Saturday, 4 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we almost come to the end and conclusion of the season of Easter, with tomorrow being the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, the last day of the fifty glorious days of Easter. Today we are therefore reminded that the works of the Lord and His Apostles are far from being completed, and in fact they are still being done and continuing even to this day, and even beyond to the future. The mission that the Lord has entrusted to each and every one of us still continues through us, the same mission that God told His disciples, to go forth to all the peoples of all the nations, and baptise them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Lord has called us all to follow Him, to do the same as His disciples had done all those years ago, just as we heard from our first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, of St. Paul the Apostle who went to Rome and continued his ministry even as he was waiting for his appeal to the Roman Emperor for his case. He was free to go anywhere and in that way, he ministered to the faithful Christians in Rome, and the Jewish people as well as the Gentiles there who were interested to know more about the Lord Jesus and His teachings and truth. St. Paul continued to work there until he was martyred during the Great Fire of Rome and the intense persecution of Christians after that.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples after He had risen from the dead and just before He was about to ascend into Heaven in glory. He spoke to them regarding what was to come and what they ought to expect. The disciples asked about St. John, the disciple who was closest to the Lord, and He mentioned that St. John would not die or perish before the end of times, when the Lord comes again. This can be understood in many different ways, but most common opinion is that St. John would see the end comes as he received it in a vision as he related them to us through the Book of Revelations. Alternatively, some believe that St. John, the only Apostle not to die a martyr, was just sleeping and still waiting for the coming of the Lord.

Nonetheless, whatever the case is, the sufferings of the Apostles and the many other disciples and holy people of God highlighted to us that the work of the Church and the ministry that we all share in various different ways in our world today, are far from over. On the other hand, the challenges awaiting the Church and the faithful in the present day are just as hard and difficult for the faithful to endure and overcome. Often times in our world today, we have to struggle and face rejection, hardships and obstacles as we walk down this path that the Lord has set before us, as we follow the guidance of Our Lord and Shepherd.

But those should not then become excuses for us not to follow the Lord faithfully as we must remember how our predecessors have suffered for their faith, and yet they faced those sufferings with great courage and faith. They carried on their crosses in life, and dedicated their time and efforts to walk in the path shown by them through the Holy Spirit. They showed how even if one were to suffer and were persecuted and challenged in their faith, they could not be shaken and they could remain firm in faith even if they had to go through worst of treatments, and they also inspired one another to remain committed and trusting in God as well.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, the responsibility is ours to continue the good works that our predecessors had done, and there are indeed still a lot to be done. There are still a lot out there who have not yet been touched by the light and hope of Christ, and many have yet to hear the Good News of His salvation. It is up to us to continue the good works that the Apostles had begun and which their many successors throughout the generations had continued, the Popes, bishops, priests and many others, all those who committed themselves to the spreading of the message of the Gospels, the salvation of God to all mankind.

As I mentioned earlier, we have to stay firm in our faith in the Lord and trust in His guidance and providence. The saints and martyrs, many of our holy predecessors were inspired and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, that came onto them from God, giving them the power and courage, the ability and desire to commit themselves to the Lord in ever greater way. They might have been ordinary people, but they allowed God to lead them and guide them, and giving them the strength to do even things that man might have considered impossible. That was how they endured through even the hardest challenges and persecutions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves to a new life inspired and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and as we commemorate Pentecost tomorrow, let us all ask for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide us and our path, and give us the courage to step forward and commit ourselves for the benefit and good of all, in obeying the laws and commandments of God, and in being truly faithful and worthy sons and daughters of God, all of us who call ourselves as Christians, who through our common baptism share in the same mission to evangelise the whole world. May God bless us and be with us always, with our every work. Amen.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 21 : 20-25

At that time, Peter looked back and saw that the disciple Jesus loved was following as well, the one who had reclined close to Jesus at the supper, and had asked Him, “Lord, who is to betray You?”

On seeing him, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until Income, does that concern you? Follow Me!” Because of this the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, “He will not die,” but, “Suppose I want him to remain until I come.”

It is this disciple who testifies about the things he has written here, and we know that his testimony is true. But Jesus did many other things; if all were written down, I think the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 10 : 4, 5 and 7

The Lord is in His holy place – our God Whose throne is in heaven. He looks down to earth to observe the race of Adam.

The Lord searches both righteous and wicked. He hates those who delight in violence, for the Lord is righteous; He loves justice. The upright will see His face.

Saturday, 4 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 28 : 16-20, 30-31

Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house with the soldier who guarded him. After three days, Paul called together the leaders of the Jews.

When they had gathered, he said to them : “Brothers, though I have not done anything against our people or against the traditions of our fathers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to set me free, for they saw nothing in my case that deserved death.”

“But the Jews objected, so I was forced to appeal to Caesar without the least intention of bringing any case against my own people. Therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I bear these chains.”

Paul stayed for two whole years in a house he himself rented, where he received without any hindrance all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.

Friday, 3 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of God, reminding each and every one of us yet again that becoming Christians and walking faithfully in the presence of God is something that is not easily done and which likely will end up bringing us hardships and challenges, just as we have been constantly reminded especially in the past few days through the Scripture readings of this week. Following Christ often required us to make sacrifices and to experience those hardships and trials mentioned, just as our predecessors, and the saints and martyrs can easily attest.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the conversation between King Agrippa of Judea and that of Festus, the new Roman governor in charge of the case surrounding St. Paul. If we had been following the Scripture readings from the earlier part of this week, all these happened due to the opposition that the Apostle faced due to his work and ministry, in proclaiming the Christian truths and evangelising to many people, Gentiles and Jews alike that earned him the ire of many among the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, which then persecuted him and handed him over to the Romans to be judged for the accusations they levied on him.

This was pretty much just like what the Lord Jesus Himself experienced earlier on, but St. Paul was following the guidance and lead of the Holy Spirit, Who told him that he was destined to travel to Rome and to die there, in martyrdom just like the other Apostles and many other disciples. However, this would not happen before he brought the word of God, His truth and love to the people in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, planting the seeds of the faith there, at the very heart of the Empire and superpower of that time, which would soon become the greatest persecutor of Christianity.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the calling that God gave to St. Peter, His foremost and chief disciple, as He called on him after His resurrection to be the one to lead the people of God and to shepherd His entire flock, as the leader of the Church on His behalf, His Vicar on earth. St. Peter has been appointed to be the leader of the Church, as the first Pope because of the faith that he had shown and all the commitment that he would later on do for the sake of the Church, as the Lord Himself knew that St. Peter would become His most faithful servant, and he truly loved Him from his heart, and God knew all that is in man’s hearts and minds.

Hence, St. Peter dedicated himself and his life to love and serve the Lord, to feed the flock of the sheep of the Lord, to fulfil what the Lord had entrusted to him and the other leaders of the Church, the Apostles and those whom they had chosen to be their successors, the Popes and bishops. St. Peter himself would also eventually go to Rome, and according to tradition, he and the other Christians were persecuted by the intense persecutions under the Roman Emperor Nero, at whose rule and command, the Apostle St. Paul as mentioned earlier eventually faced martyrdom by beheading.

Apostolic tradition states that St. Peter fled Rome with some of the other faithful because of the intense persecutions, and on the way out of Rome, he saw the Lord carrying His Cross in the opposite direction, towards Rome, which led to St. Peter asking Him where He was going. The Lord replied to St. Peter that He was going to Rome to be crucified again. That encounter according to Apostolic tradition gave St. Peter the courage and strength to endure the bitter persecutions that he had to endure in Rome, and was eventually martyred by crucifixion, and he chose to be crucified upside-down as in his own words, St. Peter said that, he was unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord, Master and Saviour. Thus, everything happened just as the Lord predicted it for St. Peter as we heard in our Gospel today.

Today we also mark the Feast of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda, also known as the Ugandan Martyrs, St. Charles Lwanga and his many companions in martyrdom in Uganda, where they who were persecuted, arrested, tortured and killed for their faith in Uganda, during the early years of Christian mission in that area. There were missionaries and local converts amongst the martyrs, all those who have given themselves for the service of God, and all those who remained faithful to the Lord despite the persecutions and sufferings they encountered. They faced intense challenges just to live their lives faithfully as Christians.

At that time, Christian missionaries just arrived in Uganda, over the several years in which they ministered to the locals. Many among the locals welcomed the missionaries and many chose to become Christians, including that of St. Charles Lwanga, who was an important official in the court of the king of Buganda, the largest local kingdom. The king saw the increasing conversion to Christianity among his people as a threat to his own power and influence, and began to persecute Christianity throughout his realm. But this did not stop the Christian faithful from continuing to endure the persecutions and remaining faithful to God.

All these became worse when the converts among the royal pages and courtiers refused to obey the king’s debaucherous desires and shunned his wicked actions. The king ordered all Christians in his court and also foreign missionaries to be rounded up and put to death, and the locals if they would not abandon their faith. St. Charles Lwanga and his companions in martyrdom refused to abandon their faith, and in prison, he even managed to convert some more people, before being martyred by being burnt alive after refusing again to abandon the Christian faith. And not only that, but through martyrdom, they had shown many others what true faith in God is like.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these courageous and great examples of faith despite persecution and hardships, all of us are reminded to be strong and faithful ourselves, to steel our resolve to be good and dedicated Christians at all times. We should not let the challenges and hardships we encountered and will face in the future from changing this faith and commitment we have in God. Let us all look upon the examples of the Apostles, the saints and martyrs like the Holy Martyrs of Uganda, St. Charles Lwanga and his companions. Holy Martyrs of Uganda, courageous servants of God and beloved disciples of Our Lord and Saviour, pray for us! Amen.

Friday, 3 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 21 : 15-19

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! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”

Friday, 3 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 11-12, 19-20ab

Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless His holy Name! Bless the Lord, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His love for those fearing Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove from us our sins.

The Lord has set His throne in heaven; He rules, He has power everywhere. Praise the Lord, all you His Angels.

Friday, 3 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 25 : 13b-21

As King Agrippa and his sister Berenice were to stay in Caesarea several days, Festus told him about Paul’s case and said to him, “We have here a man whom Felix left as a prisoner. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews accused him and asked me to sentence him.”

“I told them that it is not the custom of the Romans to hand over a man without giving him an opportunity to defend himself in front of his accusers. So they came and I took my seat without delay on the tribunal and sent for the man. When the accusers had the floor, they did not accuse him of any of the crimes that I was led to think he had committed; instead they quarrelled with him about religion and about a certain Jesus Who has died but whom Paul asserted to be alive.”

“I did not know what to do about this case, so I asked Paul if he wanted to go to Jerusalem to be tried there. But Paul appealed to be judged by the Emperor. So I ordered that he be kept in custody until I send him to Caesar.”

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.”