Friday, 22 October 2021 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the need for all of us to go forth and to proclaim the truth of God in all of our communities and to be inspiration for one another in faith, just as we look upon the inspirations of our many holy predecessors, those who have gone before us and whose lives have been exemplary, righteous and good, as beacons of God’s light and truth.

Today, we focus our attention on one of these faithful and courageous servants of God, namely that of Pope St. John Paul II, whom many of us surely knew very well. Many of us have known him when he was still in this world and being our Pope. His Pontificate of almost twenty-seven years was the longest in recent memory, and one of the longest overall, and therefore many of us have spent a significant period of time under his leadership as our Pope, Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ.

No doubt that many of us may know quite a lot about Pope St. John Paul II, but I want us all to spend the time today to reflect on his life and actions, his life of service to God, of commitment and the courage which he had shown in opposing injustice and persecution of the Christian faith, his upholding of fundamental Christian values and teachings amidst the pressure of conflicting worldly agenda and corruption of worldly desires and sins, and in his great leadership of the entire Universal Church.

Pope St. John Paul II was born in Wadowice in Poland in the year of Our Lord 1920, just over a century ago. He was born into a loving and devout family in Poland, a country that had just then regained independence after over a century of oppression and conquest by its neighbouring countries. He was born as Karol Jozef Wojtyla, to a father who was an army officer and a mother who was a schoolteacher. He had an elder brother whom he adored and looked up to, who was a physician.

However, he had family tragedy early on in life, as he lost his family members one by one, his mother and then elder brother, before eventually his own father just right at the start of the Second World War. Nonetheless, the young Karol Wojtyla with the guidance of his friends and relatives, and his faith in the Lord, remained strong and courageous, even during those difficult years when Poland was engulfed in the midst of the great Second World War. He joined the seminary and went through formation during those difficult period, and having even suffered a close call to death.

And as the great war came to its end, the tyranny and persecution of the NAZI German reign was replaced by an equally oppressive regime installed by the Communists from the Soviet Union, a regime that would last for more than four decades and saw great sufferings for many of the Polish people. The future Pope was ordained a priest shortly after the end of the war and began his ministry in a country that has become officially atheist and hostile against the Christian Church and faith. As a young priest, Karol Wojtyla learnt to manoeuvre around the restrictions and oppressions while staying true to his faith.

Eventually, he was chosen and ordained as bishop, first as the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow and eventually as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, during which he was also instrumental in his role and participation during the Second Vatican Council. Then, in a public show of defiance against the Communist regime in Poland, the then Archbishop Wojtyla led the faithful in establishing the parish church in the town of Nowa Huta, which had been the proud project of the Communists as a new city in which no church would be present. He led the faithful in prayer and in putting the foundation for the church there, which after many years, was eventually completed about a decade later.

And then, by the grace of God, he was elected as the successor of St. Peter, succeeding Pope John Paul I, who had a short reign of just thirty-three days after another Pope, Pope St. Paul VI. Adopting the regnal name of his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II then led the Church in an amazing period of twenty-seven years, in which not only that he led to the beginning of the downfall of Communism in many parts of the world, including in his own native Poland, where he led to a great rejuvenation of the faith and the Church, and inspired popular uprisings that eventually led to the downfall of the Communist regime.

In the matter of faith and Church teachings, Pope St. John Paul II was instrumental in the stabilisation of the situation following the Second Vatican Council and was remarkable in his efforts and stance against the tide of relativism and attempts to change Church teachings. He led the Church into the third millennium and through his years of suffering and perseverance, he inspired many of the people of God to remain faithful and true to God, even amidst great sufferings they experienced in life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we recall the great life and the amazing faith which Pope St. John Paul II has shown us, all of us are encouraged to follow his good examples and we are all called to walk in his footsteps, in following what he has done in being faithful, as a successor of St. Peter, to whom the Lord Jesus had entrusted His flock and people in our Gospel passage today. Pope St. John Paul II had committed himself to the mission entrusted to him, and we ourselves should live our lives fulfilling the missions that each and every one of us have as Christians.

Let us all be great and exemplary role models for one another, and let us be filled with faith and love for God. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our respective journey in life, and may He bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 22 October 2021 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 12 : 54-59

At that time, Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it happens. And when the wind blows from the south, you say, ‘It will be hot’; and so it is. You superficial people! You understand the signs of the earth and the sky, but you do not understand the present times.”

“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is fit? When you go with your accuser before the court, try to settle the case on the way, lest he drag you before the judge, and the judge deliver you to the jailer, and the jail throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Pope St. John Paul II)

John 21 : 15-17

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep!”

Friday, 22 October 2021 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 118 : 66, 68, 76, 77, 93, 94

Give me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust in Your commands.

You are good, and Your works are good; teach me Your decrees.

Comfort me then with Your unfailing love, as You promised Your servant.

Let Your mercy come, to give me life; for Your Law is my delight.

Never will I forget Your precepts; for with them, You give me life.

Save me, for I am Yours, since I seek Your statutes.

Alternative reading (Mass of Pope St. John Paul II)

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name.

Proclaim His salvation, day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

Give to YHVH, you families of nations, give to YHVH glory and strength. Give to YHVH the glory due His Name.

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

Friday, 22 October 2021 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Romans 7 : 18-25a

I know, that what is right, does not abide in me, I mean, in my flesh. I can want to do what is right, but I am unable to do it. In fact, I do not do the good I want, but the evil I hate. Therefore, if I do what I do not want to do, I am not the one striving toward evil, but sin, which is in me.

I discover, then, this reality : though I wish to do what is right, the evil within me asserts itself first. My inmost self, agrees and rejoices with the Law of God, but I notice in my body, another law, challenging the Law of the Spirit, and delivering me, as a slave to the law of sin, written in my members.

Alas, for me! Who will free me from this being, which is only death? Let us give thanks to God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord!

Alternative reading (Mass of Pope St. John Paul II)

Isaiah 52 : 7-10

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring Good News, who herald peace and happiness, who proclaim salvation and announce to Zion : “Your God is King!”

Together your watchmen raise their voices in praise and song; they see YHVH face to face returning to Zion. Break into shouts of joy, o ruins of Jerusalem, for YHVH consoles His people and redeems Jerusalem.

YHVH has bared His holy arm in the eyes of the nations; all the ends of the earth, in alarm, will witness God’s salvation.

Monday, 11 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord, we are all reminded of the calling of the Lord to all of us to trust in the Lord and allow Him to lead us down the right path as our Shepherd, and each and every one of us must then also follow the example of our Shepherd and become sources of inspiration and strength for one another so that each and every one of us may be inspired to always remain committed to God.

In our first reading today from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the Lord speaking to His people, who at that time was in exile in Babylon, that He would gather them like a shepherd gathering his sheep, from those scattered among the nations, and He would look for them and reunite themselves to Him, as He still loved them and cared for them as His beloved people and His children. The Lord is still ever faithful to the Covenant which He had made with them even though those same people had betrayed and abandoned Him for the false pagan idols and gods.

The Lord would prove this right by gathering all of His scattered people and moved the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great to allow the descendants of the Israelites to return to their homeland and rebuild their cities and dwellings, as well as the Holy Temple and House of God in Jerusalem. God gathered them all and reunited them, to live once again in obedience to His Law and commandments, and distancing themselves from the rebellious ways of their ancestors.

Then, in our Gospel today, we listened to the story of the Lord Jesus after His resurrection from the dead, when He appeared to His disciples in Galilee, and as they gathered, the Lord had a conversation with St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of all of His disciples, who had earlier on denied Him three times at the moment of His Passion and suffering. The Lord asked St. Peter three times whether he loved Him, and St. Peter responded each time with a sincere proclamation of his love and dedication to the Lord.

Through these series of questions, in fact, which mirrored the three times denial of St. Peter earlier on, it showed that the Lord had forgiven St. Peter, and just as He had called and chosen him earlier on, He entrusted His Church to St. Peter, as He earlier on also said that, as He gave him the name of Peter, or Cephas, ‘the Rock’, that He established His Church on the Rock of St. Peter, as His Vicar and the leader of all the faithful, as the shepherd of shepherds and the one to represent the one True Shepherd of all, the Lord Himself.

This was further affirmed as the Lord told St. Peter to ‘feed My Sheep’, symbolically presenting the Church as the flock of the Lord’s faithful, and entrusting the Church and all the faithful to the Apostles and the other disciples to be the ones to lead and guide them to the right path, as they gather together in prayer, committing themselves to a new existence together in God, and guided by the examples and the inspiration of the Holy Apostles, the saints and martyrs who had lived with devotion to God.

Today, all of us also celebrate the feast of one of St. Peter’s holy successors, as Pope and leader of the Universal Church, namely Pope St. John XXIII, also known as the Good Pope, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, elected in the Year of Our Lord 1958 as the Supreme Pontiff and Vicar of Christ, to lead the entire faithful people of God, as the shepherd of all the faithful representing Christ, the Chief Shepherd. Pope St. John XXIII and his many contributions still inspire many even to this very day.

Pope St. John XXIII was born in a poor family in the northern part of Italy in Bergamo, in a family of many children, who raised their children in the Christian faith devoutly. One of his uncles sponsored his education, and eventually he joined the priesthood and was ordained a priest in Rome. He was then involved in working in the Diocese of Bergamo and witnessed firsthand how his bishop showed his care and concern for his flock during an incident in which workers on strike to fight for their rights were arrested, and he and his bishop helped in mediating between the workers and the authorities.

This would continue to inspire Pope St. John XXIII in his later role as the Apostolic Delegate to Bulgaria and Turkey, as he worked hard to reach out to his flock and also to all other Christians and fellow men, in showing God’s love to all, in leading them towards God as the successor of St. Peter, as the shepherd of shepherds and as guide for them towards the Lord. Then, as Apostolic Nuncio to France and finally as the Patriarch of Venice, the future Pope St. John XXIII would continue to show his dedication in his efforts to reach out to the faithful.

As Pope, Pope St. John XXIII devoted himself to reform the Church, and called for the Ecumenical Council at the Vatican, also known better as the Second Vatican Council, which began during the later part of his pontificate. Pope St. John XXIII also contributed greatly to the world, in healing the divisions between Christians, through his links to the separated brethren of the Eastern Orthodox Church from his earlier tenure as Delegate in Bulgaria and Turkey, among others. And he was also well-known for his peacemaking effort, between the superpowers at the height of the Cold War, in order to avoid mutual destruction between them and the world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the good examples and the life work from Pope St. John XXIII, can we be inspired to follow him and his good examples, and do whatever we can in our lives, so that we may truly be faithful disciples and followers of our Lord? Let us all be shepherds and guides to one another as well, to reach out to those who are in need, and to help one another to find our way to the Lord together. May the Lord, our loving Shepherd and Guide, continue to strengthen us and help us in our journey through life, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 11 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 11 : 29-32

At that time, as the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words : “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation.”

“The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Pope St. John XXIII)

John 21 : 15-17

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep!”

Monday, 11 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Alternative reading (Mass of Pope St. John XXIII)

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Monday, 11 October 2021 : 28th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John XXIII, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Romans 1 : 1-7

From Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, an Apostle, called and set apart for God’s Good News, the very promises He foretold through His prophets in the sacred Scriptures, regarding His Son, Who was born in the flesh a descendant of David, and has been recognised as the Son of God, endowed with Power, upon rising from the dead, through the Holy Spirit.

Through Him, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and for the sake of His Name, we received grace, and mission in all the nations, for them to accept the faith. All of you, the elected of Christ, are part of them, you, the beloved God in Rome, called to be holy : May God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you grace and peace.

Alternative reading (Mass of Pope St. John XXIII)

Ezekiel 34 : 11-16

Indeed YHVH says this : I, Myself, will care for My sheep and watch over them. As the shepherd looks after his flock when he finds them scattered, so will I watch over My sheep; and gather them from all the places where they were scattered in a time of cloud and fog. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from their countries. I will lead them to their own land; and pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in all the valleys and inhabited regions of the land.

I will take them to good pastures on the high mountains of Israel. They will rest where the grazing is good, and feed in lush pastures on the heights of Israel. I, Myself, will tend My sheep and let them rest, word of YHVH. I will search for the lost and lead back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak; but the fat and strong will be eliminated. I will shepherd My flock with justice.

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened from the Scripture passages, relating to us about the healing that came from God. The prophet Isaiah in his book wrote about the coming of the Lord’s healing and forgiveness upon His people, shown with miraculous signs such as the opening of the eyes of the blind, loosening of the tongues of the dumb, healing of those who has paralysis and also possession by evil spirits.

All these healings have also been done by some of the prophets of old, but those are healing of the physical body. What the prophet Isaiah prophesied came about in its complete fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, Who in the Gospel passage today healed the paralytic man, despite the opposition from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.

Those people were furious at Jesus because He healed the man who had paralysis by saying that ‘Your sins are forgiven’. In fact, Jesus was healing the man in body and in spirit, as He has the just right to do so. They alleged that only God could forgive sins, and by uttering such words, Jesus had blasphemed against God, but that was because they refused to believe that Jesus is indeed God, the Son of God.

This reading has a particular significance for us as Christians, as all of us know that the celebration of Christmas, for which we are preparing this Advent season, is centred on the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, we believe that God Himself has entered into this world, descending from heaven, and through Mary, His mother, He took up the flesh and appearance of Man.

Hence, we believe in Jesus, Our Lord, Who is both fully divine and fully human, through the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God, and His nativity or birth through Mary into the world. We believe that Jesus Christ, the Messiah or Saviour of the world, has two natures, human and divine, but which at the same time, perfectly united in the one person, Jesus Christ Himself.

Thus, if we believe that Jesus is Lord and God, as our faith describes, then we should believe that He is capable to heal our sins, as sin is indeed a disease that afflicts us, corrupting our inmost selves, from the depths of our souls, to our hearts and minds, and of course, our bodies as well. Sin is the very reason for our separation from the fullness of God’s grace and love since our corrupted beings cannot bear to be in the presence of God.

But God is ever loving and merciful towards us. He has always loved us from the very beginning, even though we have often rejected His love and abandoned His laws and precepts. He is willing to forgive us our sins, and He indeed wants to heal us from our afflictions, as He has demonstrated through the many healing miracles He had performed during His earthly ministry, and which is continued by His disciples and the Church He established.

However, the question is, do we want to be healed? Do we want to be forgiven from our sins? God is always forgiving and He will constantly forgive without cease as long as we are willing to be forgiven. Yet, forgiveness cannot be complete without genuine repentance, as in order for us to be completely forgiven, we also need to be truly sorry for our sins and mistakes, and commit ourselves to a new life without sin.

Do we remember what the Lord Jesus did with the woman caught in the act of adultery by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law? We know how the story goes, and the woman was spared stoning because no one was willing to admit that they themselves had no sin on their own, and thus worthy to cast the first stone. But we often forget that Jesus told the woman, that while He does not judge her at that moment, she should sin no more.

Therefore, today, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, let us all reflect on our lives, and on the fact that each and every one of us are sinners, for whom the Lord has come, and indeed has suffered and died for, on the cross. Whenever we look at the Lord Jesus at the crucifix, let us remember this immense love and mercy He has shown us by laying down His own life that each and every one of us may be healed and absolved from our sins.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, a holy Pope who lived in the first millennium after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Pope St. Damasus was renowned for his great piety and exemplary life. He helped to guide his flock to be faithful to the Lord amidst challenges and difficulties that were facing the Church and the faithful at the time. His holiness and many good works for the sake of the Church has saved many souls who repented from their sins and turned themselves back to the Lord.

Therefore, we should be inspired by his examples, as well as the many other inspiring lives by the other holy saints of God. Many of those saints were themselves great sinners, but they allowed the Lord to transform their lives, and their lives were forever changed, from a life of sin and darkness into a life filled with God’s grace. Let us therefore, pledge ourselves anew to the Lord, and devote ourselves, our time and effort to serve Him, to love Him and to help one another to reach out to Him.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, and may He empower all of us to be able to live faithfully in accordance with His ways. May we draw ever closer to Him, that in the end, we may be worthy of Him and will stand to receive the eternal glory He has promised to all of His faithful ones. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, one day, Jesus was teaching, and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there, while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralysed man who lay on his mat.

They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they could not find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof, and, removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This Man insults God! Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once, the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear, and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”