Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we must not be ignorant of what we are all called to do as Christians in our daily living, and to heed the signs of the times. For each and every one of us as Christians, we are all called and expected to make good use of our lives and all the talents, abilities, opportunities and all other things that the Lord had granted us, so that our lives may be truly fruitful and worthy of God. We must not be idle in our lives or worse still, act in ways contrary to our beliefs, as what unfortunately many amongst even us Christians have done, and are currently doing in our lives. To do so is truly unbecoming of our Christian identity, and is truly a scandal of our faith, which is something that many amongst us have to account for in the end.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the moment of the final defeat of Satan, the great enemy at the end of time, and the ultimate triumph of God and the faithful over all those who have long persecuted the holy people of God. The Lord will triumph over all evils and all the forces of the wicked, and that vision of St. John saw of this great victory and the final defeat of evil serves to encourage all the faithful people of God who at that time had been facing a lot of struggles, trials, challenges and persecutions, having to endure prison, and even martyrdom for their belief and faith in God. Many, like St. John himself, had to suffer because they believed in God and refused to worship the pagan gods and idols, or the Emperors, who back then were often regarded as divine.

All the things that St. John witnessed in his heavenly vision became source of hope and encouragement for the Christians all over the world who were persecuted for their faith. St. John the Apostle witnessed how the mighty forces of the devil met their deserved end and defeat, crushed and conquered by the might of God, and God will come to save His people, just as He has once saved the people of Israel from their enslavement in Egypt and from the tyranny of the Pharaoh. Also highlighted in today’s passage of St. John’s vision is the occasion of the Last Judgment, when all the people, living and dead, all will be assembled before God and face their final and eternal fate, be it that their names are listed in the Book of Life and hence worthy of God, and therefore worthy of enjoying the eternal bliss and joy with God, or whether their names are not found in the Book of Life, and will be cast out into eternal darkness and oblivion, to suffer for eternity.

In the relatively short Gospel passage we have heard from today, the Lord reiterated this again, as He reminded all of His followers that the coming of the time of reckoning can be anytime, and while no one will know or have known the exact time and occasion of when it will happen, but the signs from the Lord are clear. And anyway, regardless whether the coming of the Day of Last Judgment is imminent or not, we must always be ever ready to welcome the Lord when He comes again, and it means that we should always be ever prepared in everything we say and do. In all things we must always be filled with the zeal, passion and faith to live our lives faithfully as is expected of us as Christians, and not to allow temptations of the world to distract or even mislead us down the wrong path. We must be careful or else before we realise it, we are already deep in the path towards damnation and destruction.

Clearly, as we heard from all these passages from the Scriptures, we are all being reminded as we have been in these past two weeks towards the end of the current liturgical year, of how important it is for us to remember to always put the Lord as the centre and the focus of our lives and existences. We should not replace Him with other focuses or pursuits which we may have or desire. Unfortunately, more often than not, this is exactly what happened to us Christians, as we are often easily distracted and tempted to succumb to the allures of worldly comforts and pleasures, to all of our greed and ambition, our pride and ego. And all of these can lead us to our ultimate downfall if we are not actively resisting those temptations and pressures, as well as striving to live our lives in a most genuine, Christian manner as we have been called and expected to do in our lives.

Today, we mark the occasion of the Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of the great saints of the Church and one of the most renowned martyrs of the faith. Hopefully by reflecting upon her lives, actions, examples and faith, we may find inspiration and strength to dedicate ourselves and our own lives to God in the way that this holy woman of God had done. St. Catherine of Alexandria was the daughter of nobleman or a Roman governor in the land of Egypt, during the years of the final persecutions against Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and his fellow co-Emperors and successors. One of those, Emperor Maxentius conducted intense persecutions against Christians in his domains, and St. Catherine went directly to the Emperor to rebuke him for his actions and cruelty against Christians.

At that time, such an action definitely merited death penalty, not only because St. Catherine was a Christian but she dared to rebuke the person of the Emperor, who by the time had become very feared and powerful position. Yet, this holy woman of God fearlessly defended her faith before the Emperor and others, and not even many pagan philosophers, the best of the best assembled by the Emperor to debate her can best her in wisdom and understanding, and she utterly trounced them through God’s wisdom and power. St. Catherine also resisted the temptations of power and worldly comfort herself when the Emperor, who was mesmerised by her beauty and eloquence, tried to woo and persuade her to become his bride. She chose to suffer and die in martyrdom than to betray her faith and principles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us hence strive to do our best to obey the Lord and His commandments, as well as putting Him as the centre and focus of our lives. Let us all be genuine in being faithful to Him and do whatever we can to live our lives, in even the smallest things and actions we do, in accordance with His will, His Law and commandments. As Christians we have been called to love God first and foremost, and then to love our fellow brethren in the same manner without distinction or prejudice. Hence, let us try our best to do that, so that by our faith made manifest and alive through our actions and works, we may truly be deemed worthy by the Lord on the Day of Judgment, and receive from Him the promised everlasting life and joy. May God bless us all in our every works and efforts, for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 29-33

At that time, Jesus added this comparison, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as their buds sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”

“Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all this has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 83 : 3, 4, 5-6a and 8a

My soul yearns, pines, for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young, at Your altars, o Lord of hosts, my King and my God!

Happy are those who live in Your house, continually singing Your praise! Happy the pilgrims whom You strengthen. They go from strength to strength till they appear before God in Zion.

Friday, 25 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Revelations 20 : 1-4, 11 – Revelations 21 : 2

Then an Angel came down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the Abyss and a huge chain. He seized the monster, the ancient serpent, namely Satan or the devil, and chained him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss and closed its gate with the key, then secured it with locks, that he might not deceive the nations in the future until the thousand years have passed. Then he will be released for a little while.

There were thrones and seated on them were those with the power to judge. I then saw the spirits of those who had been beheaded for having held the teachings of Jesus and on account of the word of God. I saw all those who had refused to worship the beast and its image, or receive its mark on the forehead or on the hand. They returned to life and reigned with the Messiah for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection.

After that I saw a great and splendid throne and the One seated upon it. At once heaven and earth disappeared, leaving no trace. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before the throne while books were opened. Another book, the Book of Life, was also opened. Then the dead were judged according to the records of these books, that is, each one according to his works.

The sea gave up the dead it had kept, as did death and the netherworld, so that all might be judged according to their works. Then death and the netherworld were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. All who were not recorded in the Book of Life were thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin 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 all reminded of the coming of the end of times which is certain to happen to us and to this world. The Lord Himself, His prophets, messengers and more have spoken about it, of the time when the final triumph over evil shall come, and all the faithful people of God will be gathered together to live forever in God, free from the bondage of sin, evil and death forevermore, and to assume once again the state which they had once lost because of their disobedience and sins against God that also sundered them from the fullness of His grace and love. That is what God has always intended from the very beginning, that is for us all to be with Him in perfect love and harmony, to exist with Him forever in grace and joy.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the vision of the great and triumphant Son of Man, Who is also the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who at the vision of St. John, wore His victorious crown and holding a great sickle by which He would rend the whole world, separating those who are worthy from those unworthy of God and His salvation and grace. That is a premonition of what will happen at the end of time, when the Lord Himself will gather all those who are faithful to Him and bring them to the eternal life and inheritance that He has already promised to them from the very beginning of time. From the time when we first fell into sin, God has promised His salvation to us, and will send us His deliverance through none other than His Son, Jesus Christ, the Triumphant One.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus speaking of the premonition of what would happen to Jerusalem and its Temple, the destruction and all that would be inflicted upon the city and its people in due time. In about four decades after the Lord spoke of it, the rebellion of the Jewish people led to a punitive expedition and siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed and conquered by the Romans, and the magnificent Temple built by King Herod the Great was thoroughly looted, destroyed and crushed to its foundations, that nothing of it was left right up to this day. It was a proof that whatever the Lord Himself had predicted would happen, will indeed happen as He has said.

From the perspective of those who lived during those times, they might indeed think that the end of times would be coming soon, well within their lifetimes, and even some of the Lord’s disciples and Apostles also believed so. But the truth is none of them are aware of the fullness of knowledge of what will truly happen, and when everything will come to happen. No one could have predicted when the city and Temple of Jerusalem were destroyed, and when it happened, it came like a whirlwind, suddenly and must have been a real surprise for almost everyone. No one could have expected that the magnificent city and Temple of Jerusalem could have been destroyed in such a way, and at such a time. Yet, all happened as it is preordained by God, and He alone knows the time and the occasion that will happen.

The same therefore will happen to the end of times, which will come at a time we least expect, and no one, not even anyone in the Church, or any of the Apostles know of the exact timing of the Lord’s Second Coming and the end of all as portrayed and revealed to St. John in the Book of Revelations. What was known to us is just a glimpse of what will happen, and the Lord Himself said on multiple occasions as recorded throughout the Gospels, that this will come most unexpected for everyone, and one may be having their daily lives as usual at one moment, and then immediately it happens the very next moment. Thus, what is important for us all to remember is that, we must never take our faith in God for granted, and we have to be ever vigilant, preparing ourselves for this eventuality.

As Christians, each one of us are called to be exemplary in life and to do our very best in answering God’s call and to live our lives in the manner that He has taught us and shown us, by His own examples. Just as He has loved us so wonderfully, in reaching out to us and to those among us who have been forsaken and rejected by others, He has shown us the example of perfect and selfless love that each one of us as Christians ought to have. Unless we make good use of the time and opportunities presented to us, the talents and abilities, gifts and blessings granted to us, we cannot truly be worthy of God, and if we are not careful or vigilant enough, we may end up being caught on the wrong side at the coming of the Lord’s judgment. Do we want to wait until it is all too late for us, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Cecilia, whose life, faith and dedication to God should inspire in each one of us as Christians to be better and more committed disciples of the Lord. St. Cecilia was born to a noble Roman family who forced her to marry a young pagan nobleman named Valerius. St. Cecilia had made a solemn vow of virginity, dedicating herself solely to God, and maintaining her sanctity throughout her most pious and chaste life. She is known as the Patron Saint for musicians because according to tradition, she sang from her heart to the Lord at her own wedding, showing her genuine faith and commitment to God. And when her marriage was about to be consummated, she told her husband that an Angel of the Lord stood guard protecting her, and would strike him down should he attempt to violate her sacred virginity dedicated to God.

Her faith and piety was such that her husband and his brother were converted to the Christian faith, as especially her husband having witnessed the aforementioned Angel of God appearing before St. Cecilia and crowning her with a crown of roses and lilies, marking her purity and virginity. They were all eventually persecuted together with many other Christians during one of the intense persecutions against the Church and Christians by the Roman state. They were all martyred for their faith, and they gave their lives for the glory of God, dedicating themselves to the mission entrusted to them, to inspire many more people through their lives and examples. Through St. Cecilia and her faith, and her courage to maintain her purity and obedience to God, all of us can see how we too are called to be faithful to the Lord in the same way as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reevaluate our focus and emphasis in life, and see what we can do to make sure that our lives are worthy of God and maybe even be good models and inspirations for one another. Are we willing and able to make the commitment to God and to live our lives ever more worthily from now on? Are we willing to do our best to live in the way that God has shown us and led us to do? May the Lord continue to guide us all through life and strengthen us in our resolve to follow Him, and to distance ourselves from wickedness and sin. May God bless us always, and may He remain with us, by our side, leading us through the path to eternal life. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 5-11

At that time, while some people were talking about the Temple, remarking that it was adorned with fine stonework and rich gifts, Jesus said to them, “The days will come when there shall not be left one stone upon another of all that you now admire; all will be torn down.” And they asked Him, “Master, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

Jesus then said, “Take care not to be deceived, for many will come claiming My title and saying, ‘I am He, the Messiah; the time is at hand!’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and troubled times, do not be frightened; for all these things must happen first, even though the end is not so soon.”

And Jesus said, “Nations will fight each other and kingdom will oppose kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and plagues; in many places strange and terrifying signs from heaven will be seen.”

Tuesday, 22 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

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

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before the Lord Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 14 : 14-19

Then I had this vision, I saw a white cloud and the One sitting on it like a Son of Man, wearing a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. An Angel came out of the sanctuary, calling loudly to the One sitting on the cloud, “Put in Your sickle and reap, for harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.”

He Who was sitting on the cloud swung His sickle at the earth and reaped the harvest. Then another Angel, who also had a sharp sickle, came out of the heavenly sanctuary. Still another Angel, the one who has charge of the altar fire, emerged and shouted to the first who held the sharp sickle, “Swing your sharp sickle and reap the bunches of the vine of the earth for they are fully ripe.”

So the Angel swung his sickle and gathered in the vintage, throwing all the grapes into the great winepress of the anger of God.

Friday, 14 October 2022 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of the need for all of us to remain faithful to God in all things and not to be like the hypocrites who profess to believe and have faith in the Lord, and yet, act in a manner that is opposite, scandalous and unworthy of what Christians have been expected to do in their lives. All of us have to be truly faithful in God and we must put our trust in His path, genuinely believing in Him from our heart. We cannot be people who are lukewarm and apathetic about our faith, and we have to be sincere in our desire and commitment to walk the path that God has shown and taught us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus, we heard how the Apostle reminded the faithful there, composed of both Jews and Gentiles alike, had been made to be the children of God, and they had all been made sharers in God’s New and eternal Covenant through their baptism, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and by the will of God Himself. That is why all of them had been called and chosen from the world, and consequently, they should all reflect that change in state in their lives, by showing that change through their own actions and examples, so that they are truly worthy of being God’s faithful and beloved children.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord Jesus Himself calling on all the people to distance themselves from the yeast of the Pharisees. Contextually, the Lord was referring to the worldliness with which many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had lived their lives and practiced their faith, which led to great scandals and their unbecoming attitudes as those who were entrusted with the guardianship of the Law and the people of God. The people of God, all of us included are all reminded of the need for us to distance ourselves from sin, and keep ourselves pure and worthy of the Lord in all things.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because sin is a dangerous thing that we should not treat trivially, as it can lead us further down the path towards our doom and downfall if we allow sin to corrupt us and our nature further. That is why we should not let it to influence us or tempt us any further. If we allow worldly influences or matters to affect our decisions and choices, then we may end up doing things that will draw us ever further from God and His path of virtue and righteousness. And the Lord Himself mentioned in our Gospel passage today, that we have to be afraid of the One Who is able to throw us into hell after killing us, referring to the Judgment that the Lord will pass on us who refuse to believe in Him and who continue to live in the state of sin.

We have to realise that while God is truly loving and merciful, but at the same time, He is also a good and virtuous God, in Whose Presence sin and evil cannot exist. If we continue to sin and refuse to accept His love and mercy, and refusing to abandon our sinful and wicked ways, then there can be no path to salvation for all of us. Unless we endeavour to commit ourselves to embrace God and His truth, His love and compassion, then there can be no way out for us from this downward slide towards damnation and hell. We have to abandon the wickedness of our past and commit ourselves anew to the righteous path that the Lord has taught and shown us to do. And we can do that better by looking upon the good examples set by our holy predecessors, the saints and martyrs.

Today, the Church also commemorates the Feast of Pope St. Callixtus I, one of the successors of St. Peter the Apostle as the Vicar of Christ and a holy martyr of the Church. Pope St. Callixtus I was the leader of the Church and the shepherd of the faithful at the time of difficulty for the Church as they faced a lot of persecutions and hardships, as well as internal divisions and disagreements. Pope St. Callixtus I was among the first leaders of the Church to readmit Christians who have erred and abandoned their faith, and who afterwards desired to seek God’s mercy and be reconciled with Him and the Church.

There were then those who were opposed to this, such as St. Hippolytus who initially championed the idea that those sinners and all those who had abandoned the Lord ought to have been prevented from returning back to the Church. Despite the challenges and divisions that existed within the Church then, all these did not deter Pope St. Callixtus I from continuing to champion the extension of compassion and mercy to all those who had lapsed from the faith and then desiring to return to the Church. This holy Pope himself would then be persecuted for his faith and dedication to God, and then died as a martyr, serving as inspiration for many others throughout the centuries.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples set by Pope St. Callixtus I first reminds us that God is ever loving and merciful, and as long as we still have the opportunity to do so in this world, we should embrace Him and His love wholeheartedly, rejecting our sins and evil, wicked ways. We are called to turn over a new leaf in life, and resist those temptations to sin which had led us down this path towards our downfall. We have been reminded that God is and will always be ready to welcome us back, as long as we are willing to commit ourselves to Him and turn ourselves to His providence and loving care, and change our ways of life to follow that of the Lord and His truth.

Let us all therefore reject the path of sin, and be inspired by the good examples of the saints, the holy men and women of God, particularly that of Pope St. Callixtus I. Let us all seek the Lord with ever greater love and commitment from now on, and let us follow Him and do His will always, and distance ourselves from the many corruptions and wickedness of this world. May God continue to bless us and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He help us to persevere through the many challenges of our faith and life, at all times. May God be with us always, and empower us to remain ever faithful to Him, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 14 October 2022 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Callixtus I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 12 : 1-7

At that time, such a numerous crowd had gathered that they crushed one another. Then Jesus spoke to His disciples in this way, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered that will not be uncovered; or hidden, that will not be made known. Whatever you have said in darkness will be heard in daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places, will be proclaimed from housetops.”

“I tell you, My friends, do not fear those who put to death the body and, after that, can do no more. But I will tell you Whom to fear : Fear the One Who, after killing you, is able to throw you into hell. This One you must fear. Do you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? Yet not one of them has been forgotten by God. Even the hairs of your head have been numbered. Do not be afraid! Are you less worthy in the eyes of God than many sparrows?”