Wednesday, 18 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate the great celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of the two great Houses of God, two churches dedicated to the two greatest saints of Christendom, the patron saints of the very heart of Christendom, and God’s most esteemed servants, the chiefs of the Apostles.

St. Peter the Apostle and St. Paul the Apostle were two of Christ’s most important disciples, and they were the ones whose works and dedications resulted in the establishment of the Church as we know it today. They helped laid the foundations and the structure from which the Church of God would grow and enabled the faithful to assemble together in the Church of the Lord.

St. Peter the Apostle was the chief and the first among all of Christ’s Apostles and disciples, and he was given the direct command from the Lord Himself, to be the shepherd of shepherds, as the leader of leaders of the faithful, as none other than the very Vicar of Christ Himself on earth, the chief representative of our Lord and the head of the Universal Church, the Body of Christ, which Jesus our Lord is the true Head.

Meanwhile, St. Paul the Apostle was the Lord’s chief evangeliser and the bearer of the Word of God, the Good News to the many nations, the Apostle to the Gentiles. While many of the disciples of the Lord in the beginning preached only to the Jews and kept the word of salvation only to the sons and daughters of Israel, it was St. Paul who took one of the first steps of the Church’s outreach to the non-Jews, the Gentiles, especially to the Greeks.

These two faithful servants of the Lord were very important in their respective roles, St. Peter as the head and leader of the Church, uniting the many and diverse leaders and elders of the Church, establishing many of the churches himself as he went about his missions to many places, and while St. Paul preached to the many nations including the Greeks, and bravely stood up for the faith against the opposition of the Jews and the Roman authorities.

Both of them eventually ended up making the fateful journey to Rome, the centre and heart of the Roman Empire, the superpower at the time, which would eventually persecute the faithful and the Church for many, many years and brought martyrdom to countless faithful souls. The two great Apostles would lead the way in becoming the very first martyrs among them, standing up for their faith.

St. Peter the Apostle would be crucified for his faith, and opting to be crucified upside down for his great humility of not wanting to die in the same manner as his Lord and God had died. St. Paul the Apostle would be beheaded by the orders of the Emperor, both likely blamed for a great fire that occurred in Rome in the year AD 64, which became one of the first official great persecutions against Christians.

Their blood, the blood of their martyrdom became the seeds and inspiration for the future generations of the faithful, many of them also martyred in the same manner, defending their faith courageously against the world. But both of these holy men were not called holy and great, as these two Apostles were themselves once struggling with their faith and weak in their hearts.

If we remember the story of St. Paul, we would know how he used to be a great persecutor of Christians himself, as the champion and zealous defender of the Jewish traditions against the Christians whom he saw as heretics and their teachings as heresy and perversions of the Jewish faith in God. But God made him to see his errors when He showed Himself to him as he was on the way to Damascus, and from a persecutor of Christians, St. Paul, once known as Saul, became a great champion and defender of the Christian faith.

Meanwhile, St. Peter himself was a humble fisherman who plied daily along the lakeshore of the lake of Galilee, spending his time with St. Andrew his brother and the other fishermen catching fishes from the lake into the boats. He would never have dreamed on the task that he would carry out in the name of God. But Jesus did tell him that he would no longer be a fisher of fishes, but instead as a fisher of men from then on.

And we know that St. Peter was not very steady in terms of his faith, just as we saw in the Gospel today, as he was sinking out of fear because his faith in God was shaken up. And we know how St. Peter betrayed Jesus three times during the times of His Passion, when out of fear and self-preservation, He refused to acknowledge Jesus in front of His persecutors, refusing to admit that he was one of His disciples.

Yet, God forgave him and made him the greatest of His disciples, entrusting to him nothing else than His entire flock on earth, the Church itself, and he became the very first Pope. This is because of the love and dedication that St. Peter had shown, as if we notice, St. Peter was almost always the first to go forth and seek the Lord, as shown at the time when He made a miracle for them on the boat, making them catch so many fishes, and on another occasion when Jesus had risen from the dead.

This tells us that, as we commemorate the dedication anniversary of the two great Basilicas dedicated to these two great saints and Apostles of our Lord, that Jesus did not come to call the great and the mighty to serve Him, but rather, He called the simple and the ordinary, sinners and weak people alike, to make them great and mighty, not in the force of might and strength, but in the force of word and faith.

Let us all follow in their footsteps and realise that we still have so much to do as the modern day Apostles and disciples of our Lord. Let us all commit ourselves to bring the Good News, the words of the Gospel to the nations. May all of us be able to share the joy of our faith with one another, and be the light to all the nations, that through our works, just as St. Peter and St. Paul had done, we may bring God’s salvation to many more souls. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Luke 19 : 11-28

At that time, Jesus was now near Jerusalem, and the people with Him thought that God’s reign was about to appear. So as they were listening to Him, Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to assume regal authority, after which he planned to return home. Before he left, he summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds of silver.”

“He said, ‘Put this money to work until I get back.’ But his compatriots, who disliked him, sent a delegation after him with this message, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.'”

“He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in, and reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver has earned ten more pounds of silver.'”

‘The master replied, ‘Well done, my good servant! Since you have proved yourself faithful in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities.’ The second reported, ‘Sir, your pound of silver earned five more pounds of silver.’ The master replied, ‘And you, take charge of five cities!'”

“The third came in, and said, ‘Sir, here is your money, which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you, for you are an exacting person : you take up what you did not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow.'”

“The master replied, ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words! So you knew I was an exacting person, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? Why, then, did you not put my money on loan, so that, when I got back, I could have collected it with interest?'”

“Then the master said to those standing by, ‘Take from him that pound and give it to the one with ten pounds.’ But they objected, ‘Sir, he already has ten pounds!’ The master replied, ‘I tell you, everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for my enemies who did not want me to be their king, bring them in, and execute them right here in front of me!'”

So Jesus spoke, and then He passed on ahead of them, on His way to Jerusalem.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Matthew 14 : 22-33

At that time, immediately Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by Himself to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it.

At daybreak, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that It was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once Jesus said to them, “Courage! Do not be afraid. It is Me!” Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You walking on the water.”

Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”

As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God!”

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Psalm 16 : 1, 5-6, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o Lord, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer for there is no deceit on my lips.

Hold firm my steps upon Your path, that my feet may not stumble. I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteousness in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

2 Maccabees 7 : 1, 20-31

It happened also that seven brothers were arrested with their mother. The king had them scourged and flogged to force them to eat the flesh of a pig which was prohibited by the Law.

More than all of them, their mother ought to be admired and remembered. She saw her seven sons die in a single day. But she endured it even with joy for she had put her hope in the Lord. Full of a noble sense of honour, she encouraged each one of them in the language of their ancestors.

Her woman’s heart was moved by manly courage, so she told them : “I wonder how you were born of me; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor I who ordered the matter of your body. The Creator of the world who formed man in the beginning and ordered the unfolding of all creation shall in His mercy, give you back breath and life, since you now despise them for love of His laws.”

Antiochus thought that she was making fun of him and suspected that she had insulted him. As the youngest was still alive, the king tried to win him over not only with his words, but even promised to make him rich and happy, if he would abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He would make him his Friend and appoint him to a high position in the kingdom.

But as the young man did not pay him any attention, the king ordered the mother to be brought in. He urged her to advise her son in order to save his life. After being asked twice by the king, she agreed to persuade her son. She bent over him and fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her ancestral language :

“My son, have pity on me. For nine months I carried you in my womb and suckled you for three years; I raised you up and educated you until this day. I ask you now, my son, that when you see the heavens, the earth and all that is in it, you know that God made all this from nothing, and the human race as well. Do not fear these executioners, but make yourself worthy of your brothers – accept death that you may again meet your brothers in the time of mercy.”

When she finished speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I do not obey the king’s order but the precepts of the Law given by Moses to our ancestors. And you who have devised such tortures against the Hebrews, shall not escape the hands of God.”

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Acts 28 : 11-16, 30-31

After three months, we boarded a ship that had spent the winter at the island. It belonged to an Alexandrian company and carried the figurehead of Castor and Pollux as insignia. We sailed for Syracuse, staying there for three days and, after circling the coast, we arrived at Rhegium.

On the following day, a south wind began to blow, and at the end of two days we arrived at Puteoli, where we found some of our brothers who invited us to stay with them for a week. And that was how we came to Rome. There the brothers and sisters had been informed of our arrival and came out to meet us as far as the Appian Forums and the Three Taverns.

When Paul saw them, he gave thanks to God and took courage. Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul stayed for two whole years in a house he himself rented, where he received without any hindrance all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.

Saturday, 4 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about how Isaac blessed his younger son Jacob with the blessing which was intended for Esau, the eldest son. And in the Gospel we heard how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who criticised the way that the disciples of Jesus followed, not fasting and following what the norm of traditions at the time dictated.

It may be difficult to see the link and connection between the two readings, but the truth is that the two are indeed very related, considering what Jesus told them about how new wine ought to be placed in new wineskins, and how old wine ought to be placed in old wineskins. This is related to the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob, each of whom represent the old ways of the world, and the new ways of the Lord and His salvation.

The triumph of Jacob over his brother Esau showed the incompatibility of the old ways with the new ways, and that we must indeed make a choice between the two of them. This also means that if we call ourselves followers and disciples of the Lord, then all of us cannot do what is contrary to what is expected of us as the followers of the Lord.

If we call ourselves the disciples of the Lord, and then we commit things wicked and evil in the sight of God and men, then we discredit and trample on our own faith. In this manner, we are exactly like the old wine being placed into new wineskins. The incompatibility between the two will tear apart the whole wineskin and wine inside it will be spilt and wasted. In the same manner, therefore, if we believe in God and yet did not do as is expected from us, then it created a scandal for us.

We have to realise, brothers and sisters in Christ, that in order to be true disciples of our Lord, then all of us have to show it not just by mere words or proclamations of faith, but instead, we must also show it through work and devotion, which will vindicate our faith, that it is indeed real and genuine. This is what we ought to do, and what we must stand up for.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we have to wake up to the realisation that we have to listen to what the Lord had taught us. He had taught us about love, for He is love Himself, and by showing that love for us, He taught us that we need to love Him and love one another in the same manner. Yet, we know that even among us the faithful, we see so much discord and divisions, infighting and conflict among us.

We should know that faith is meaningless and dead without action and commitment. True faith requires us to go forth and do what the Lord had commanded us to do, to be righteous in all of our dealings, to defend the truth which He had revealed to us, and to stand up for the Lord. Indeed, the world will be hard on us and it will oppose us with all of its might.

But remember, they have also rejected the Lord when He came into the world, and they refused to listen to Him, and persecuted Him and His servants and disciples. This is why we have to have courage in our faith, and do not fear, for God is always with us, and He will guide us on the path, and if we remain faithful to Him, we will receive the fullness of the richness of God’s grace and blessings.

On this day, we commemorate the feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, who was the Queen of Portugal in the middle ages, who was renowned for her great faith and piety, and who after her husband’s death, she left everything behind and chose to devote the rest of her life in a prayerful retreat in a monastery. She continued to do great works of charity, even in her old age, helping those who were less fortunate, poor, weak and ostracised.

The examples of St. Elizabeth of Portugal reminds us that while we live in this world, filled with much vices and evil, it does not mean that we have to succumb to it and to follow the way of this world. We can choose to be righteous and just, as St. Elizabeth of Portugal and the other holy men and women of God had done throughout the ages. Let us all go forth and show God’s love to one another, a concrete show of our faith.

May Almighty God be with all of us, strengthen our faith and devotion to Him, and empower us to be even more devoted disciple of His cause. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 4 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Matthew 9 : 14-17

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you do not put new wine in old wineskins. If you do, the wineskins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine in fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

Saturday, 4 July 2015 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Portugal (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints or Saturday Mass of our Lady)

Psalm 134 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Praise the Name of the Lord. O servants of the Lord, praise Him, you who serve in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the Lord, for He is good, praise His Name, for it is beautiful; for the Lord has chosen Jacob as His own, Israel as His possession.

I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does – in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in their depths.