Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are brought to focus our attention to the commandments and Law of God. The Lord has given us His laws and commandments, revealing to us and teaching us how we ought to live our lives in this world so that we may walk faithfully in His path and be righteous as we should have as Christians, God’s faithful ones.

From the Book of Deuteronomy, we are all reminded that the Law of God must be an important part of life which we obey, follow and practice in all aspects of our lives so that by our actions we may indeed prove that we truly belong to God and God really is the centre and focus of our lives and existence. And we are also reminded that obeying the Law and following the commandments of God must be centred on one very fundamental aspect, that is love. Without love, one cannot claim to be obedient to the Law of God.

It is the same sentiment and idea that our Gospel passage has shown us, as in that passage we heard the Lord Jesus Himself teaching His disciples and the people on the importance of love, and in fact not just any kind of love, but love that is pure, selfless, unbiased and non-judgmental or prejudiced, love that does not discriminate against anyone but one that is established and anchored on the wonderful love of God. This is what the Lord wants us to know and implement in our own lives.

In that Gospel passage the Lord said how as Christians all of us are challenged not just to love those who have already loved us, but also to love even those who have not loved us, those who hated us, those who persecuted us and are prejudiced and biased against us. He asked us all to show love even to all these people who have not been kind to us and who will likely not respond to our love in kind. That is what true love is all about, the love that expects no returns and love that is genuine and not because of desire for returns and reciprocity.

The reality is that many of us treat love as something that we expect things in return, even to the point of being transactional in nature. We often love because we feel happy because of it and we seek to gain satisfaction, joy and pleasure out of that love. The moment that challenges, trials and disagreements begin to appear, then our love fades and turns into bickering and even hatred. This was also why so many marriages ended in failure, relationships ended up being broken and divorces and broken families soared, all because of our selfish love.

Now, all of us are called to embrace God’s love, which is selfless and giving rather than selfish and receiving or expecting. And the Lord Himself had shown us this love by His own example, as He laid hung on the Cross, selflessly bearing for our sake all of our sins and their punishments, to suffer instead of us so that by His loving sacrifice, He may deliver us all from our sins and therefore bring us into salvation and eternal life.

It is what He meant when He said that God loves us all, and show His love even to those who are wicked and evil, by giving them His blessings and wonders even though those people have sinned against Him. Let us all not forget that the Lord Jesus Himself forgave all of His enemies and all those who persecuted Him and condemned Him to die on the Cross, praying that they were not to be held accountable for what they had done to Him on that day.

That is what we are all called to do, brothers and sisters in Christ, to show our pure, selfless and genuine love to one another, even to those who have made our lives difficult or even those who hated us and were prejudiced against us. Indeed, this is easier said that done, and it is important that we realise how we will definitely encounter challenges and difficulties, as well as temptations to hate and to be selfish, but as Christians, are we able to strive to be more loving as Our Lord Himself had done?

Today we also celebrate the feast of two famous saints and martyrs of the Church, two holy women, St. Perpetua and St. Felicity. St. Perpetua was a Roman young woman who became a Christian, but faced opposition from his own father who wanted her to recant her faith. Despite her persecution and being put in prison, St. Perpetua remained faithful to God and refused to recant her faith. In prison, St. Perpetua encountered a slave woman, a Christian named St. Felicity. St. Felicity gave birth to a daughter just before her martyrdom with St. Perpetua and some other Christians.

In the end, both St. Perpetua and St. Felicity remained faithful to the very end, and together with several other Christians, were thrown into the Colosseum and died in martyrdom against the terrible beasts used in the gladiatorial fights by the Romans. And we can see how both St. Perpetua and St. Felicity were filled with God’s love, love that is both selfless and giving, for they did not expect anything in return for their love towards God. Had they expected things in return for their faith, they would have abandoned their faith easily in the face of trials, persecutions and certain death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the good faith and loving examples of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, and even more so, Our Lord Himself Who died for us on the Cross, let us all devote ourselves anew to God from now on, and make use of the wonderful opportunities and time given to us, especially in this season of Lent, to learn to love more selflessly and to be more faithful to God, to draw ever closer to Him and to be more righteous in His presence. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 118 : 1-2, 4-5, 7-8

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the Law of the Lord. Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

You have laid down precepts to be obeyed. O, that my ways were steadfast in observing Your statutes!

I will praise You with an upright spirit when I learn Your just precepts by heart. I mean to observe Your commandments. O, never abandon me.

Saturday, 7 March 2020 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Deuteronomy 26 : 16-19

On this day, YHVH, your God, commands you to fulfil these norms and these commandments. Obey them now and put them into practice with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today YHVH has declared to you that He will be your God, and so you shall follow His ways, observing His norms, His commandments and His laws, and listening to His voice. Today YHVH has declared that you will be His very own people even as He had promised you, and you must obey all His commandments.

He, for His part, will give you honour, renown and glory, and set you high above all the nations He has made, and you will become a nation consecrated to YHVH, your God, as He has declared.

Friday, 13 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures speaking to us and reminding us all that we need to remain faithful to God and stay true to His commandments. If we remain faithful to Him, God will bless us all and grant us all that He has promised to us from the beginning of time through the Covenant which He has established with each and every one of us.

God has made His Covenant with us because He truly loves each and every one of us, all of us without any exceptions. And because of that, we should indeed be grateful for all that He has kindly blessed us with, His generous kindness and love, His enduring patience for us that despite our constant disobedience and rebelliousness, He still loves us all and is willing to give us chances and opportunities to repent.

Our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah and the Psalm today, taken from the first chapter of the Psalm reminds us all of this fact, of how God will bless those who are righteous and who are walking in His path. But those who continue in their wicked and sinful ways, those who reject God’s kindness and love will have nothing but regret and hopelessness, for away from God truly we are nothing.

Unfortunately, the reality is such that in our world today, there are many more people following the path leading away from God, the path of sin and darkness which many people are following because they were unable to resist the temptations of the world. They allowed themselves to be swayed by the devil’s sweet lies and falsehoods, and the comforts and pleasures of life that they ended up being drawn further and further away from God.

This is why in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the frustrations which our Lord spoke against the people to whom He had been sent to, as the people rejected His message of truth and His offer of salvation, as they were too entrenched in their own ways and fallen habits that they were unable to comprehend the truth of God being brought into their midst. Just as they rejected St. John the Baptist, they would also reject the Lord.

The core of the message of today’s Gospel passage is that, to those who rejected God’s truth and ways because of their stubbornness in heart and mind, everything that God is trying to bring forth to their midst is meaningless as long as the doors of their hearts and minds are closed tight. When St. John the Baptist came forth in his blatant and ascetic way, preaching repentance and the call to change of life, the people criticised and doubted him, and when the Lord came, seeking sinners and trying to save them, He too was criticised and mocked.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called then to reflect on our lives and think about our actions. Are we going to continue to harden our hearts and minds against God? As long as we allow ourselves to be swayed and tempted, and to be attached excessively to worldly comforts and desires, we will likely end up distancing ourselves away from God and falling deeper into the snares of the devil.

Today, let us all look upon the good faith and examples set by St. Lucy, also known as St. Lucia of Syracuse, the famous martyr and saint, whose name was among those named in the Canon of the Mass, because of her truly exemplary faith and dedication to God, regardless of the challenges and difficulties she had to face at that time in remaining true to her faith in the Lord. She lived through a particularly difficult period of great persecution against the faithful by the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Lucy was born to a rich family and she had dedicated herself to a holy virginity in God since her youth, desiring to love God. But her mother, not aware of St. Lucy’s vow and also suffering from a disease herself, and having lost her husband when St. Lucy was still young, arranged for her to marry into a wealthy pagan noble family to ensure their livelihood. St. Lucy persuaded her mother to seek recourse through the intercession of St. Agatha, another martyr whose shrine was visited by many pilgrims at that time, and St. Lucy’s mother was cured.

St. Lucy persuaded her mother to give generous donations of their great wealth to the poor and the needy, and many of the poor of Syracuse received their great alms. However, this generosity came to the attention of the pagan governor of Syracuse, who suspected of St. Lucy’s Christian faith, and ordered her to be arrested and tortured. But despite of the many tortures she had to endure, she remained firm in her faith in God.

It was told that when she was to be burnt at the stake, the firewood stacked below her refused to light up, and in the end, she had to be martyred by the sword. Nonetheless, through all those sufferings, the great faith and commitment of St. Lucy shone through and showed us all what being true Christian is all about. St. Lucy opened herself to God and allowed Him to enter her life and transform her.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to devote ourselves to the Lord much like what St. Lucy had done? Through her love both for God and for her fellow brothers and sisters, especially for the poor and the needy, we can be inspired and follow in our footsteps, changing and transforming our lives, from one that is filled with selfishness and ego, into one that is charitable, faithful and devoted to God.

Let us all therefore walk with faith from now on, drawing ever closer to God, and ask for the intercession of St. Lucy that she may pray for all of us sinners still struggling in this world, that God will have mercy on us all and bring us into His eternal kingdom. May God be with us all through this journey of faith, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 13 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Friday, 13 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.