Saturday, 25 April 2020 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great feast day of the Evangelist, St. Mark, one of the Four Holy Evangelists, the writers of the Four Holy Gospels. St. Mark was a great disciple of Christ, and while he was not one of the Twelve Apostles, he was accorded the same honour and respect as the Apostles and he was also the founder of the very important See of Alexandria. Thus St. Mark was considered retroactively as the very first Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the five greatest centres of early Christendom.

And on this day we recall the great deeds of St. Mark in his efforts as one of the followers of Christ, not just in writing the Gospel according to St. Mark, but also in his evangelising and preaching ministry among many of the people, in Alexandria where he would establish the Church there, in Egypt as a whole and in other parts of the world such as in other parts of North Africa and also the Mediterranean, as he also accompanied St. Peter during some of his travels.

This relationship can be seen as part of our first reading today from the Epistle of St. Peter in which St. Peter referred to St. Mark as his ‘son’, alluding to the close Christian relationship that they had between them, and how St. Mark must have been an important companion to at least some of St. Peter’s travels and works. And in that same passage from St. Peter’s Epistle, the Apostle also reminded us all the faithful that we must be filled with virtues and humility, to serve God with all of our strength and to be vigilant against the temptations of evil.

In all of today’s readings therefore, including that of the Gospel in which the Lord Jesus after His resurrection described what His disciples would be sent out to do, and how the Lord would protect them from harm, all of us are reminded now therefore of this calling which God had called us into, the mission that He has shared with us and entrusted to us, which is the mission to save the whole world, to bring God’s salvation to them and to call them to embrace the fullness of His grace.

If God has called St. Mark and the Apostles, the many disciples He had called and chosen, then we must also realise that God has also called all of us, His faithful ones, to be His followers and to do what He desires of us to do in accordance with His will. And this means that we have been entrusted with the same mission which the Lord had given and entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, to go forth to the world and spread His Good News of salvation, and bring all souls to Him.

Are we willing and able to take up this mission that the Lord has entrusted to us? God wants us to follow Him and to contribute to the missions of the Church in whatever way we can. And the Lord had given us many gifts and abilities, talents and opportunities to follow Him and give all these for the sake of His greater glory. But many of us have not been using them properly as we should have, and many of us even abused and misused them for our own selfish purposes.

Today, all of us are called to discern carefully with our lives and our actions. We are called to follow in the footsteps of St. Mark the Evangelist and the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, in their courageous and devout pursuit of service to God and His people. God has called all of us through our baptism, which we all share, to walk down the path of faith and to be His witnesses and workers, to be faithful to Him and to be inspirations for one another especially during these difficult times.

During these dark and challenging times, we are challenged to be bearers of hope and to be beacons of God’s wonderful light amidst the darkness that have been covering this world. We are now living through particularly difficult and dark times, and we see all around us all forms of sufferings and pains, conflicts and evil. Many among us have fallen into despair and gave in to our fears and uncertainties, our desires and selfishness, resulting in us acting and behaving in ways that often cause hurt and pain upon others.

Are we able to challenge ourselves to overcome these temptations of our desires and pride? Are we able to focus our attention instead on God and on His love and providence, rather than being obsessed and overcome by the pride and ego within us? Let us all spend some time to think about these matters, and let us all be inspired by the faith and the dedication of our holy predecessors that we, too, may follow in their footsteps and do our best to serve the Lord at all times. May God bless us all and our many good endeavours for our faith. May St. Mark intercede for us sinners too before our Lord and Master. Amen.

Saturday, 25 April 2020 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Saturday, 25 April 2020 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 88 : 2-3, 6-7, 16-17

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.

The heavens proclaim Your wonders, o Lord; the assembly of the holy ones recalls Your faithfulness. Who in the skies can compare with the Lord; who of the heaven-born is like Him?

Blessed is the people who know Your praise. They walk in the light of Your face. They celebrate all day Your Name and Your protection lifts them up.

Saturday, 25 April 2020 : Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Peter 5 : 5b-14

All of you must clothe yourself with humility in your dealings with one another, because God opposes the proud but gives His grace to the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God so that He will raise you up at the appointed time. Place all your worries on Him since He takes care of you.

Be sober and alert because your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Stand your ground, firm in your faith, knowing that our brothers and sisters, scattered throughout the world, are confronting similar sufferings. God, the Giver of all grace, has called you to share in Christ’s eternal Glory and after you have suffered a little He will bring you to perfection : He will confirm, strengthen and establish You forever. Glory be to Him forever and ever. Amen.

I have had these few lines of encouragement written to you by Silvanus, our brother, whom I know to be trustworthy. For I wanted to remind you of the kindness of God really present in all this. Hold on to it. Greetings from the community in Babylon, gathered by God, and from my son, Mark. Greet one another with a friendly embrace. Peace to you all who are in Christ.

Friday, 24 April 2020 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures speaking to us about the great providence of God for His faithful ones, as He has always been with those who are by His side, trusting in Him and having faith in Him. God has shown His kindness and love, for His disciples and followers, as well as for all those who hunger for His love and presence.

In our first reading today, we heard about the deliberations and the debate among the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, many of whom wanted to have the Apostles of the Lord Jesus killed and destroyed for their continued efforts and works, fearlessly opposing the threats and prohibitions placed against them on preaching about the truth of Jesus and His teachings. Then one of the Sanhedrin, the much respected Gamaliel stepped up and put forth his arguments before the Council.

Gamaliel’s argument was so sound and his wisdom respected that the whole Council allowed themselves to be persuaded, and those who earlier on cried out for the death and destruction of the Apostles were appeased. Gamaliel was essentially saying that there had been many false Messiahs and prophets that had come and gone even within just the past few years then, and he argued that as long as those came not from God and rather from man’s own power, they would be doomed to fail. However, if Christ had indeed come from God, then no matter what the Sanhedrin tried to do, or would try to do, it would never stop the work of God, and even that could end up making them to go against God and His will.

There was indeed much wisdom in the words of Gamaliel, and truly, we can see just how wonderful God had been, for He worked even through the respected Pharisee Gamaliel, to bring sense to the angered and emotional Pharisees and many of the members of the Sanhedrin, whom in their blind hatred, jealousy and anger against the Lord Jesus, His works and teachings, and all of His Apostles and disciples, almost caused them to strike at the Lord’s followers with malice and force. This is a great example of God’s providence.

In our Gospel reading today then, we heard of the many hungry people who were wth Jesus, listening to the Lord and waiting on Him. The Lord noticed that they were all very hungry after not having food for a few days and thus asked the disciples to buy and obtain food to feed all of them. But the disciples said that with such a massive number of people it would be impossible to feed all of them and would require a lot of money that they most likely did not have there and then.

It was then that the Lord showed forth His might and power, His love and compassion for His people, taking the loaves of bread and fishes, blessing and breaking them up, distributing them to feed all the five thousand men and many thousands more of women and children miraculously with much leftover food to spare. Again, we have seen here how God provided for His people, took good care of them and showed His compassion and love for all of them, when they were in great need.

How about us then, brothers and sisters in Christ? We are all part of the beloved family of God, His beloved children and people, who will also enjoy the fullness of His love and compassion. We must have that faith in God and put our trust in His providence and love. Unfortunately many of us did not realise God’s love and providence towards us, and we ended up being distracted by the many temptations and desires present in this world. We seek our support and strength instead from all these worldly sources and not from God.

Let us instead seek the inspiration from our holy predecessors, especially that of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, a holy priest and servant of God, and also a courageous martyr of the faith in defence of the true faith and against heresies. St. Fidelis was a teacher turned a Capuchin monk and priest, who was very involved in the efforts of Counter-Reformation, converting many thousands who had been lured into the falsehoods of Protestant reformation back then in what is now Switzerland.

The great successes of St. Fidelis and his other compatriots made him many enemies, who wanted to stop the works of St. Fidelis, threatening his safety and life on many occasions. But St. Fidelis continued to push on regardless, fearlessly and with great courage, continuing to speak the truth and reach out to those who have been misled and misguided by the falsehoods of the false heresies. He trusted fully in God and did his very best to complete the missions entrusted to him by God.

In the end, St. Fidelis had to face martyrdom in his constant defence of his faith, attacked and killed by soldiers who tried to force him to renounce his faith. Even in his death, St. Fidelis continued to inspire others, and it was told that the Protestant minister who participated in St. Fidelis’ martyrdom was touched by his courage and faith that this minister rejected publicly heretical experience and chose to return to the true faith and the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, after we have heard all these good and wonderful examples of God’s providence and how His own people responded with faith, are we able to do the same with our own lives? Are we able to put our trust in God and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to His love and wonderful providence? Let us all spend some time to reflect on this, and let us all strive from now on to be more faithful to God in all the things we do.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen us and give us the strength and courage to carry on living our lives as faithful and devout disciples of the Lord. May God be our guide as we continue to walk down this path and journey of life in faith. Amen.

Friday, 24 April 2020 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 6 : 1-15

At that time, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.” Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Friday, 24 April 2020 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 24 April 2020 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 5 : 34-42

But one of the members of the Council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law highly respected by the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin. He ordered the men to be taken outside for a few minutes and then he spoke to the assembly.

“Fellow Israelites, consider well what you intend to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed and all his followers were dispersed or disappeared.”

“After him, Judas the Galilean appeared at the time of the census and persuaded many people to follow him. But he too perished and his whole following was scattered. So, in this present case, I advise you to have nothing to do with these men. Leave them alone. If their project or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand, it is from God, you will not be able to destroy it and you may indeed find yourselves fighting against God.”

The Council let themselves be persuaded. They called in the Apostles and had them whipped, and ordered them not to speak again of Jesus Saviour. Then they set them free. The Apostles went out from the Council rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name. Day after day, both in the Temple and in people’s homes, they continued to teach and to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah.

Thursday, 23 April 2020 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures which spoke to us about the Lord and His truth, which He has revealed to us all through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. And this truth has been passed down to us through His Apostles and disciples and through His Church, and defended by many who had devoted themselves to the Lord and remained faithful despite all the oppositions and even persecutions they encountered.

In our first reading today we heard of the story of the persecution of the Apostles, who were opposed by most of the members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council who were also opposed to their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. The Sanhedrin and many of the Pharisees had tried hard to clamp down on the activity and the works of the Apostles who were then rapidly gaining converts to the Christian faith among the populace. They even put the Apostles under arrest and wanted to try them and condemn them, but God sent His Angel to free the Apostles.

The Apostles remained firm in their faith and despite the efforts of their opponents and oppressors to stop them from doing their works and from proclaiming the truth, the Apostles did not fear all the threats and persecutions, and as they bravely said before all the Sanhedrin that they would rather obey Divine authority and the Lord’s commandments rather than to listen or obey to human authority especially when that authority ordered them to do what is obviously and completely contrary to the Divine mandate and instructions.

And their words there before the Sanhedrin matched what the Lord Jesus Himself told the Pharisee Nicodemus, in their secret meeting, when the Lord spoke of Himself as the One Whom God had promised us mankind as the Saviour, and because He was sent from above, He spoke of things that are heavenly in nature and from God, and His truth was known to only those who were willing to listen to Him and believe in Him. And that was what the Apostles had also spoken and preached before the people of God, which the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin had also heard and yet refused to believe.

And the Lord also put it very plainly that those who believe in Him will have eternal life through Him while those who do not believe in Him will not. And thus, this is why the Apostles having been called and sent out to the world to carry out the will of God refused to stop their works just because of the unreasonable opposition from the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin on the account of their jealousy and personal hatred and agenda against the Lord. They had been sent on the mission to save countless souls, and they would want to see it through to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what the Lord had asked us to do as part of our Christian calling. We have been sent out into the world like that of the Apostles, continuing their works and doing what we can to bring God’s truth to all of the peoples for the salvation of souls. Are we all willing to commit ourselves to the Lord in that way? And are we willing to commit our time, effort and attention to serve the Lord with all of our hearts and with our strength?

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. George and St. Adalbert, two devoted servants of God and holy martyrs who have given their lives in service to God, toiling and doing what they could through their lives to be inspirations to all the faithful. St. George was a Christian soldier, a member of the Praetorian Guard or the personal guards of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, while St. Adalbert was a Bohemian bishop and saint, who was involved in the works of evangelisation and in establishing the Church in various places.

St. George was a member of the elite Praetorian guards who guarded the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous for his great persecution of Christians living throughout the Empire. And especially among the members of the army and the Praetorians, Christians who had to practice their faith in secret had a truly difficult time. But St. George stood firm and refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman Emperor as required by the law and by the order of the Emperor himself, and as such, publicly declared himself as a Christian.

Suffering greatly from the torture, pain and the persecution, St. George endured it all and remained true to his faith, refusing to recant his faith even under the pain and certainty of death. It was told by tradition that St. George was beheaded on the city wall of Emperor Diocletian’s capital in Nicomedia, and afterwards, many people began to venerate St. George, inspired deeply by the saint’s great and deep devotion to the Lord and for his righteousness and courage.

Meanwhile, St. Adalbert was the Bishop of Prague in what is now Czech Republic, ministering to the people of God at what was then the frontier of Christendom. Many pagans still lived in the area of St. Adalbert’s diocese, and the Church there was still being established. St. Adalbert had to face much difficulty and opposition from those who still held on their pagan ways, and his opposition to the pagans’ practice of slavery and polygamy among others earned him enemies within the nobles and courtiers.

But St. Adalbert remained firm in his faith and in his conviction to serve God and His people. He continued to fight for the Church in those difficult and challenging moments, and endured all sorts of tribulations in the process. In the end, he left behind his diocese and stepped down as bishop, and set out as a missionary to the still pagan Prussians in what is now eastern part of Germany and Poland. It was there that St. Adalbert was martyred for his faith after attaining some successes among the pagans.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we can indeed see how these faithful and holy predecessors of ours have inspired so many of us to follow in their footsteps in how we ought to be faithful to God and serve Him through our lives. We are all called as Christians to continue on the works of the Apostles and the saints, and we are called today to reflect on this calling. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to God in this way, brothers and sisters?

Let us all draw ever closer to God and find our strength in Him, seeking to be ever more faithful and devoted to Him as the Apostles, and also St. George and St. Adalbert had shown us through their lives and works. May God give us the strength to persevere and to give our very best in our service to Him, in each and every single moments. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 23 April 2020 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 3 : 31-36

At that time, John the Baptist said, “He Who comes from above is above all; he who comes from the earth belongs to the earth, and his words belong to the earth. He Who comes from heaven speaks of the things He has seen and heard; He bears witness to these things, but no one accepts His testimony. Whoever does receive His testimony acknowledges the truthfulness of God.”

“The One sent by God speaks God’s words, and gives the Spirit unstintingly. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything into His hands. Whoever believes in the Son lives with eternal life; but he who will not believe in the Son will never know life, and always faces the justice of God.”