Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are reminded of God’s amazing and most wonderful love by which He generously cared for us and provided for us and our needs. He has loved us all as a father loves all of his children, and to that extent, He has given us the assurance of true happiness and eternal joy through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our Lord and Saviour.

And in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah we heard the prophecy of the coming of Christ, Who is indeed the very Word of God mentioned in that passage of the prophet Isaiah. The prophet spoke of the Lord sending His Word into the world and how the Word would not return to Him before He has done the will of His heavenly Father, which is to bring about the salvation to all peoples of all the nations. The Lord sent His Son to reveal to us His most wonderful mercy and love, and to gather us all in, as a Shepherd gathering all of the lost sheep.

And thus, we have seen the glory and love of God revealed to us through Christ, the Son of God and the Divine Word Incarnate, Who by assuming our humble human nature and existence, united us to Himself, and by sharing in our humanity, has made us all the adopted sons and daughters of God, our heavenly Father. Just as Christ is the Son of God, and as the Son of Man is like a brother to us, that we have shared in the relationship that He has with His Father in heaven, and thus, become those whom God had favoured and called to be His own ones.

And gathering us all in, the Lord Jesus also taught us what it means for us to be a true disciple and a follower of His, to be devoted to God, His laws, ways and commandments. Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and teaching them all how to pray to their heavenly Father, to the Lord, their God. This is the prayer that we now know as the Lord’s Prayer, being taught by the Lord Himself, or the Pater Noster in various languages, which means ‘Our Father’.

Through the prayer that the Lord taught us, He wanted to teach us that to pray is for us to speak, communicate and interact with our own beloved Father, the One Who had loved us so much. And the essence of prayer is one of communication and the willingness to engage in a meaningful conversation and spending time with God, to praise Him and to thank Him for all the wonderful things that He had done for us, and to seek His forgiveness for our many faults and wrongdoings.

All these were contained in the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer that is all of thanksgiving, petition, glorification of God and communication all in one. Through that prayer, the Lord Jesus wanted to teach us to pray in the right way, not to pray as if we are seeking for things to magically and miraculously happen to us by asking the Lord to do things for us. The Lord is not a miracle granter or wish granter that we can just ask for something or even worse still, demand for something.

And with this, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all reminded and asked to reflect on our own faith and lives thus far. Have our way of life thus far been truly reflective of true Christian discipleship? Have we had a good and healthy relationship with the Lord, a regular life of prayer and constant communication with God? Or have we allowed our faith to wither and go to waste, to remain idle and lacking in genuine commitment to love the Lord?

Have we remembered God only in times of desperation and great need, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or have we consistently and constantly been making the effort to strengthen our relationship with Him through prayer and charity, by listening to Him in the depth of our hearts and in speaking to Him, to know what it is that He has been calling us to do with our lives? Today we are all called to reflect on this carefully as we discern how to move forward in life.

As we progress through the season of Lent, we have been given this excellent opportunity to reevaluate our lives and to reconsider how our way of living our Christian faith has been. Are we willing to commit ourselves anew to the Lord, by deepening our spiritual existence through prayer, through generosity and charity in all of our dealings in life? Today we are all called to follow the examples of one of our holy predecessors in faith, namely that of St. Polycarp, in how he had lived his life virtuously and courageously.

St. Polycarp was one of the early Church fathers and the Bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor, renowned for his links to the early leaders of the Church such as St. John the Apostle, who was still alive during the lifetime of St. Polycarp, as well as St. Ignatius of Antioch, the successor of St. Peter in the important See of Antioch. St. Polycarp himself was also remembered for his interactions with the then Pope and Bishop of Rome, Pope St. Anicetus, for his writings and correspondences with other bishops in the region.

Then, St. Polycarp was remembered for his courageous faith and defence of his beliefs in martyrdom, when he in his old age he was martyred for refusing to offer sacrifices to the Roman Emperor under the pain of suffering and death. He remained firm and resolute in staying true to his conviction and dedication to the Lord to the very end, and his example in faith inspired many others who came after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the same courage and faith showed by St. Polycarp, in all that he had done for the sake of the Church and the faithful. Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed faith and zeal, and strive to dedicate ourselves to glorify the Lord by our lives, through our actions and deeds in life. Let us all deepen our relationship with the Lord, and let us be ever better Christians in life, making best use of this season of Lent to bring ourselves ever closer to God, to be His beloved and worthy children.

May God bless us always, and may He strengthen our faith and may He guide us all to the path to eternal life, true happiness and joy with Him. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 6 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do; for they believe that, the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask Him.”

“This, then, is how you should pray : Our Father in heaven, holy be Your Name, Your kingdom, come, Your will, be done on earth, as in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us.”

“Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.”

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 33 : 4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

The eyes of YHVH are fixed on the righteous; His ears are inclined to their cries. But His face is set against the wicked, to destroy their memory from the earth.

YHVH hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles. YHVH is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 55 : 10-11

As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My Word that goes forth out of My mouth : it will not return to Me idle, but it shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which It has been sent.

Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to reflect on the salvation and healing that we have received from Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, our High Priest and the One Who offered Himself to free us from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death. The Lord Jesus as mentioned in our first reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews is the One Who has liberated us and brought us to the hope of eternal life and glory.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews spoke at length for the past two weeks’ weekday readings regarding the nature and the role that Christ had as the Mediator of the New Covenant that God had made with us all mankind. As the High Priest, He was the One to intercede for our sake, gathering our prayers and petitions, and therefore, our cry for help and mercy. He offered not the imperfect and inadequate offerings of lambs and animals, burnt offerings and others that the priests up to then had offered from time to time again for the people’s sake.

Jesus offered Himself as the Paschal Lamb, the perfect and worthy offering for all of us, that by laying down His life on the Cross, on the Altar of Calvary, He shed His Most Precious Body and Blood, and by which we have been saved. For the offering of our High Priest has been accepted by God and the Lord has willingly forgiven us all through the Mediator of this New Covenant that He had made with all of us. The Lamb that had been slain, our High Priest, has shown us the pure and true face of God’s enduring love.

In our Gospel today, that is what we have seen as well, through the Lord’s healing of all those who came to Him seeking for help. He healed all those who were sick and with diseases, cast out evil spirits and freed those who had been possessed by demons. He touched the lives of those who came seeking God, and hence, we too should come and seek Him and find Him, as we are all in need of healing and help.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although we may be perfectly healthy in body, but in truth all of us are sick from sin. Sin is the affliction of our souls, caused by our disobedience and refusal to believe in God and His words. And the only one who can heal us from this affliction is none other than God Himself. But we need to accept Him and seek Him with all of our hearts, full of remorse and regret for our sins too.

Today, we are all called to reflect on this, to appreciate and to be thankful for the gift of God’s love, in just how generous He had been towards us, in caring for us and showing us much compassion despite how we have treated Him, rejected and ignored Him all these while. The Lord wants us all to return to Him and to be reconciled with Him, and therefore, let us all make the conscious effort to turn ourselves and our hearts once again towards Him.

And today, let us all also be inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors, in living our lives with faith so that we may come closer to God and be part of His eternal and glorious inheritance that He has prepared for all those who have been faithful to Him. Today in particular we remember the memory of St. Agnes the Martyr, the great Roman saint and martyr whose love for God and dedication was truly well known, and which we should be inspired to follow.

St. Agnes also known as St. Agnes of Rome was a young Christian girl from a noble Roman family who was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. At that time the last great persecution of Christians was occurring throughout the entire Roman Empire, and many people, both the laity and the ordained alike suffered and were martyred. St. Agnes herself was still very young at the time, and she had many suitors whom she rejected out of her love and dedication for God.

One of those suitors reported St. Agnes for her Christian faith, which made her to go through great pain and suffering. But when she was to be violated on the order of the authorities, God protected her and struck down blind those who tried to have their way with her. And after other miraculous signs in which the prefect’s own son returned to life after St. Agnes prayed over him, eventually she was stabbed and beheaded by a sword, dying as a holy martyr of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we love God as much as St. Agnes had done? Let us all spend our time and effort to grow ever more in our love and dedication to the Lord, and strive to be ever more faithful with each and every passing moments in life. May God also be with us at all times, strengthening us and giving us the courage to remain firm in our love for Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 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 : 7-12

At that tine, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the lakeside, and a large crowd from Galilee followed Him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that He was doing.

Because of the crowd, Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him, to prevent the people from crushing Him. He healed so many, that all who had diseases kept pressing towards Him to touch Him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But He warned them sternly not to tell anyone Who He was.

Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

But may all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and may all who love Your saving grace continually say, “The Lord is great.”

Thursday, 21 January 2021 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 7 : 25 – Hebrews 8 : 6

Consequently Jesus is able to save for all time those who approach God through Him. He always lives to intercede on their behalf. It was fitting that our High Priest be holy, undefiled, set apart from sinners and exalted above the heavens; a Priest Who does not first need to offer sacrifice for Himself before offering for the sins of the people, as high priests do. He offered Himself in sacrifice once and for all.

And whereas the Law elected weak men as high priests, now, after the Law, the word of God with an oath appointed the Son, made perfect forever. The main point of what we are saying is that we have a High Priest. He is seated at the right hand of the Divine Majesty in heaven, where He serves as minister of the true Temple and Sanctuary, set up not by any mortal but by the Lord.

A high priest is appointed to offer to God gifts and sacrifices, and Jesus also has to offer some sacrifice. Had He remained on earth, He would not be a priest, since others offer the gifts according to the Law. In fact, the ritual celebrated by those priests is only an imitation and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary.

We know the word of God to Moses with regard to the construction of the holy tent. He said : You are to make everything according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain. Now, however, Jesus enjoys a much higher ministry in being the Mediator of a better covenant, founded on better promises.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last 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, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us the challenges and trials that are part of our journey as Christians and how we should keep up faith and not be afraid. This is because the Lord will always be with us and by our side no matter what, and with His guidance and strength, we shall persevere through all the challenges and trials.

In our first reading today we heard of the words from the Book of Revelations of St. John regarding the happenings of the end times as the time of reckoning and judgment is coming up on the world, and the Angels of God bearing the seven great plagues that will befall the nations and the people who refused to believe in God. At that time, the righteous and those who are still faithful in God will be persecuted and oppressed by those unbelievers, and the plagues and other signs are reminders that God is by the side of His faithful.

The Lord will not abandon His people to darkness and destruction, and He, as the Lamb of God seen in the vision of St. John, has triumphed by His Passion and Resurrection from the dead, and not even death and evil can overcome Him. For He has defeated the ultimate enemy of all, that is death, and showing to all of us that there is light and hope beyond death, and death no longer has the final say for all of us. It used to be something that we were all scared of as death is a separation from our lives in this world.

The Lord reassured us all that death that we experience is only a temporary experience and is just a mark of the new beginning of a new life with Him, when we will be reunited completely with Him and enter into the eternal glory and the eternal life that have been prepared for all of us. However, unless we believe in Him and are faithful in HIm, dedicating ourselves to Him, there will be no place for us in His eternal kingdom and glory.

And all of these relate well to what we heard from our Gospel passage today. In our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord proclaiming the revelation of what His disciples and followers as Christians would encounter soon enough, after He established His Church and they preached His Good News to the nations. They would be persecuted, oppressed, rejected and ridiculed by many of those who refused to believe in the Lord and in His message, as well as those who saw the faithful as threats to their own power and influence.

Hence, that was why Christians especially in its early centuries faced so many persecutions, initially from the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin and the chief priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees and all those who were opposed to the Lord and His followers. And in addition, the Roman authorities and the state governments, as well as the Greeks and other pagan peoples who refused to believe in God also persecuted the faithful and made things difficult to them.

Yet, amidst all of that, many of our holy predecessors, the innumerable martyrs and saints of the Church remained firm in their faith and conviction to serve the Lord, dedicating their lives and all their efforts to follow the Lord to the very end. They endured those sufferings, trials, persecutions and challenges since they had faith that God would be with them and journeyed together with them even through the greatest sufferings and the deepest darkness and despair.

One of those saints is St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of the most famous and inspirational saints of the early Church. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a noble, born of a powerful family as her father was the governor of Alexandria in Egypt, a very important position in the Roman Empire at that time. St. Catherine was persuaded to become a Christian after receiving visions of the Lord and was convinced to embrace the Christian faith fully. And all these happened amidst one of the most bitter and brutal persecution against Christians.

It was told that St. Catherine was arrested and tortured for her Christian faith. And in the attempt to make her abandon her faith and to publicly denounce the Christian faith and truth, the Emperor made her to debate as many as fifty or more pagan philosophers, who were all unable to outsmart or debate her, unable to match her wisdom, the wisdom of God as passed on and revealed through the Holy Spirit. It was told that St. Catherine’s wisdom was such that even the Emperor’s own wife was touched, inspired and converted to the true faith.

And when all methods and ways had failed to persuade St. Catherine to abandon her faith, the desperate Emperor tried to turn her by offering her his hand in marriage. Normally, the temptation to abandon the faith to embrace marriage with the most powerful and influential person in the land would be so great. But St. Catherine resisted the offer and temptation, declaring publicly that she maintained her virginity and dedicated it to the Lord, refusing to stain her purity in any way, and neither would she abandon her faith. And thus, afterwards, she was martyred for remaining true to her faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the inspiring examples set by St. Catherine of Alexandria, as well as the many other examples made by the other holy men and women of God, who had chosen to walk with God and refused to abandon Him, let us all be inspired to follow their examples and walk in their footsteps even as challenges and trials are facing us and become great obstacles in our own respective journeys of faith. Let us all discern carefully our path going forward in life, that we may grow ever closer to God and in faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us all in our journey of faith. May He strengthen us and our resolve that we may persevere and be more courageous in our pursuit of faith, and be ourselves inspiring examples of faith to one another. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 12-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Before all these things happen, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you; you will be delivered to the synagogues and put in prison, and for My sake you will be brought before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”

“So keep this in mind : do not worry in advance about what to say, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death.”

“But even though, because of My Name, you will be hated by everyone, not a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance you will save your souls.”