Tuesday, 18 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the story of St. Paul who was then in Ephesus, speaking among the gathered Church elders and the faithful. At that time we heard St. Paul saying to those assembled how he was led by the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News and the truth to the many peoples all across various parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. And he told those assembled in Ephesus that he would then be going to his suffering and martyrdom, as the Spirit led him on to go to the city of Jerusalem for the final leg of his mission.

St. Paul knew that he would be facing sufferings and trials, and he would have to be led in chains, imprisoned and brought from place to place, as later on he would be brought from Jerusalem to Rome, the capital of the Empire, after he appealed to the Emperor for the charges brought against him by the Jewish leaders and elders. He could have avoided that fate by not going to Jerusalem and staying on amongst those who cared for him like in Ephesus, but he followed and obeyed the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the truth in his last mission, and to bring that truth the city of Rome before he was to be martyred.

The same also happened to the Lord Himself as seen in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord was having His Last Supper with His disciples, and revealed to them how He would be taken away from them, and that He would no longer with them. This was a reference to how He would very soon be arrested, that very night, and would be condemned to death on the Cross and die for the sake of all. Again, here the Lord could have chosen to avoid it all, and if He had wanted to be out of all the trials He had to endure, He could have easily done it, for after all, is He not the Almighty One?

Yet, He willingly accepted His Cross and went on through all the sufferings, so that everything that He has designed and planned for the salvation of all could be fulfilled perfectly, right up to the moment of His death. He did so out of love for us and so that we can also be freed from the slavery to sin and death. If it not had been for His sacrifice on the Cross, all of us would still be enslaved to sin and have no hope or freedom from death. Instead, we have this hope and new light thanks to Our Lord and His love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, being a Christian is not something that is easy or simple, and it often requires plenty of effort, dedication and even sacrifices on our side. And we have to trust in the Lord and follow His guide, through the Holy Spirit that He has given us. We should not be afraid to follow Him, or give in to our doubts and fears. As the Lord Himself and St. Paul had shown us, we should entrust ourselves to the Divine will and providence, and we should allow Him to transform our lives, and how we are to act and do things in life.

Now, as we have received the truth of God, know of the mission that He has entrusted to us through His Church, and heeded His call and will to be Christians, what are we then going to do with our lives from now on? This is what we need to discern carefully from now on as we consider what it is that we all have to do in each and every moments of our lives that we may be good role models and examples for all of our fellow men, our brothers and sisters, that like St. Paul and the other Apostles and saints, we may encourage one another to be faithful and to be more committed and dedicated to God.

Today all of us celebrate the feast of Pope St. John I, one of the great and holy Popes, a faithful servant of God and martyr of the Christian faith that can be one of our great inspirations in how we are to live our lives. He was elected to the position of Pope, Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff during a turbulent time in the history of the Church, as conflict between the Arian heresy adopted by the Ostrogothic king of Italy, Theoderic the Great and the Nicene faith of the rest of the Roman Empire came to head.

Pope St. John I, at that time, despite being frail and in poor health when he was elected to the Papacy, he dedicated his time and effort to mediate between both sides, as both were unwilling to give grounds and concessions to the other. In the end, Pope St. John I managed to gain a compromise, only for the Gothic king to arrest him and put him in prison, suspecting the Pope of cooperation and collusion with the Roman Emperor and the Nicene party. He died in prison a martyr not long afterwards.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow in the footsteps of Pope St. John I, in his courage and dedication to follow in the path set before him by the Lord. Despite the challenges and the risks he knew that he had to face, much like St. Paul and the Lord Jesus before him, he embarked on the mission entrusted to him nonetheless, and fulfilled faithfully all that he had been called to do, as a true Christian, a true follower and disciple of Christ to the very end.

Are we willing and able to do the same, brothers and sisters in Christ? We are all called to follow in the footsteps of those who had gone before us, and to bear our Christian faith in words, deeds and actions, in even the smallest things we do in life, from now on, if we have not done so yet. Let us hence seek the Lord with renewed zeal and vigour, and with the same energy and strength let us reach out to our fellow men, bearing witness of our Christian faith, at all times.

May the Lord be with us, being our Strength and Guide, through the Holy Spirit He has sent to us, to invigorate and empower us to be ever genuine and faithful Christian, always and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 17 : 1-11a

At that time, after Jesus said all that He had said to His disciples, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come! Give glory to Your Son, that the Son may give glory to You. You have given Him power over all humanity, so that He may give eternal life to all those You entrusted to Him. For this is eternal life : to know You, the only true God, and the One You sent, Jesus Christ.”

“I have glorified You on earth and finished the work that You gave Me to do. Now, Father, give Me, in Your presence, the same glory I had with You before the world began. I have made Your Name known to those You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, and You gave them to Me, and they kept Your word. And now they know that whatever You entrusted to Me, is indeed from You.”

“I have given them the teaching I received from You, and they received it, and know in truth that I came from You; and they believe that You sent Me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those who belong to You, and whom You have given to Me. Indeed all I have is Yours and all You have is Mine; and now they are My glory.”

“I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I come to You.”

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 67 : 10-11, 20-21

Then You gave a rain of blessings to comfort Your weary children. Your people found a dwelling and in Your mercy, o God, You provided for the needy.

Blessed be the Lord, God our Saviour, Who daily bears our burdens! Ours is a God Who saves; our Lord lets us escape from death.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 20 : 17-27

From Miletus Paul sent word to Ephesus, summoning the elders of the Church. When they came to him, he addressed them, “You know how I lived among you from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, how I served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that the Jews caused me.”

“You know that I never held back from doing anything that could be useful for you; I spoke publicly and in your homes, and I urged Jews and non-Jews alike to turn to God and believe in our Lord Jesus.”

“But now I am going to Jerusalem, chained by the Spirit, without knowing what will happen to me there. Yet in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that imprisonment and troubles await me. Indeed I put no value on my life, if only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, to announce the Good News of God’s grace.”

“I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom of God will ever see me again. Therefore I declare to you this day that my conscience is clear with regard to all of you. For I have spared no effort in fully declaring to you God’s will.”

Thursday, 18 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded yet again that as Christians, our principal and main responsibility lies in the need to love and serve the Lord with all of our heart, mind, body and soul. This is the essence of us being Christians, not in all other things, which all truly have their roots in the love which we ought to show the Lord our God.

And why is this so? That is because, without love, we are not Christians, and without the love which we ought to serve the Lord with, then we truly have not known love. Because if we have remembered and known just how much God has loved us, then we should also show the same love for Him, first of all, and then show the same love to our fellow brethren.

Yet, many of us mankind have forgotten this fact, and we have rejected God and His love, for the love of other things, all the distractions out there which have turned us and our attentions away from God. We have become detached from Him, and ended up being concerned only about ourselves, only about our needs and desires, and not about what truly matters, that is serving the Lord with all of our heart.

This was what happened, at the time of the early Church, as recounted to us through our first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles. At that time, the tension between the two factions in the Church had reached a breaking point, between the faction of the Pharisees and the faction of the Hellenists. The Pharisees were those who were similar with the Pharisees at the time of Jesus, being composed of the Pharisees who came to believe in Jesus, who wanted to keep the purity of the Jewish faith and traditions, wishing to impose on all the believers the rigour of the entire Jewish laws according to the laws of Moses.

Meanwhile, the Hellenists were those who favoured relaxing and bypassing the requirements of the Jewish laws and customs, in order to make the faith more practical and favourable to the non-Jewish people, the Greeks and the Romans, all of whom found that certain practices of the Jewish tradition such as circumcision and food prohibition to be repulsive and difficult to be followed, as these came into direct conflict with their own customs and cultural traditions.

As such, such a division in the Church was truly a tragic event, at the time when the Church should have been united against all those who sought to destroy it in its infancy. But the Church fathers and the Apostles ruled against those who would distract the Church from its primary mission, that is the salvation of souls and the repentance of all sinners.

To that extent, they agreed and ruled that all Christians should henceforth be freed from the obligation to obey the entirety of the Jewish laws and customs, most of which were in fact human creation and not originating from God, as means and historical practices meant to preserve the Jewish customs and culture. And they ruled that as long as all the Christians lived in accordance to what the Lord Jesus had taught them, that should be sufficient.

That is because as Christians, all of us truly have to remember that our primary and indeed sole obligation is to love the Lord our God, with all of our might, and with all of our strength. And when we love Him and obey Him, we will definitely also love our brethren, just as we have been loved by God and loving Him back. We will show the same love that we showed Him to our fellow men.

We should follow the example of our holy predecessors, the holy saints and martyrs, in how they devoted their whole lives to the Lord and to their fellow men. Pope St. John I, the holy Bishop of Rome and leader of the Universal Church during its early years is one of such examples. He was a devoted man, a pious and holy servant of God, dedicated to his calling and vocation as the leader of the Church.

He lived during a difficult time, as political and worldly conflict threatened the Church in Rome, due to the conflict between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Ostrogothic Kingdom, who then ruled over Rome. The Ostrogoths were Arians, heretical followers of Christianity, while the Empire was following the Orthodox and true Christian faith. Pope St. John I lived and reigned through the turbulent times, and tried his best to bridge the differences between the two powers.

However, he was caught in the entanglement of the conflict, and was imprisoned by the Ostrogoths, under the false charges of sedition and supposed plotting with the enemy against the king. He was arrested, incarcerated and made to suffer, but yet he never gave up the faith. He continued to persevere through the challenges, and even unto martyrdom, as he met his end in prison, he kept the faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all from now on strive to serve the Lord with greater zeal and conviction, and devote ourselves to Him ever more willingly. Let us all love one another as well, just as we have been loved by God, and just as we have loved Him with all of our hearts. Let us all be true Christians inspired by the examples of our brethren who have preceded us. Pope St. John I, holy Pope and martyr, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Thursday, 18 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
John 15 : 9-11

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Remain in My love! You will remain in My love if you keep My commandments, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

I have told you all this, that My own joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.”

Thursday, 18 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 10

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name.

Proclaim His salvation day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Thursday, 18 May 2017 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Acts 15 : 7-21

As the discussions became heated, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that from the beginning God chose me among you so that non-Jews could hear the Good News from me and believe. God, Who can read hearts, put Himself on their side by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them and cleansed their hearts through faith.”

“So why do you want to put God to the test? Why do you lay on the disciples a burden that neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? We believe, indeed, that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”

The whole assembly kept silent as they listened to Paul and Barnabas tell of all the miraculous signs and wonders that God had done through them among the non-Jews. After they had finished, James spoke up, “Listen to me, brothers. Symeon has just explained how God first showed His care by taking a people for Himself from non-Jewish nations.”

“And the words of the prophets agree with this, for Scripture says, ‘After this I will return and rebuild the booth of David which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again. Then the rest of humanity will look for the Lord, and all the nations will be consecrated to My Name. So says the Lord, Who does today what He decided from the beginning.'”

“Because of this, I think that we should not make difficulties for those non-Jews who are turning to God. Let us just tell them not to eat food that is unclean from having been offered to idols; to keep themselves from prohibited marriages; and not to eat the flesh of animals that have been strangled, or any blood. For from the earliest times Moses has been taught in every place, and every Sabbath his laws are recalled.”

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about St. James speaking in his Epistle, about the way we should act in our lives. He criticised those who made many plans about how they would go about their days, and thinking that they would seek to make more money or income in so and so city or place.

And the reason he put forward was indeed true, brethren, that the Lord is the Master of all, the Lord and Master over our lives and all that we do. He has control and power over all things, and our own lives will not be ours to go about and do as we like. We may plan all that we want to do and what we wish to do with our lives, but ultimately, it is the will of God that will triumph in the end.

Ambitious men and women had from time to time trying their luck and putting the efforts in trying to bring glory to themselves. And they made a lot of effort in order to satisfy what they want, and immersed themselves in their busy schedules and in their plans. But what they did not realise is that, God can take away the life He has given them at any time, as He willed it. Our lives are in His hands, brothers and sisters in Christ.

There is no point for us to be so busy in planning ahead, that we fail to enjoy the fullness of it. If God is to take our life and bring us back to Him tomorrow, will that therefore be a waste then, all that we have planned for ourselves? I am not saying that we should be carefree and disregard anything in life, or leave it entirely to chance and luck in how we live our lives. Rather, it means that we must not let our lives, all of its busy and hectic schedules to control us and swallow us.

If we notice, in our world today, all around us, in our own communities and families, can we tell how many of us are so preoccupied with what we are doing to the point of forgetting everything else? It is because we are so focused with ourselves, our work, our desires and wants, that we have lost sight of the greater picture of life. We become our own slaves, slaves to our desires and needs.

We live in period of selfishness, where everything is about consideration for ourselves and we spare little or none for others around us. And as a result, we do not show love when we are capable of showing love, and we do not show care and concern for one another when we need to show these to our brethren and neighbours around us who need them.

In the Gospel today, Jesus spoke about those who were doing good works and yet not belonging to the group of the Apostles and the disciples. The disciples were trying to stop what those people had done as they did not belong to their group. But the Lord rebuked them and said that they should not stop these good works as those who did not oppose the Lord belongs also to God.

In this, we see the contrast with what was shown by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were furiously and actively trying to oppose the works of Jesus and His disciples, as they saw Jesus and His disciples as bitter rivals and opponents to their own teaching authority and influence. They selfishly tried to stop the good works of the Lord to serve their own purpose and sinned in doing so.

This is precisely what we have to avoid, brethren. We cannot act in the same way as these people, unless if we want to fall into the same trap as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. In this, perhaps we should follow in the footsteps of the saint whose feast we celebrate today, namely that of Pope St. John I, Bishop of Rome and leader of the Universal Church during its early days and a holy martyr of God.

Pope St. John I reigned during the time of conflict between the powers of the world, between the Roman Emperor Justinian in the east and the king of the Ostrogothic kingdom, Theodoric the Great, who ruled the city and province of Rome at the time. The conflict extended into the matters of the Church, made worse as the Ostrogoths believed in the heresy of Arianism, while the faithful Romans kept the true faith.

As such, conflict grew and the faithful people of God became caught in the entanglement of the conflicts. Pope St. John I worked hard to keep the Church strong amidst the difficulties and persecutions, working for peace among the factions. And yet, the Ostrogoths suspected the Pope as plotting against them with the Romans and thus imprisoned and tortured him.

But Pope St. John I refused to give in to his persecutors’ demands, and he remained strong and resolute in the face of the opposition, and in the end, he met his death at the hands of the enemies of the people of God, but before having shown to the people of God, the examples of faith and commitment which he had shown to God, in not seeking his own personal glory, but instead in bringing forth and proclaiming the glory of God.

Let us all heed his examples, and reflect on the readings from the Holy Scriptures, and learn to live faithfully from now on. Let us all go forth to renew our lives, filled with renewed commitments to God, our Lord and Master. May all of us find our path to our Lord, and through our acts, bound and filled with love, be our justification before His holy presence. May God be with us all, and may He awaken in all of us the selfless love for one another. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 9 : 38-40

At that time, John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone who drove out demons by calling upon Your Name, and we tried to forbid him because he does not belong to our group.”

Jesus answered, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My Name can soon after speak evil of Me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”