Thursday, 2 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with the moment when St. Paul reached Jerusalem and caused a great uproar there as the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council and their supporters, both from the party of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, had gathered to persecute St. Paul and to condemn him. However, they could not agree on how they were to handle him.

St. Paul knew that they would do whatever they could to persecute him and even condemn him to death, but that was not what the Holy Spirit had guided him to do. He still had one last mission to do, to evangelise to the people in the city of Rome, the capital and centre of the Roman Empire. Hence, it was not yet time for St. Paul to be persecuted to his death. And that was why he incited the two opposing groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees to a near riot simply because he said that he was a Pharisee, and it was his belief in what the Pharisees believed that led him to be put on trial there.

St. Paul as Saul was indeed a Pharisee and a zealous one at that, before he was called by God and was redeemed, turning over a new leaf and embracing a new path in life as God’s servant. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were often at loggerheads as they were diametrically opposite in their beliefs, with the Pharisees believing firmly in the spiritual and immaterial world, the resurrection of the dead, the presence of spirits and Angels, while the Sadducees represent the secular party, those who firmly reject all those, and particularly oppose the notion of life after death and the resurrection.

That declaration by St. Paul was enough to drive the assembly into a frenzy, each group defending their own viewpoints and attacking the other, to the point that some of those same Pharisees even defended St. Paul and said before the assembly how he was innocent and not to be punished, totally contradicting their own stance earlier on. It was also proof that whatever false charges and accusations they wanted to impose on St. Paul was not valid and right in the first place. Nonetheless, St. Paul allowed the Holy Spirit to guide his path, and he was rescued by the guards who led him to the Roman governor, before whom the Apostle would claim trial and appeal before the Emperor himself, paving for his final missionary journey to Rome.

As we have heard in those readings today, including in the Gospel where we heard the Lord praying for the sake of His disciples, that they would be blessed and protected, united and kept as one flock, hence, as Christians we have to realise that in following the Lord, we may often have to endure trials and challenges, and we may have to suffer a lot just as St. Paul had experienced. Many of our predecessors throughout the history of the Church were persecuted and had to face prison and all sorts of torture in their faithful living of their lives and their dedication to God.

And these include St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, the two renowned saints who were told to have perished in the most severe persecution to ever face the Church in its early days, under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ordered the persecution of all Christians, the burning of all Christian texts and bibles, and the destruction of churches and Christian properties. Many martyrs were born of that persecution, and yet there were many tales of those who persisted in their faith, laying down their lives for the Lord rather than choosing apostasy.

The question is, what are we then going to do? In the face of opposition and persecution, should we then turn away from the Lord for the sake of convenience and happiness, for respite and joy? Or are we going to follow the examples of the Apostles and the saints, like St. Paul, St. Marcellinus and St. Peter among many others? The temptation for us to give in to the pressure of the world, to conform to the path of sin and abandoning our faith can be really great at times, but that should not be a reason for us to turn away from God and find the way out and seeking convenience and pleasures for ourselves.

May the Lord continue to guide each and every one of us that we may be always ever faithful to Him and strong in our convictions to walk in His path, despite the persecutions and oppositions, rejections and hardships that we may have to endure. And may all of us remain resolute in living our lives with faith to the fullest, respecting one another while at the same time, standing up courageously for our faith in God, so that each and every one of us may inspire each other in faith, that in all the things we say and do, we will help our fellow brothers and sisters to remain firm in their own faith and life. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 2 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 17 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in Me. May they all be one, as You Father are in Me and I am in You. May they be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

“I have given them the glory You have given Me, that they may be one as We are One : I in them and You in Me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that You have sent Me, and that I have loved them, just as You loved Me.”

“Father, since You have given them to Me, I want them to be with Me where I am, and see the glory You gave Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me.”

“As I revealed Your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and also may be in them.”

Thursday, 2 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even at night my inmost self instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

Thursday, 2 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 22 : 30 and Acts 23 : 6-11

The next day the commander wanted to know for certain the charges the Jews were making against Paul. So he released him from prison and called together the High Priest and the whole Council; and they brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul knew that part of the Council were Sadducees and others Pharisees; so he spoke out in the Council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee. It is for the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial here.”

At these words, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the whole assembly was divided. For the Sadducees claim that there is neither resurrection, nor Angels nor spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all these things.

Then the shouting grew louder, and some teachers of the Law of the Pharisee party protested, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Maybe a spirit or an Angel has spoken to him.” With this the argument became so violent that the commander feared that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He therefore ordered the soldiers to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him back to the fortress.

That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Courage! As you have borne witness to Me here in Jerusalem, so must you do in Rome.”

Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are shown again of more of the works of the Apostles who had gone to proclaim the truth of God in more and more places in their long years and periods of ministry, reaching out to the people who have not yet known the Lord and speaking of the history of God’s salvation among His people, which He had fulfilled and made whole through Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Whose coming into this world heralded the coming of the time of grace, the time when the Lord came to gather His beloved people and reconciling all of us to Himself.

In our first reading today, we heard of the account of the works of St. Paul in evangelising amongst the Jewish people in Antioch in Pisidia in Asia Minor, where he went among the local Jewish diaspora community and spoke up about the Lord in the synagogue. He spoke courageously and at length about the works of God’s salvation among His people, on how He had led them out of Egypt, guiding them and protecting them all the way, appointing judges and kings, and also prophets to help them to remain on the right path, and sending them reminders and help whenever they faltered and fell into the wrong paths.

St. Paul also then spoke of the more recent events back then, regarding the works of St. John the Baptist that was quite well-known and popular among the Jewish people, even in the diaspora, and how he was the precursor and the one to prepare the path for the coming of the one true Messiah or Saviour for all the people, namely Christ Himself, the Son of God and the Holy One, Who has called and sent St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples to become His witnesses and missionaries among the people. St. Paul courageously spoke up about God’s truth and emphatically encouraging the people to come to believe in Christ and His teachings, and to accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.

However, this calling and mission was truly a difficult one, and there were plenty of obstacles and trials that the Apostles like St. Paul would have to endure, as they strive to minister to the people and proclaim the Good News of God, recalling what the Lord Himself had suffered and experienced at the hands of His enemies and even from one of His own closest collaborators, as highlighted in our Gospel passage today. The Lord was betrayed even by one of His own members of the Twelve, namely by Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him and handed Him over to the chief priests for a meagre sum of thirty pieces of silver.

That reality was why the followers of Christ will likely go through the same challenges, trials and sufferings as the Lord Himself had experienced, as after all, if they had rejected their Master’s teachings, and the Gospel today spoke of how the servants are not greater than their master, then all those who follow the Lord and work to proclaim His truth would therefore likely suffer similar kind of rejection, persecution and suffering. But they must not be afraid because God Himself will be with them and will be by their side, no matter what. This is the same truth that all of us have to believe in just as we also continue to carry out the works of evangelisation in the Name of the Lord.

We should be inspired by the examples set by some of our holy predecessors, the holy martyrs, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, as well as St. Pancras. All of them had devoted their lives and works to the Lord and for His glory, and in their own ways, they had endured many sufferings and tribulations, and were eventually martyred for the sake of their faith, and they faced those sufferings and ultimately their martyrdom, full of faith and trust in the Lord, believing that what they had done for the Lord’s sake, will be justified and worthy of God in the end, and they will be by the Lord’s side in triumph. They did not give up their struggles for their faith, to the very end.

St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were chamberlains or servants of the niece of the Roman Emperor Domitian according to the Christian tradition, whose name was Flavia Domitilla. According to tradition, they were martyred together with Flavia Domitilla, as they were Christians and the niece of the Emperor had also converted to the Christian faith, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Domitian himself, which was one of the more vicious ones in the series of persecutions against the Church, and it was told that both St. Nereus and St. Achilleus joyfully welcomed their suffering and martyrdom, in defending their faith.

Meanwhile, St. Pancras, also known as St. Pancratius of Rome, was a young man who lived through during yet another vicious moment of persecution against Christians, this time under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous for his particularly harsh persecution of all Christians. It was told that he was forced to offer sacrifices to the traditional Roman pagan gods, and he refused. The Emperor, impressed by St. Pancras’ bravery and courage, tried to persuade and coerce him through wealth and other means, to abandon his faith, but he would not be moved or persuaded. He remained faithful to the end and accepted his martyrdom with grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow the great examples of our predecessors in faith, and do whatever we can to proclaim the Lord and His truth by our faithful lives, at every moments and opportunities. Let us all be great inspiration and examples for one another in faith, and endeavour to bring even more people to the Lord and His salvation through our exemplary life. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 13 : 16-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, the servant is not greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than he who sent him. Understand this, and blessed are you, if you put it into practice.”

“I am not speaking of you all, because I know the ones I have chosen, and the Scripture has to be fulfilled that says : The one who shared My table has risen against Me. I tell you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may know that I am He.”

“Truly, I say to you, whoever welcomes the one I send, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes the One Who sent Me.”

Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 88 : 2-3, 21-22, 25 and 27

I will sing forever, o Lord, of Your love and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

I have found David My servant, and with My holy oil I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him and My arm will sustain.

My faithfulness and love will be with him, and by My help he will be strong. He will call on Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.’

Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 13 : 13-25

From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and came to Perga in Pamphylia. There John left them and returned to Jerusalem, while they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent this message to them, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the assembly, please speak up.”

So Paul arose, motioned to them for silence and began, “Fellow Israelites and also all you who fear God, listen. The God of our people Israel chose our ancestors, and after He had made them increase during their stay in Egypt, He led them out by powerful deeds.”

“For forty years He fed them in the desert, and after He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took four hundred and fifty years. After that, he gave them Judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, and he was king for forty years.”

“After that time, God removed him and raised up David as king, to whom He bore witness saying : ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all I want him to do.’ It is from the descendants of David that God has now raised up the promised Saviour of Israel, Jesus.”

“Before He appeared, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. As John was ending his life’s work, he said : ‘I am not what you think I am, for after me another One is coming Whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.'”

Saturday, 22 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are reminded of the need for all of us to love the Lord and entrust ourselves to Him, and often times we will find that giving ourselves to the service of God would require making a sacrifice on our side, and believe in His loving kindness despite the trials, challenges and obstacles we may face in our respective journey through life.

In our first reading today, as we listened to the words of the Lord, we heard the tragic story of the defeat of King Saul and the forces of Israel at the battle of Mount Gilboa against the Philistines. The Philistines were a powerful neighbouring people of the Israelites who at that time were on the rise and were making attacks and raids deep into the lands of the Israelites causing untold sufferings and harm to the people of God.

The forces of the Israelites was defeated, King Saul and his sons, including Jonathan, David’s close friend, were killed. The sins committed by Saul and his disobedience against God eventually contributed to this loss, as his lack of faith in God meant that they lost the guidance and providence from God. The news of that bitter defeat was relayed to David, who as the one chosen by God and anointed as the new King of Israel, had been waiting anxiously for the news of what happened.

Certainly, David was devastated at the news of the loss of not just the king and the forces of Israel, but also his close friend, Jonathan, Saul’s son. He sang a song of lamentation for them, even for Saul, who had previously tried to harm him and plotted against his life because of his place as the chosen one to replace the former as King. David entrusted his fate to the Lord, and if we recall yesterday’s reading, of David sparing Saul and his men, and did not kill them despite having the perfect chance to do so, showed us just how much David trusted in the Lord, unlike Saul who disobeyed Him.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the curious passage from the Gospel, in which we heard about the Lord and His disciples performing their work, and they were so busy in doing their work that they had no time to rest at all and even eat, and they all became hungry. We heard how the relatives of the Lord took charge of Him and told the people, that He was out of His mind. That was because He spent so much time at work and His ministry, that He did not spend much time with His family.

The Lord and His disciples, whom He had called from diverse origins, all committed themselves to the calling and ministry that God had entrusted to them. In the Lord’s own words, we heard in another occasion in the Gospels how He had no place to lay His head, and He and His disciples often had to spend time in the wilderness, travelling from places to places in ministering to the people of God, and at times also evading the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who often shadowed and followed them.

This is a reminder for us that following the Lord isn’t always an easy and comfortable journey, and more often than not, we may be required to make plenty of sacrifices along the way. Those sacrifices were not without merit though, as everyone who had given themselves to the Lord and committed themselves to Him shall receive from Him the affirmation and assurance of eternal life and glory. They shall never be disappointed and they shall attain the grace of heavenly glory reserved for those who have kept their faith in God.

Today we celebrate the feast of a great saint whose faith and dedication to the Lord can inspire us to follow Him more wholeheartedly, namely that of St. Vincent the Deacon, a holy martyr of the faith. St. Vincent, also known as St. Vincent of Zaragoza, was a deacon in the Roman town of Caesar Augusta, the precursor of modern Zaragoza. He was serving the Bishop of Zaragoza and the flock of the faithful there during the difficult years of intense persecutions of the faithful under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Vincent and the bishop among many other Christians were arrested as part of that great persecution, and he refused to burn the Sacred Scriptures as ordered by the Roman governor, and chose to stay faithful despite the certainty of death in doing so. He also rebuked the actions of the governor and affirmed that no amount of coercions or threats could change their minds, as they would rather choose to suffer and die rather than to disobey and abandon God. That was how St. Vincent was martyred, according to tradition, by burning on a hot gridiron.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all follow the inspiring examples set by St. Vincent the Deacon and many other of our holy and dedicated predecessors, and let us no longer be lukewarm in our faith but instead doing all that we can to follow the Lord wholeheartedly from now on, without fear and having full trust of the Lord, Who is always with us and journeying with us, even in the darkest moments of our lives. May God be with us all and may He bless all of our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 22 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 3 : 20-21

At that time, Jesus and His disciples went home. The crowd began to gather again and they could not even have a meal. Knowing what was happening, His relatives came to take charge of Him, “He is out of His mind,” they said.