe in His providence.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore put ourselves in the hands of the Lord and commit ourselves to His embrace, knowing that in Him alone lies our hope and our salvation. May the Lord be with us all and may He give us the strength to follow Him wholeheartedly rom now on, and always, without fear or worry. Amen.

Friday, 21 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 3 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed Twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘Apostles.’ He wanted to send them out to preach; and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Friday, 21 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 56 : 2, 3-4, 6 and 11

Have mercy on me, o God, have mercy; for my soul takes refuge in You; I will find shelter in the shadow of Your wings, till the disaster has passed.

I call on God the Most High; on God, Who has done everything for me : may He send from heaven, a Saviour, and put my oppressors to shame. May God send me His love and faithfulness.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Your glory be over all the earth! For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Friday, 21 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Samuel 24 : 3-21

So Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel and went in search of David and his men to the east of the Wild Goat crags. When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he entered a cave to relieve himself.

Now David and his men were far back in the cave. David’s men said to him, “This is the day which YHVH spoke of : ‘Look I will deliver your enemy into your hands and you will do with him as you see fit.’” So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David regretted having cut off an end of Saul’s robe, and he said to his men, “Let me not lay my hands on my master, for he is YHVH’s anointed.”

With these words, David restrained his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way. Then David himself stepped out of the cave and called after Saul, “My master, the king!” When Saul looked back, David knelt and then bowed to the ground in homage and asked him, “Why do you listen to those who say that I want to harm you?”

“Look, today you have seen that YHVH delivered you into my hands in the cave. I was told to kill you but I held myself back and said : ‘I will not lift my hands against my master who is YHVH’s anointed.’ My father, look at this end of your robe which I am holding! I cut off the end of your robe but did not kill you.”

“Now you may know that I mean you no harm or treason. I have done you no wrong and yet you are hunting me down to kill me. May YHVH be judge between you and me; and may He exact justice from you in my case. But I shall do you no harm. As the saying goes, ‘From the wicked comes wickedness’; as for me, my hand shall not harm you.”

“But who is it you are after, o king of Israel? Are you pursuing a dead dog? A flea? May YHVH be Judge between you and me. May He see and uphold my cause and deliver me from your hands.”

After David had spoken these words, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, my son David?” He wept aloud and said to David, “You are right and I am wrong, for you have repaid with kindness the harm I have inflicted on you. This day you have shown your righteousness to me by not taking my life when YHVH put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go unharmed?”

“May YHVH reward you for what you have done for me today. Now I know for certain that you shall reign and the kingdom of Israel will be firm in your hand.”

Saturday, 21 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the sacrifice of Christ our Lord, our High Priest, which He had made for our sake. He is the Lamb of God, the Lamb of sacrifice, Who had offered none other than His own Blood, His own Flesh for our sake. In order to understand this fully, the whole significance of it, we need to understand what is the meaning of sacrifice which is offered for the sake of someone’s sins.

In the Sacred Scriptures, ever since the beginning of time, the people of God, mankind had offered sacrifices to God, from the offerings of Abel and Cain, to thw offering of Noah after the Great Flood, to the offering of Abraham our father in faith, to the offering of Melchizedek, the King of Salem, to the offering of the prophets from the days of Moses to the days of the kings of Israel and Judah. All of these sacrifices are meant to honour and glorify the Lord, to offer Him worship and praise, and at the same time also for the forgiveness of one’s sins.

In the days of old, the priests were instructed by the laws which God passed down to Moses, to sprinkle some of the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the people. The blood therefore represents cleansing, the purification of one from his or her sins, and at the same time, also a renewal of the covenant which they had made with the Lord their God. The sacrifice to God is the sign of the formalisation of the covenant between God and His people, as what Abraham had done when God made the covenant with him, and which Moses then renewed as he led the people of Israel out of Egypt.

But as mentioned in the Epistle to the Hebrews, the power of the blood of goats, lambs and heifers, the offering of worldly and earthly sacrifices are limited. Such was the great extent, weight and consequences of our sins, the whole sum of the sins of all mankind, both past, present and the future, that no amount of animal sacrifices and offerings can replace them, save that of the worthy Lamb of God.

Nothing is more perfect than God, and therefore since God Himself had descended into this world as a Man, Jesus Christ, He has Himself become the Lamb of sacrifice and the High Priest at the same time, as the One Who purifies the people of God, not by other blood or sacrifices, but by His very own Blood, the perfect offering of Himself. It was the ultimate and selfless sacrifice, which overcome the sins caused by the selfishness and greed of our ancestors.

It was God’s love that made all of them possible. Otherwise, what God had done would have been incomprehensible to us. But indeed, God’s ways are not like our ways, and while we think that something is impossible for us to do, for God nothing is impossible. All things are possible for Him, including our salvation, our liberation and freedom from our sinfulness.

And yet, despite this great love shown to us by our God, there are still those who have not accepted that love, and even rejected Him, those who refused to open their hearts to welcome the Lord. Even Jesus was rejected by His own disciples and His own relatives, as we witnessed in the Gospel passage today, when His own relatives said that He was out of His mind because of what He was doing with the people.

The same therefore will happen to us, even as Jesus Himself had prophesied on how everything will turn out to be for us, all those who follow Him and walk in His ways. The world will reject that love which God had poured on it, and there will be many people who do not walk in His ways. But how do we then react to this? How do we face the challenges that will come our way? Then we really should look up the example of St. Agnes the Great, the holy martyr of the faith, whose feast we are celebrating today.

St. Agnes lived during the time of great difficulty for the Christian faith, where the Church and the faithful came under constant attacks from the Roman authorities, who were decidedly against the faith, and who persecuted many of those who profess their faith to God. It was during the reign of one of the most hostile Emperors that St. Agnes lived in, during the time of the Emperor Diocletian, infamous for his brutal persecution of Christians.

St. Agnes was born into a Roman noble family, and because of her family’s background, had had many suitors since her very young age. But she would not give in to their pursuits and evaded them, determined to maintain her virginity and purity, which she offered and dedicated to the Lord. But those men who wanted to have her were not happy being rejected, and therefore, they accused her before the authorities and reported that she was a Christian.

Later on she was persecuted, tortured and made to endure many humiliations at the hands of those who hated and rejected her. But St. Agnes did not give up and neither did she fight back, instead putting her complete trust in the Lord through prayer, she gave up her life, knowing that by doing so, she was doing the will of God, and also at the same time showing many others the inspiration and the way forward in their faith towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we look upon the examples of St. Agnes the holy martyr, let us all from now on devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord in the same manner as she had done in the past. Let us be genuine in our faith, and be ready to defend it against the opposition and challenges from the world, which will surely come our way in the future, if not already happening at the present.

May the Lord help us all to remain committed to Him, and may He empower each and every one of us to live in faith, and to give ourselves to Him, that in all the things we say, we do and we act, we will always bring glory to Him and be found worthy of Him. Let us appreciate what the Lord had done for us, because He has loved us, and by that love, He has saved us by His own death on the cross. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 21 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Mark 3 : 20-21

At that time, Jesus and His disciples went home. The crowd began to gather again and they could not even have a meal. Knowing what was happening, His relatives came to take charge of Him, “He is out of His mind,” they said.

Saturday, 21 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 46 : 2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

God ascends amid joyful shouts, the Lord amid trumpet blasts. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
God is King of all the earth; sing to Him a hymn of praise. For God now rules over the nations. God reigns from His holy throne.

Saturday, 21 January 2017 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Hebrews 9 : 2-3, 11-14

A first tent was prepared with the lampstand, the table and the bread of the Presence, this is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain, there is a second sanctuary called the Most Holy Place.

But now Christ has appeared as the High Priest with regard to the good things of these new times. He passed through a sanctuary more noble and perfect, not made by hands, that is, not created. He did not take with Himself the blood of goats and bulls but His own Blood, when He entered once and for all into the sanctuary after obtaining definitive redemption.

If the sprinkling of people defiled by sin with the blood of goats and bulls or with the ashes of a heifer provided them with exterior cleanliness and holiness, how much more will it be with the Blood of Christ? He, moved by the eternal Spirit, offered Himself as an unblemished victim to God and His Blood cleanses us from dead works, so that we may serve the living God.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the tone and the meaning of the readings of today are not that different from the readings of yesterday, as they all talked about the understanding of the Law, and what is the true meaning of the Law, that is truly about the love of God. For the Law was meant not to oppress us mankind or to purposely make our lives difficult, but it was meant to lead the people of God and to help them to find their ways to Him.

And in the first reading we read about the Man named Melchizedek, who was written in the Book of Genesis as the King of Salem, or also known as the King of Peace, as the King of justice, which are indeed curiously, the titles which our Lord Jesus also holds, namely the King of Peace, and the Lord God of all, the Great Judge of all creation, who would judge all of creation.

This is to show once again, as often reiterated throughout the entire Epistle to the Hebrews, of the nature of Jesus Christ our Lord as the High Priest of all creation, of us all mankind, just as Melchizedek was the High Priest of God of old, at the time of Abraham. We do not have much info on who exactly Melchizedek was, based on what we know from the Book of Genesis, but in the Epistle to the Hebrews, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it was made clearer, that Melchizedek was probably another manifestation of God in the world, just like Jesus.

But Jesus was beyond even Melchizedek in deeds, for He did not just offer an offering of the tenth of the wealth of the world, as Abraham had given to Melchizedek, but He offered none other than Himself, the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God, the one and only perfect sacrifice who through that sacrifice justified the entire human race.

And indeed, as I have mentioned at the beginning of today’s discourse, that the Lord had done this out of a single and clear purpose, that is out of His great and everlasting love for us all, that He does not want even a single one of us to be lost to Him. The Lamb of God offered Himself as the perfect and sweet sacrifice for our liberation, the liberation from the clutches of sin. Because of what He has done, all of us have been offered the freedom from the hands of Satan.

He is the High Priest who gathers all of us to Himself, and by His offering cleanses all of us from all of our sins with the singular act of His death on the cross. And this is our faith, what we believe in fully in our hearts. He died for us so that we may have life in us, and this is what the entire revelations God had made through the prophets, and all His laws are truly about, that is about the love of God made real by His sacrifice on the cross for us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Agnes, the holy martyr of the Faith and one of the holy virgins, who maintained the purity of their bodies in defense of their faith and courageously defending the Faith against the corruption of the world. St. Agnes, also known as St. Agnes of Rome, lived during the most difficult years for the Church and the faithful, that is during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocleatian, infamous for his great persecution of the Church and the faithful, where St. Agnes also met her end in a holy martyrdom in the defense of her faith.

St. Agnes was a young Christian maiden born to a noble family, who died at a very young age in her early teenager years during the aforementioned persecution by Emperor Diocletian, as she openly declared that she was a Christian to the authorities. St. Agnes went through many sufferings and different forms of torture meant to force her and persuade her to abandon her faith, none of which succeeded to do so.

Miracles happened even while she was tortured, and her persecutors grew ever more desperate and grew even more vicious in their persecution of her as the miracles continued to happen. Eventually she was martyred for her faith as such a young age, a defiant symbol to the Emperor who had persecuted the faithful so much, that whatever he had done to harm their bodies, they did not fear at all, for they put their trust in the Lord in whom they received great rewards for their faith.

One of the symbol often used on St. Agnes is the lamb, for her name very closely resembled the word lamb in Latin, that is ‘Agnus’, and this should be a reminder to all of us, of the suffering that St. Agnes had undergone in defending her faith, and even more importantly, the sacrifice which our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, had done to save us from the hands of death and bring us into life, as I have mentioned earlier in today’s discourse.

Let us all therefore renew our commitments to the Lord, so that all of us will grow ever closer to our Lord. Reject and resist all forms of temptations by Satan and let us strive to keep ourselves holy and pure, that when the Lord comes again, or when we see Him in heaven, He will praise us for our way of following Him, just as St. Agnes had done. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 3 : 1-6

At that time, again Jesus entered the synagogue. A man, who had a paralysed hand, was there and some people watched Jesus : would He heal the man on the sabbath? If He did, they could accuse Him.

Jesus said to the man with the paralysed hand, “Stand here in the centre.” Then He asked them, “What does the Law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” But they were silent.

Then Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness, because they had closed their minds. And He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was healed. As soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.