Wednesday, 23 February 2022 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop 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 all of us are called to do what we can to contribute to the works of the Lord, the mission and the actions that we have been called to do as the followers and the disciples of Our Lord and Saviour. As Christians we have to do whatever we can to do the will of God and to support one another in doing so, and not to do things for only our own personal glory and achievements, satisfaction or pleasure.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. James the Apostle in which the Apostle spoke of the futility of many people who make plans and ambitious aims, concerted efforts and other things to advance their own often selfish and greedy goals in life. All those things that man have often done to preserve themselves, their gains and self-interests are ultimately meaningless because no matter how many things we accumulate and gather in life, we will never bring them forth beyond this life.

That is why, St. James told all of us the faithful people of God that we should not immerse ourselves in worldly desires and all the corrupt and wicked things that are present in our world today. We have to do our best to resist the temptations to sin, or else we may end up falling away further and further from the path of God. Many of our predecessors had fallen in such a manner, and unless we heed the words of the Apostle St. James, we may end up suffering the same fate as well, forgetting God and His ways as we got distracted by the many temptations of this world.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples when the latter tried to stop a person performing works and miracles in the Name of the Lord, just because they did not belong to their group. The disciples must have seen the man as a rival to their work and influence, and unwittingly, without them knowing it, they actually had done exactly what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Lord had often done, in trying to stop the Lord and His disciples in their works of carrying out the will of God.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were also thinking that they were doing the work of God as they opposed the Lord and His disciples, thinking that they alone had obeyed and followed the Lord in the right manner. As such, they ended up obstructing and made it difficult for the Lord to perform His works, and that was the unfortunate result when man allowed their worldly desires, their greed and ego, their ambition, jealousy and others to cloud their judgment and lead them down the path of disobedience and sin.

The Lord therefore had reminded His disciples and thus, also all of us that we cannot allow those things from distracting and misleading us any further in life. We have to resist the temptations of worldly ambitions and thinking that we do things for our own benefits and glory. The disciples must have thought of that as they went to the Lord asking Him to prohibit the other man from doing his works in His Name. But the Lord immediately reminded them that as long as he works in His Name and for His glory, that is all that matters.

Now, all of us as Christians are called to reflect on these things, keeping in mind how we are going to live our lives from now on. We are called to refocus our attention towards the Lord and model ourselves on our great and holy predecessors, whose examples should inspire us to follow in their footsteps in being faithful to God. Today, we celebrate one of those great saints, namely that of St. Polycarp, a holy bishop and servant of God, and devout martyr of the faith and the Church.

St. Polycarp was one of the early Church fathers and successor to the Apostles, who was a contemporary of the disciples of the Twelve Apostles, and might have encountered and corresponded with some of the Apostles, especially that of St. John the Apostle. He collaborated with the other leaders of the Church and helped the Church in the place under his responsibility to grow and prosper, even through the times of great hardships and occasional persecutions from the Roman state.

He continued to work hard and devote his time, effort and attention to the people entrusted to him, even until a very advanced age, and it was at that time, when he was already eighty-six years old, that he was martyred in the defence of his faith, likely during the time of one of the persecutions against Christians. He had proclaimed the Christian truth and faith with great courage throughout his life, and to the very end, he showed that not even suffering and death could stop him from doing so, for the greater glory of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do whatever we can to follow in the footsteps of St. Polycarp and our many other holy predecessors, in putting God as the focus and emphasis of their lives, in making their lives worthy of Him through their actions and commitment. Let us all not be distracted and tempted any further by worldly temptations from now on, and instead be good role models for one another and assist each other in our respective journey of faith towards the Lord, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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.”

Wednesday, 23 February 2022 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 48 : 2-3, 6-11

Hear this, all you peoples! Listen, all you inhabitants of the world, high and low together, rich and poor alike!

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers ring me round – those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

For no ransom avails for one’s life; there is no price one can give to God for it. For redeeming one’s life demands too high a price, and all is lost forever. Who can remain forever alive and never see the grave?

For we see that the wise die, and pass away like the fool and the stupid, leaving to others their fortune and wealth.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

James 4 : 13-17

Listen now, you who speak like this, “Today or tomorrow we will go off to this city and spend a year there; we will do business and make money.”

You have no idea what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? No more than a mist, which appears for a moment and then disappears. Instead of this, you should say, “God willing, we will live and do this or that.”

But no! You boast of your plans : this brazen pride is wicked. Anyone who knows what is good, and does not do it, sins.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of God in the Sacred Scriptures we are reminded to put our faith in the Lord and to trust in Him, asking Him for strength and guidance in our respective journeys of life. We are all called to follow Him and to walk in His path, modelling ourselves and our lives based on all that He has taught us through His Apostles and disciples, and through all the holy men and women, all those who have dedicated themselves to walk in the path of the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard of the time when King Solomon of Israel, the son of King David who succeeded him as the king over all the people of God, the Israelites. We heard how Solomon, who was then still young and inexperienced, asked the Lord for wisdom and guidance so that he might be able to follow in the great examples set by his father. He prayed for wisdom to be a good leader for the people of God, asking the Lord to show him the path forward as he took over the kingship and leadership from his father.

The Lord did not just grant Solomon what he had asked for, because he did not ask for more wealth, power or glory unlike what most people would have asked for. He humbly asked for wisdom and guidance to be a good leader for the people of God, and God gave him just that, a wisdom unsurpassed by others, which made him famous beyond the lands of Israel. At the same time, God gave Solomon wealth, power and glory unsurpassed and unmatched, and this made the kingdom of Israel to be a great kingdom at the height of its power.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the works of the Lord and His disciples as they went from place to place ministering to the people, proclaiming the truth of God and the Good News of His salvation. There were so many people following them and desiring to listen to the Lord that the disciples were often overwhelmed. They could not even have a proper time to rest. As we heard in our Gospel today, even when they finally managed to get away to a secluded place on their own, the people managed to figure out where they were going and went there ahead of them.

There, despite the tiring works that He had done earlier, the Lord still ministered to the people, teaching them and speaking to them, spending a lot of time with them. It was at that time when the disciples were likely given a time to rest while the Lord continued to work tirelessly, reaching out to His people. We saw in that occasion just how beloved each and every one of us are to God, and how fortunate we are to have been beloved in such a manner by the Lord. God has sent to us His only begotten Son to be our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Through what we have heard today, we have seen how God loves us, wants to be reconciled and reunited with us, that He reached out to us and bestow upon us His blessings and graces. However, more often than not, we are not able to grasp His love and efforts because we are too busy with our many preoccupations and worldly desires. We are often too busy thinking about our many concerns and plans in life to notice God and His presence in our lives, only remembering Him when we have need of Him, and forgetting Him when we do not need Him.

Today, all of us are called to be like Solomon, in humbling ourselves before the Lord and asking for His guidance and wisdom, so that we may discern carefully our path in life going forward from now on. And we also should model ourselves based on the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, whose feast we celebrate today. St. Agatha of Sicily, a renowned martyr and saint from the time of the Great Persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperors can indeed inspire us to be better Christians in true deeds and actions.

St. Agatha was born into a noble Roman family and she made a vow of holy and perpetual virginity, which she offered to God freely and wholeheartedly. Her great beauty was noted by a pagan Roman prefect named Quintianus, who did all he could to try to persuade and coax her to marry him. But despite his best efforts, his pressure and even threats, all those could not sway St. Agatha from abandoning her vow of virginity and her faith in the Lord. She remained resolute in her conviction and desire to follow the Lord.

As that time coincided with the intense persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Decius, which was a particularly brutal period of intense persecution against Christians, the displeased and disappointed prefect reported St. Agatha to the authorities, and as the prefect Quintianus himself presided over the trial, he hoped that the threat of suffering and death would make St. Agatha to give up her stubborn resistance and refusal to abandon her faith in God. Instead, St. Agatha remained even more ardent in her faith and refused to give up.

She prayed to the Lord saying, “Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, You know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am Your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil.” And despite the efforts the prefect tried to incarcerate, torture and make her life difficult, St. Agatha would not be swayed and she remained faithful to the very end. She was tortured with all sorts of punishments, and had her breasts cut, surviving a burning at the stake before eventually dying in prison, remaining faithful to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all be inspired by the great examples set before us by the young King Solomon and by St. Agatha, the great Holy Virgin and Martyr. Let us all follow their examples in faith and commit ourselves to walk in the path of faith and grow ever stronger in faith and loving God more and more with each and every passing moments. Let us all seek the Lord with ever greater conviction and ask Him for guidance and strength that we may draw ever closer to Him, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 118 : 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

How can young people remain pure? By living according to Your word.

I seek You with my whole heart; let me not stray from Your commands.

In my heart I have kept Your word, that I may not sin against my YHVH.

Praise to You, o YHVH; instruct me in Your statutes.

That, with my lips, I may declare all Your spoken decrees.

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Saturday, 5 February 2022 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Kings 3 : 4-13

The king used to sacrifice at Gibeon, the great high place; on the altar there he had offered a thousand burnt offerings. It was in Gibeon, during the night, that YHVH appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you want Me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown Your servant David my father a great and steadfast love because he served You faithfully and was righteous and sincere towards You. You have given him proof of Your steadfast love in making a son of his sit on his throne this day.”

“And now, o YHVH my God, You have made Your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a young boy who does not know how to undertake anything. Meantime, Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen – a people so great that they can neither be numbered nor counted.”

“Give me, therefore, an understanding mind in governing Your people that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to govern this multitude of people of Yours?”

YHVH was pleased that Solomon had made this request. And He told him, “Because you have requested this rather than long life or wealth or even vengeance on your enemies; indeed, because you have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I shall grant you your request. I now give you a wise and discerning mind such as no one has had before you nor anyone after you shall ever have.”

“I will also give you what you have not asked for, both wealth and fame; and no king shall be your equal during your lifetime.”

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 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 often times as we carry on living our lives as Christians, we have to face oppression and persecution, facing difficult times and trials in living our lives while being faithful to God. It had happened to our ancestors, our predecessors who had kept their faith and it can happen to us as well.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of Daniel, the man of God from Judah who had spent much of his life in Babylon and then in the courts of the Persian kings that succeeded the Babylonians. King Darius the Great of Persia, the figure likely mentioned in that passage had Daniel as one of his courtiers, as a holy and wise man that he trusted. This resulted in jealousy and also hatred from others who despised Daniel and his faith in God.

As a result, those enemies of Daniel tried to leverage the king into enacting a law that outlawed the worship of God and therefore indirectly implicate Daniel and made him to be punishable by the same law. Daniel stood firm in his faith and he would not give in to the provisions of the law enacted on the advice of his enemies, and he remained faithful to God even when he was threatened with certain death.

The Lord preserved Daniel and protected him when he was thrown into the lion’s den, and even when the lions had purposely been made hungry but starving them, they did not harm or even touch Daniel at all. The Lord guarded him and kept him until the time that the king, who was very sympathetic to Daniel, released him from the lion’s den. It was thus that the king ordered the enemies of Daniel and all those who had accused and slandered him to be thrown into the lion’s den instead, and they were all crushed by the lions.

Then in our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord Jesus revealed to His disciples of the coming of trials and challenging times for all of them as they all would face persecution and difficulties, and everything would not be the same as before. Their old world would be destroyed and ended, and even Jerusalem itself would not be spared. The city of Jerusalem itself would be surrounded and destroyed, and it would be one of the signs of what was to come.

When the Lord spoke of what would happen to Jerusalem, some of them might be thinking that what were to happen to Jerusalem would be the omen of the Second Coming of Christ, which the Lord Himself also proclaimed at that same occasion. Some early Christians believed that the Lord would very soon come again and free them from their sufferings and persecutions, under both the Jewish authorities and from the Romans. But it was not the case.

The Lord did not actually specify that He would come again right after Jerusalem was surrounded and destroyed, which actually happened just four decades after the Lord’s crucifixion. The Romans did surround and besiege Jerusalem after the major uprising by the Jewish people, which eventually resulted in the destruction of the city and the Temple of God, which was completely destroyed and torn down just as the Lord had predicted.

But the Lord again did not say that He would immediately come after that. Rather, as He revealed through St. John the Apostle in his vision received at the island of Patmos, which he wrote in the Book of Revelations, sufferings and trials will come again for all those who are faithful to God, much as how Daniel had suffered, and how many saints and martyrs, our holy predecessors had endured, and how many more will suffer because they remain faithful to God, even to this very day, and to the future to come.

What is important is that we must remember that the Lord is always ever by our side, and He will never abandon us. Even as we suffer, He is always guiding us and protecting us in various ways. We cannot and we should not lose hope in Him, and we should instead remain steadfast in His grace and providence, entrusting ourselves to His care and protection. All of us must have faith in the Lord and do our best to help one another as well, even as we struggle to endure the trials and challenges we are facing or are going to face in the future.

Today we also commemorate the feast of a great saint and martyr who should inspire us to live our lives worthily for the Lord, namely that of St. Catherine of Alexandria, also known as St. Catherine the Great. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a renowned Roman martyr, a holy woman and virgin who according to tradition was the daughter of the governor of Alexandria in Roman Egypt. At that time, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, Christians throughout the Empire faced one last, particularly brutal period of intense persecutions, where churches were destroyed, their properties looted and confiscated, the Scriptures burnt, and many of the members of the faithful, both the leaders and the laity alike were oppressed.

St. Catherine was persuaded through a vision of the Blessed Mother of God and her Son, Our Lord and Saviour to become a Christian, and as the persecutions intensified, she chose to go to the Emperor, then Emperor Maxentius, and rebuke him for his misdeeds. Amused by her courage and beauty, it was told that the Emperor called forth fifty renowned pagan philosophers to debate with her, and they all could not argue with her. God gave her the wisdom and the courage, the strength and endurance to stand up faithfully for her Christian faith.

When she was persecuted and tortured, which she endured with great faith, it was told that her courage and faith touched so many, that even the wife of the Emperor and others were themselves convinced to become Christians, and thus were martyred along with her as well. The Emperor desperately tried to make St. Catherine to abandon her faith, even to the point of proposing marriage to her, which she rejected courageously and firmly, stating that her Spouse was none other than Jesus, her Lord and Saviour, to Whom alone she dedicated herself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard and discussed regarding the life examples showed by St. Catherine of Alexandria, all of us can see that trials and persecutions may come at any time for those who follow Christ. The question is then, are we willing to endure those sufferings and trials for Christ? Or are we easily tempted and swayed to abandon Him for temporary gains and benefits of this world? Are we easily made to give up our faith because we are afraid of the consequences of following Him?

Let us ponder these things in our mind and let us consider what we can do to be good and faithful disciples of Our Lord in each and every moments of our lives. Let us pray to the Lord, asking Him to guide us and to strengthen us in our journey of faith so that we will always have the courage and strength to remain faithful to Him regardless of the trials, obstacles and challenges that we may have to face for the Lord’s sake. May God be with us all and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”