Monday, 25 September 2017 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard the words of the Scripture speaking to us about being truly faithful to the Lord, not just through appearances alone, but also through real actions and dedications. In the words of our Lord, the light must not be hidden, but must be showed upon the whole world, that all may see the light in us and rejoice, and through us they too may believe in God.

In the first reading, we heard of the actions of the first Great King of the Persian Empire, Cyrus the Great, whose deeds were recorded both in secular history and in the Biblical historiography. Cyrus the Great conquered many nations, including the Neo-Babylonian Empire which had subjugated the kingdom of Judah and destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple, carrying its people into exile in Babylon.

And one of the first acts of Cyrus the Great after that conquest was his release of the edict of the emancipation of the Jews, through which he freed the Jewish people from their bonds and their exile, allowing them to return to their homeland and their cities, and allowing them to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem which had been destroyed by the king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

Thus, the people of God were vindicated by the action of one man, who feared God and did what he had been told by God, and he was considered a righteous man among the nations by the Israelites, a rare feat, for normally the people of Israel would look down upon the pagans and foreigners because of their lack of faith in God. This is just one example of how we ought to be faithful to God, by our actions and deeds in life.

There were also many other good men and women throughout the history of the Church who have been exemplary in their actions, and show their devotion to the Lord through their preaching, their works of evangelisation, their ministry to their fellow brethren, explaining the truth of the Gospels and the Scriptures to those who have not yet heard of God’s truth, and also those who have even suffered and died defending their Christian faith.

They are our role models, all those who have not hesitated or been shy to stand by for their faith. These holy saints have laid the foundation for the Church, that all of us may now be saved through it. They did not build the Church through rhetoric alone, but they had to show it through their every actions, by doing all that they could to live in accordance to the ways of the Gospel of Christ.

And as we now remember their memory, we are inspired by their actions and works, and that is why we have our saints and martyrs, and remembering all they have done, so that we may also do the same in our own lives. To each and every one of us have been given the same gifts as what had been given to the saints and martyrs, and what matters now is whether we are taking the necessary steps to make use of them in our respective lives.

Thus, the light that we have in us, must not remain hidden, but must be shown to all. For the light we have will light the path for others, who may see the way because of the light we share. We ourselves are guided by the light shown unto us by the saints and martyrs who had gone before us. The saints are like the beautiful stained glasses that shows their beauty when light passes through them.

God had shown us all His light, and our lives and actions, filled with faith and commitment to God will become an inspiration for others who see us, just as the saints and martyrs inspired us, and just as how many of us are awed at the beauty of the stained glasses illuminated by light in our Churches, telling us the stories of the work of God’s salvation, in the life of our Lord Jesus and in His saints.

Therefore, let us all today commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, that from now on we may seek the greater glory of God in our lives, that through us, our faith and zeal, we may inspire ever more people to turn to God and seek His salvation and grace. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 24 September 2017 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of God through the Scriptures speaking to us about the importance for us to put the Lord above ourselves, that we should not forget of His love and kindness, all the days of our life. All of these have been shown to us through the readings we have just heard, and we should spend some time to reflect on them.

First of all, we listened to the Gospel passage today in which Jesus told His disciples the parable of the workers of the vineyard, who were employed by the master of the vineyard, gathering them from the streets and employing them to work at his vineyard for a wage promised to them. And each and every one of them were paid a silver coin regardless of the time when they started working for the day. Some of the men started working early in the day while others only in the last hour.

The men who started working earlier in the day complained against the master of the vineyard, alleging that they should have been paid more, since they have laboured much more and harder than those who just worked barely an hour at the last hour when the master got the last of those whom he called to work in his vineyard. They thought that it was unfair for those people to get the same amount for the lesser amount of work they have done.

But the master of the vineyard rebuked the workers who grumbled and complained, saying that the amount of wage had been agreed with them beforehand, and as he was the master of the vineyard and the employer, it was also his right to decide what to give as a fair and just compensation for the employees. In reality, as we heard this story, we are actually looking at the story of mankind itself.

In that parable, the workers represent each and every one of us, the people of God, whom He had called from the world, and into His vineyard, that represents His Church and His kingdom. The master of the harvest is God Himself, Who called all of us mankind to follow Him and to become His disciples. Those who came to work earlier are those who have been called by God earlier, and have received the promise of His salvation earlier, with the pay being the salvation promised to us.

Meanwhile, those who came later and those who came on the last hour are those who the Lord eventually managed to call into His embrace, after long period of waiting and searching. They might have taken a different path and time to come to the Lord, but nonetheless, all of them are promised the same gift, that is the gift of salvation and eternal life.

What is then, the meaning of today’s readings? It is a reminder to each one of us that as Christians we must always be concerned about others, be caring and loving towards others, be selfless and humble, and be obedient towards God, and not to be selfish and haughty. What we have heard in the Gospel, is the animosity that the workers who came earlier had on the latter workers, because they thought that their labours made them to deserve more pay.

In the end, everything was about the self, the ego, and the desire that we have to please ourselves, to satisfy ourselves, and to fulfil our wants and wishes. That is our way, the way that we are familiar with, but not the way that God wants each one of us as Christians to follow in our lives. In the first reading today, the prophet Isaiah mentioned in his book, that our ways are not God’s ways, and His ways are far greater than ours, and His thoughts are different from our thoughts.

It is this same message which in our second reading today, St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Philippi, about the choice that we must make in life, between following our human desires and wants, or following God’s ways and will. We may even be torn between the two choices, and coerced or pressurised to do what the world wants us to do. Yet, as Christians all of us must persevere through these and stand up for our faith.

Are we able to overcome the desire to be pampered and the sense of privilege and the desire to be satisfied? Are we able to get rid of our greed for money and the wish to be rewarded for our work? Many of us tend to look down on others whom we deem to be less holy and not as good as us, and we tend to despise them and even become angry when they were counted among us the faithful, because we think that we deserve better than that.

And that is because we think and act in terms of the world, in terms of our own standards and ways. But we often forget that God does not work upon the same way and standard as ours, as He does not differentiate us based on how much we have done, and how great we have become in the sight of this world, but rather, whether each one of us have that genuine love and commitment to Him, from our hearts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listen to these words of the Scripture and the reminders given to us by the Church, let us all strive to become what the Lord had wanted us to be, that is to become smaller in our pride and instead become greater in our humility. The more devout and faithful we are to the Lord, the more humble we should become, and the more love we should show, not just for the Lord but also for our fellow brethren, especially those who are still in the darkness and have not yet heard of the Lord’s salvation.

Therefore, let us all rejoice whenever the Lord brings one of our brothers and sisters to salvation through His Church. Let us welcome them with love and care, compassion and mercy, and let us also not become obstacles in the works of God’s love, but instead give our very best to help those who are still separated from God’s love, that they too may be saved, and together we may give glory to God forevermore. May God bless us all and our endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 23 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us listened to the word of God, which spoke to us about the parable of the sower, a parable which many of us are likely to be familiar with, in which our Lord Jesus spoke about the sower of seeds, who dispersed his seeds and they fell on various grounds and soils, from the rocky grounds and the road sides, to the thorny bushes and then rich and fertile soil.

In that passage, Jesus our Lord spoke of what can happen to the seeds which the sower have spread, depending on the condition of the soil. If the soil is of poor quality and if it has plenty of obstacles, then it is unlikely to be able to support plant growth, and less still to allow bountiful products of fruits and crops to be realised. Only if the soil is fertile then the plants will grow strong and healthy, and bear many fruits.

In that parable, the seeds are the seeds of faith which God has spread over the whole world, to all of us mankind, as the Sower of the Word, for God has spoken His Word and gave us His truth, through none other than Jesus, the Divine Word made flesh, Who became Man for our sake, and all those who heard the teachings of the Lord Jesus have therefore received the Word, the seeds of faith.

But how those seeds develop then depends on how we live up to our faith in Jesus, our Lord. If we do not provide a conducive and matching environment to have the seeds of faith develop in us, then nothing will happen, and the faith in us will remain dormant. And we all ought to know what is going to happen to all of those who remain barren and fruitless, namely, that they will be cast out and rejected.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, these are constant reminders for us that all of us need to be active in our faith, and to be truly committed to the Lord, for it is only through this commitment that we are providing the fertile and rich ‘soil’ for the ‘seeds’ of faith to grow in us. Otherwise, we are not doing our part in providing the best condition for the growth and development of our faith.

There are many temptations in this world, the temptations of worldly possessions and wealth, the temptation of the pleasures of the flesh and sexual impropriety, the temptation of greed and worldly glory, the temptation of power and fame, all of which are tools used by the devil and his allies in their never-ending attempts to bring about our downfall. The devil is never at rest, always instead ready to snatch us from God’s saving grace.

That is why if we do not let the Word of God, the truths passed down to us through the Church, to be internalised and understood by us, then when trials and difficulties come upon us, we will be tempted to lose our faith and commitment towards God. And then we will end up becoming like the seeds that were eaten by the birds on the roadside, or like the seeds that were unable to grow firm roots on rocky ground, scorched to death, and also like the plants choked by the thorny bushes and brambles.

Is this the fate that we want to happen to us? Is it what we seek in life? It is easier indeed to obey the demands of the devil and this world rather than to walk faithfully in the path of the Lord. Yet, just as farming involves very arduous and tiring labour, thus for us to be faithful Christians it will also require a lot of effort from us. We must be vigilant and ready against all sorts of traps and obstacles the devil is getting ready in our path.

Let us today reflect on the life and examples of the renowned holy saint, whose name may not be foreign to many of us. St. Pius of Pietrelcina, more commonly known by the name of Padre Pio, was a famous and holy Franciscan friar and priest, who was remembered for his many miracles and hard work among the people, his exorcisms of the people possessed by demons, and his stigmata, or the miraculous appearance of the wounds of the Lord on his body.

Thousands and many thousands more flocked to meet Padre Pio, seeking his miracles and prayers. And many were astonished at his miraculous stigmata. Yet, despite all of those, St. Padre Pio remained humble and he distanced himself from any sorts of pride and worldly glory. In fact, Padre Pio was suffering greatly, first of all, physically from the pain of the wounds of the stigmata, and then also through the persecution and difficulties he had to encounter for many years by the skeptics who refused to believe the authenticity of his miraculous signs.

And yet, Padre Pio endured all of these trials and tribulations quietly, with obedience to his superiors and with faith. He placed his trust in the Lord, and continued to work among the people of God despite the criticism and ridicule that many levied upon him, and his piety and perseverance inspired many others who were converted and atoned for their sins because of his examples.

The story of the life of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio should be an inspiration to all of us Christians as well. We must not be complacent or passive in our faith, but instead be active in our commitment like Padre Pio had done in his life. That means, all of us should go beyond our comfort zone and do what we can, in order to do what the Lord wants us to do, so that by our actions we may be fruitful and filled with the good fruits of the Holy Spirit as St. Padre Pio had shown.

May the Lord bless us all, that the seeds of faith He has sowed in us may grow through our loving actions and commitment to Him. May He help us to persevere as St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio had done in his life, that we may not grumble or complain, but accept the suffering with grace, knowing that God Who finds us fruitful will bless us many times more. St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, holy man of God, pray for us all. Amen.

Friday, 22 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded by St. Paul through his Epistle to St. Timothy, that all of us ought to remain true to our faith, and keep ourselves in the path of God’s righteousness. It will not be an easy journey for us, as our way will be filled with difficulties, temptations and all sorts of obstacles, as St. Paul had mentioned, in our struggles with money, possessions, worldly ambitions and other tempting pursuits.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are not careful and if we are not vigilant with how we live our lives, we may end up falling for those temptations and slip into sin. It is easier for us to do what the world demanded from us than to walk faithfully in the way of the Lord. And the temptation is always there, pulling us away from God and His righteousness. Now, the question is, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to give in to the temptations, or are we going to stand up for our faith?

To be a good and devoted Christian, therefore, we cannot be a lukewarm disciple of the Lord. We cannot be a passive and inert Christian. That means, we cannot be conforming and be permissive in our actions and deeds in life. We cannot be thrown from side to side, just because we have no strong root of our faith. That is what will exactly happen to us, if we do not have that firm foundation in the Lord. We will be like a ship battered by the winds and the waves, and we will sink.

Nonetheless, for many of us, our faith is not a priority, and we are often distracted by our pursuit of fame, renown, personal and worldly glory, wealth and possessions, trying to gain more for ourselves all those things, which end up causing us to be drifting away from God, because He is not the priority in our minds and hearts. We end up becoming filled up with greed and desires, with ambition and haughtiness.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect upon our lives, and think carefully about how we should proceed with those lives from now on. Are we going to continue living as we have lived, becoming slaves to our desires and human greed, to our ambition and love for the world? For money and for renown? For pleasures of the flesh and for power, glory and worldly goods?

Or do we rather change our ways for the better, discarding all those wickedness we have done, and all of the failures we have made, all the greed and human ambition, and instead we seek the Lord, the true Source of our joy and happiness. For we all have to realise that there is nothing in this world that can truly satisfy us, no matter how enjoyable and pleasurable they may be, as ultimately, all of them are merely temporary.

We should not be so fixated with whatever joys and good things we may find in the world, and become obsessed with gaining more of them for our own selfish gains and wants. If we make these as our treasures, let us all remember that first of all, those things do not last, and can be destroyed by fire, by water, by worldly forces and disasters, by wars and all other human deeds. Yet, if our treasure is in the Lord, we do not need to worry, since that treasure will truly last forever.

The folly of seeking worldly joy and happiness is evident, since no mortal man will bring forth his or her worldly treasures, their money and possessions, and all other things they have when they die. They will leave behind everything, and come before the Lord naked and empty without any status, possessions or wealth, and God will judge them not based on how rich or powerful they are, but rather by how much they have obeyed Him and done what He had taught them to do.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard the message from the Scriptures regarding this matter. Let us all as Christians seek to be ever better disciple of our Lord, persevering through the temptations of this world, and grow ever better and deeper in our commitment and devotion to our Lord. May the Lord give us the strength to continue faithfully living and walking in His path, that eventually we will find our way to His eternal glory. Amen.

Thursday, 21 September 2017 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one great servant of God, one of the Twelve Apostles and one of the Four Evangelists, whom God had called from among the tax collectors, a group of people who was long reviled and hated in the Jewish community, considered as betrayers and traitors to the nation. Yet, from among this group, God had called up a great saint.

It is often that we thought of certain group of people as being sinners and wicked in their deeds. And we often look down on them, thinking that we are better than them. But, do we realise that each and every one of us are sinners too? Do we realise that no matter how great or how small the sins we have, they are still sins in the sight of God? And that those sins have made us all to be unworthy?

With great sins and wickedness, also comes great opportunity at redemption and liberation. God has granted us the new hope and opportunity of being forgiven, through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whose action, His sacrifice on the Cross, He has brought healing and redemption upon all those who have been lost to the Lord, all those who have gone wayward in their lives.

Each and every one of us are called with the same calling that Jesus made upon His Apostle St. Matthew, while he was still called Levi, the tax collector, with the words, “Follow Me!” He called Levi to leave behind his old life, his old work as a tax collector, and embrace wholeheartedly and completely his new role and calling as a disciple of the Lord, as the one through whom the Lord would exercise His will upon this world.

We often feel that we are inadequate or incapable of contributing to the causes of the Lord, through His Church. Some of us feel that we do not have any special talents or abilities to do what the Lord had done through His Apostles and the other disciples. But we forget that it is not we who decide or choose who it is that is worthy of the Lord, just as it is not ours to decide whether someone would be unworthy of the Lord, as the Pharisees had done on the tax collectors and prostitutes.

Rather, God chooses those whom He had chosen and He makes worthy all those who He wishes to be worthy. He has granted us His blessings and gifts, as what St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, our first reading today, mentioned. God has given to different people the different gifts according to what He deems to be right for each one of us. Not all of us are called to be leaders, and neither are all of us called to be teachers, or to be pastors and priests.

That is therefore how things are working out in the Church today. There are different members of the Church, with different professions and callings in life. Some are called to the married life, where man and woman are called to glorify the Lord through their commitment to one another, and by building up families that are founded upon the firm foundation of faith, raising up children devoted to God, praying together and doing the will of God as one family.

Some others are called to labour for the good of the Church, and this may indeed overlapped the calling to married life. For there are those who, while being busy with their families, but they still, in various ways, contribute to the Church, in their effort and time spent, to help the good works of the Church, volunteering their best to help realise the Lord’s work done through His Church.

And of course some heard the noble calling to surrender their lives completely to God, to heed His will and to follow wholeheartedly in His Apostles’ footsteps, to become His holy priests, to become the ones who have been entrusted with the guidance of the people of God, to forgive the sins of man by the virtue of them being the Alter Christus, representing our Lord Jesus Himself.

Regardless of what God has called us to be, what each and every one of us need to do is to discern what it is that God wants us to do with our lives, and with all that He has granted us and blessed us with. Let us heed the examples of St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist, who heeded the Lord’s call and went forth, trusting completely in God’s will and providence, and devoted himself completely to God.

Let us all do the same, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, with a renewed zeal, knowing that in Him alone that we will be able to find true satisfaction and joy in life. Let us embrace what God has called us to be, in our own capacities, as the lay members of the Church, as married couples and family members, and also as those who have given themselves to consecrated and religious life, as well as the holy priesthood.

May the Lord be with each and every one of us, and may He empower all of us so that we may be courageous in living our lives to the best of our abilities. Let us contribute in whatever way we can, trusting that God will show us the way forward. Let us all follow Him and love Him ever more, with each passing day. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures of the contradiction that came from the world, its expectation from us, and how we ought to live in accordance with God’s ways regardless of what the world demands from us. In the Gospel Jesus mentioned to His disciples how the world always refused to acknowledge God and His works, finding a reason at all times to find fault with Him and His servants.

Now, all of us as Christians are given the choice, whether we all want to be conforming to the world that we may be accepted and welcomed, or whether we should remain true wholeheartedly to our faith in God, obeying His ways and His laws, despite the opposition and disapproval from the Lord. We need to make a choice, brothers and sisters in Christ, for if we are lukewarm or if we are ambivalent, we will end up getting nothing in the end, neither righteousness in God, or approval from the world, and we will fall nonetheless.

We should instead be inspired by the examples of the holy martyrs and saints who predeceased us, what they have done in their lives, and how they have stood up to their faith despite the challenges and the suffering they had to encounter. And today we remember the holy martyrs of Korea for that reason, all those multitudes of the holy people of God who have suffered and died in the land of Korea, through the many years of persecution when the faith was still young in that land.

At that time, the Korean government was staunchly anti-Christian in nature, and the government agents and officials were very harsh in their oppression of the Christian faith, rounding up and arresting missionaries and making life very difficult for all the Christians. Yet, the Christian community was thriving, and more and more people accepted the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and were baptised into the Church.

They lived in a very difficult time, when even the slightest inclination of hint of one being a Christian might mean the difference between life and death. It was certainly a time when someone would rather not be known as a Christian, and where many would end up giving up the faith, as was what truly happened then. There were those who were unable to resist the temptation and the pressure for them to give up the faith, and they faltered.

But there were those brave and courageous servants of God who refused to let fear to overcome them, and they continued to serve the people of God and remained true to their faith. There were European missionaries amongst them as well as the local Korean priests and the laypeople, who continued to minister among the people even under the very real threat of suffering, pain and death.

Their commitment to the Lord was truly commendable, especially in the case of one of the saints whose story I can really relate to, as he was the saint who inspired the name of the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Singapore, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, because of his dedication to the people and the flock he had been entrusted with in Korea, as the first Bishop and Vicar Apostolic of the country.

St. Laurent Imbert was a French Missionary of the Mission Etrangeres de Paris or the Paris Foreign Mission Society, who went to Asia and the Far East to preach the Gospel and evangelise to the people, including countries in Southeast Asia like Singapore, where he helped to build the foundation of the Church, and then later on in Korea, where as the first Vicar Apostolic, he was committed to care for his faithful flock even amidst the difficult times.

He was betrayed at one time, and realising that it would be inevitable that he would be arrested, he surrendered himself to the authorities, to avoid bloodshed and trouble for his flock. And believing that if the foreign missionaries surrendered themselves the authorities would spare the people from harm, he encouraged his fellow missionaries to surrender themselves. At that time, many of the priest missionaries were in hiding, as the authorities were looking for them.

St. Laurent Imbert encouraged two of his fellow priests, St. Pierre Maubant and St. Jacques Chastan to surrender themselves to the authorities, hoping that they would gain safety for the people, and through their suffering the people might live. There was indeed no guarantee that the authorities would not persecute the people even if they surrendered. However, St. Laurent Imbert as the leader and shepherd of the flock of God showed the example, saying that, ‘the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.’

In putting his flock’s safety ahead of his own safety, these saints imitated our Lord, the Good Shepherd, Who has laid down His life for all of His sheep, these holy saints and martyrs have shown each and every one of us what is the true meaning of being Christians. Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians must be sincerely and devoutly committed to God, standing up for our faith through our actions and deeds.

Let us all treasure this faith which we have, which our predecessors have even suffered and died that they might pass on the faith to us. Let us all ask for the intercession of the holy Korean martyrs, that they will pray for our sake before the Lord, that the Lord will move our hearts to be ever better servants to Him in all of our actions. May God bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened first of all to St. Paul, who wrote to his contemporary and student, St. Timothy, one of the first bishops appointed to lead the dioceses of the Church in its earliest days. In that passage excerpt taken from the Epistle, St. Paul told St. Timothy about the bishops and deacons of the Church, and the criteria under which they should be selected for the good sake of the Church and the faithful.

Bishops were also known as overseers, as those appointed to take care over a portion of the people of God gathered in a certain area, cities and provinces. To them it has been granted the authority to oversee and manage the faithful, both the priests and the laity, as shepherds appointed over the flock of the Lord. As such, their roles were very important, as they led the people of God, and they were entrusted with the safeguarding of the fullness of the truth and the teachings of our faith.

Therefore, bishops must have been good and dedicated servants of God, exemplary in their actions, words and deeds. That was why St. Paul emphasised to St. Timothy the criteria in how a bishop should be selected. The idea was that, a bishop should be, as much as possible, be free from serious impediments and impropriety, as his actions and words will be closely followed as examples by the flock entrusted to his care.

There had been many occasions when bishops had not been faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the traditions handed down from the Apostles and therefore from the Lord Himself. Those bishops had instead chosen to walk down the path of heresy, where they misled those entrusted to their care and ending up leading many people down the path to damnation because of their lack of faith. Not only that their sins were severe, but the impact on the Church and the faithful were also often enormous.

Meanwhile, deacons as mentioned by St. Paul were also required to be of men of proper standing and of good behaviour and faith. Why is this so? That is because deacons, just as priests and bishops played a very important role in the Church and among the faithful, for just as the bishops led the faithful, and the priests ministered to them spiritually, the deacons were the ones entrusted with many of the charitable works of the Church, caring for the needs of the people of God.

Deacons must also be upright in their actions, for if they were not, they could scandalise the faith and the Church, as they were often entrusted with many of the Church’s possessions and properties in conducting their missions. And they were also frequently needed at the frontline of action, take for example, St. Stephen and his fellow deacons, in which St. Stephen had to even lay down his life defending his faith, as the first martyr of the Church.

As we can see, it is not easy to be devoted servants of God, because of the many challenges that will inevitably come to be obstacles and hurdles in their path. And temptation will always be present, trying to lure away the faithful, even those who have faithfully serve the Lord, to abandon their holy mission, and to save themselves. They will need our support, prayers and help.

And that is not all, brothers and sisters in Christ, as there are many of us whom God had called and chosen to be the successors of the many good and holy bishops, priests and deacons that we have had, and yet, many of the people called had not responded to God’s call, and then, some others still failed in their calling, as they lapsed and some abandoned their vocation. These are truly very regrettable occurrences, which should not have happened. Yet, this is where all of us as Christians must truly help one another, and support God’s faithful servants.

Those of us who have received the calling from God may want to heed the examples of St. Januarius, or San Gennaro of Naples in Italy, a Roman saint and bishop of Naples, who lived during the difficult years of the Early Church, which was greatly suffering under persecution from the Roman state and its Emperor Diocletian, who carried out one of the most vicious and terrible persecution of the Church and Christians. He led the faithful people entrusted to his care, and he helped to hide the people that were chased by the Roman officials, that they would not be arrested.

He did all these while risking himself, and still faithfully discharging his duties in teaching and guiding the people to God. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to his flock, and when he was eventually arrested by the authorities, he remained strong and resolute despite torture and suffering, and he faced martyrdom with great courage, knowing that he had done all that the Lord had asked him to do and even more. And his examples have inspired many others to continue to persevere in their faith even unto this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore pray, and fervently ask God what is it that He wants from each one of us. If He has called us and chosen us to be His servants, then let us pray for discernment, that we will be able to make the right decisions, and commit ourselves to God’s cause, in the manner St. Januarius had done. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may we draw ever closer to Him with each passing day. And let us also pray for all the good servants of God, our deacons, priests and bishops, and all others who dedicate themselves to the greater glory of God. Amen.