Saturday, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the mission that the Lord has entrusted to us, the members of His Church. Even though the season of Easter is coming to an end with the celebration of the Pentecost Sunday tomorrow, it does not mean that everything that we have celebrated throughout this Easter is coming to an end. On the contrary, Pentecost marked just the very beginning of the Church’s works and efforts that still continues even to this very day.

As we heard in our first reading today from the ending parts of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul reached the city of Rome and began the last step of his ministry in that city. He preached to the local Jewish community and also others who were interested in the Christian faith, establishing the foundation for the Church in Rome, from which also stemmed many other communities all throughout the Roman Empire. Through all of his efforts, many turned to the Lord and were reconciled to Him, and many came to believe in Him and became courageous missionaries themselves.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord’s conversation with His disciples at the Last Supper speaking about the one who would betray Him as well as St. Peter who wondered about the disciple whom the Lord loved, that is referring to St. John. At that time, there were still disagreements and so-called rivalry between the disciples, just as they had done earlier on when they argued among themselves who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, as St. John, his own mother and brother tried to also gain favour and position from the Lord by asking Him directly.

In all these we can see that first of all, the Lord called His disciples among mankind, people who were imperfect, full of human frailties, desires and shortcomings, of pride and jealousy, or any other behaviours and attitudes unbecoming of Christians, as the Apostles themselves had once exhibited. One among the Twelve betrayed the Lord and surrendered Him to the chief priests, and left their number, while St. Peter himself denied the Lord three times and with others, abandoned Him in fear when He was arrested in the Gardens of Gethsemane.

St. Paul himself was a fanatical enemy of the Church and the Christian faithful when he was young, persecuting the Church and the believers, causing untold sufferings and much pain among them. Yet, the Lord called all these to be His followers and witnesses, to be the ones to bear His truth to the people of the many nations that they had been sent to. These Apostles, like St. Paul went forth courageously and wholeheartedly, not worried about themselves but instead ever always concerned about the conversion of many and the salvation of souls.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Rita of Cascia, a holy and devout woman who was a dedicated wife and mother who wanted to join a convent in her early life, but forced to accept arranged marriage to a man who was bad-tempered, immoral and wicked. St. Rita of Cascia was remembered as a pious woman and faithful wife and mother despite all that she had to endure from her husband, his behaviour and temper. She endured all of his insults and abuses, as well as all of his infidelities in their marriage.

In the end, it was told that she was able to convince her husband to be a better person and at least he abandoned some of his past vices. Yet, his actions caught up to him and he was assassinated by a rival family, which led to her husband’s family vowing vengeance and expecting St. Rita of Cascia’s two sons to seek vengeance for their murdered father. Unable to persuade her sons to seek vengeance despite her repeated efforts, she prayed to God, asking that He took them away from the world rather than to have them commit a mortal sin through murder.

True enough, very soon after that, both of her sons were taken by a plague that occurred in that year. And then, having been widowed and left without family, St. Rita of Cascia finally became a religious, dedicating the rest of her life to contemplative prayer and commitment to God. It was not easy for her to do so, as the convent was afraid that her murdered husband’s family and reputation would be bad for them, and hence, St. Rita of Cascia was tasked to resolve the feuds between the families of that town, which she did with great success.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see here, God had called ordinary people, woman like St. Rita of Cascia, who was just an ordinary wife and mother, and yet, by her faith and commitment, she had done great deeds, leading her own husband and two sons closer to God’s grace and salvation, and helping to resolve the feud between the families of her town, among others. Through her life and example, all of us can see what it means to be a true disciple of the Lord, as a Christian.

Therefore, let us all continue to go forth proclaiming the truth of God in our lives from now on. Let us dedicate ourselves and follow the Lord wholeheartedly, as missionaries and genuine evangelisers in all of our words and actions throughout life. Let us all follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit that throughout life we will always be ever dedicated and filled with the strong desire to proclaim God’s truth in the midst of our respective communities, even when we encounter challenges and trials, opposition and persecution. Let us trust in the Lord and not be afraid for He is always by our side. May God be with us always, and bless our every good works and endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (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, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (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, 22 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Rita of Cascia, Religious (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, 21 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the occasion when St. Paul stood before Festus, the governor of Judea and king Agrippa the Roman client ruler of the country, as he waited for his transfer to Rome following his decision to appeal his case to the Emperor himself. St. Paul was accused and condemned by the Jewish leaders and elders who opposed him and his efforts to spread the Christian faith among the Jews and the Gentiles alike. At that time, he testified about Christ before the two men, and tried to convince them about the truth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.

In our Gospel passage today, then we heard St. Peter and his conversation with the Lord at the Lake of Galilee, when after His Resurrection, the Lord appeared to His disciples as they were fishing by the lake. St. Peter was the very first one to recognise the Lord and he quickly came ashore to meet Him. The Lord called St. Peter aside after He had breakfast with the disciples, and we then heard what He told St. Peter in today’s Gospel, first asking him whether he loved Him, not just once but three times, again and again.

Through this action, the Lord showed that He has forgiven St. Peter’s thrice denial of Him at the time when He was arrested and brought before the chief priests during His Passion, and not only that but He also reaffirmed St. Peter as the leader of all the Apostles and as His Vicar, commissioning him as the first Pope and Leader of the Universal Church, to be the one to take care of His vast flock, all the people of God, together with the other Apostles and leaders of the Church.

This was also clearly not an easy task because the Lord Himself said how while in his younger years, St. Peter was free to go wherever he wanted and free to do whatever he wanted to do, in his old and end of days, he would be led in chains, endure prison and suffering, and all sorts of trials and challenges, all sorts of humiliation and ridicule for the sake of the Lord and his faith in Him. This is a revelation of how St. Peter would one day suffer and die for the sake of his faith, as he would go on to Rome, just as St. Paul also went to Rome, and while St. Paul would be beheaded at the end of his journey in Rome, St. Peter would be arrested, condemned to death and crucified upside down in the place where today stands the great Basilica of St. Peter.

The two Apostles had been called and chosen by the Lord to be His witnesses and missionaries among the various people they had been sent to. They responded with dedication and commitment, and they showed their love and devotion by committing themselves and all of their efforts to reach out to those who have not yet known the Lord, and they gave themselves wholeheartedly to the mission, even though they knew that they would have to suffer for all that they had done. They endured it all through faith.

Today, all of us are reminded through these two Apostles that being Christians and followers of the Lord require from us a total commitment, effort as well as dedication. And we should also trust the Lord in whatever that He has led us into, as we must believe that He is with us, guiding us at all times, through the Holy Spirit that He has given us, leading us through life. Often times we will have to make tough decisions and to resist the temptations to walk away from the Lord’s path. And that is why we must always anchor ourselves strongly to the Lord at all times.

Today we should be inspired by the examples set by St. Christopher Magallanes and his companions, holy martyrs of the faith, who have steadfastly dedicated themselves to the glory of God. St. Christopher Magallanes was a devoted priest in Mexico who lived and endured through the difficult years of persecution of the Church and Christians by the government that was deeply anticlerical and even anti-Christian at that time, as seminaries and schools ran by the Church were forced to close and many were deprived of the sacraments.

St. Christopher Magallanes was among the many priests who had to endure the most challenging conditions as everything were arrayed against them. Although he preached patience and refused to support pro-Christian rebellions, he was accused falsely of promoting rebellion and arrested under false charges. He was summarily executed with other Christian faithful, and to the ver end, he remained faithful and committed to the mission that God has entrusted to him and others. Many other Christians also perished during that time, and yet, their continued devotion to God despite the worst that happened to them became a great inspiration for many.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by the examples of these great saints and martyrs who have gone before us. Let us follow in their footsteps and walk ever more courageously in the defence of our faith in the Lord, speaking up the truth of God and living our lives to the fullest possible as best as we can. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 21 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 21 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 20 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of the time when St. Paul was in Jerusalem, having followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and then was accused and attacked by the Jewish leaders from both the members of the Pharisees party and from the Sadducees party. These two groups were very influential and powerful groups of people during the time of the Lord’s ministry and the early Church, both opposing St. Paul in his missionary efforts while at the same time were also bitterly divided against each other.

The Pharisees were the spiritual leaders in the community, those with intellectual knowledge and wisdom, knowledge of the Law and the teachings of the prophets, yet because of their pride and their refusal to admit that someone else could have a greater and more complete truth than them, they failed to recognise the Lord Jesus as the Saviour and the One Whom God had sent into the world, and of Whom the prophets and the Scriptures were all speaking about. They were blinded by their own vanity and their pride, and as a result, they also opposed and persecuted St. Paul for his faith. St. Paul himself was a Pharisee before he converted to the Christian faith.

Meanwhile, the Sadducees were the secular leaders and powerful members of the community whose beliefs were almost diametrically opposite that of the Pharisees. These people did not believe in matters spiritual, in Angels and spirits, or in the Resurrection unlike the Pharisees. They represent the materialistic and worldly segments of the society, and they opposed St. Paul and the Lord because of their beliefs and the belief in the Resurrection, which the Lord Himself had gone through, as these were opposed to their own fundamental beliefs.

As such, while they both opposed St. Paul and wanted to arrest and punish him, they were not united at all in their purpose and intentions. The moment that St. Paul exposed this, when he mentioned how he was once a young Pharisee before his conversion, the whole place went up in great uproar as the Pharisees and the Sadducees went against each other instead of St. Paul, showing in the end just how bitterly divided they were, and this is especially so because neither of them had the fullness of truth, having denied Christ and His teachings, and His Apostle St. Paul.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord in the continuation of His prayer for the sake of His disciples, on the night before He was to be arrested and put to death. The Lord Jesus prayed over His disciples, asking His heavenly Father to guide them and to strengthen them, and to keep them in the perfection of unity and truth, just as He and His Father are One, with the Holy Spirit. The Lord wanted to stress to all of His disciples that through the truth that He has brought into their midst and which He has revealed to them, He would keep them to Himself and that they would remain united and strong so long as they anchored themselves in Him.

This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called today to embrace the truth of God wholeheartedly. We should not be stubborn like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who clung to their thoughts and way of life so much that they refused to listen to the Lord and His truth even when He Himself has patiently explained and revealed all these to them throughout His ministry, and which is then later on continued by His disciples like by St. Paul and the other Apostles. We should allow the Lord to knock on the doors of our hearts and minds, that we may understand His truth and know Him more so that we may love Him all the more.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, a famous missionary priest, whose life was dedicated to the Lord, and whose works brought so many people back to the embrace of the Mother Church and many were converted to the truth. St. Bernardine of Siena was born into a noble family though orphaned at a young age. He then joined the Franciscans and became a priest, ministering to many people throughout Italy, in his various journey of preaching and outreach to them.

St. Bernardine of Siena was a great preacher, one who is truly convinced of the truth he was preaching, and although he was weak in voice and stature, his preaching and words were so powerful that throughout his more than three decades of ministry, countless people turned to the Lord and the faith was rejuvenated in so many others, leading to a great period of religious revival all over Italy, throughout all the places he has been preaching and ministering in. St. Bernardine followed in the footsteps of St. Paul and the other Apostles, reaching out to those who have not yet known the Lord and making Him known to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be inspired by the examples showed by St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Paul and all of our holy predecessors, all those who have gone before us and showed us what it means to be true Christians in actions, deeds and words. Are we all willing to commit ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly as they had done? We have been entrusted with the same truth and are called to commit ourselves to be part of the efforts of the Church in evangelisation and conversion of the whole world.

Let us all therefore be genuine Christians not just in words but also in deeds, and do our best in whatever we do, in even the smallest and the simplest things that we do, to glorify the Lord by our lives. This is what we are all expected to do, and what each and every one of us should be inspired to do at all times, throughout our lives. Let us all seek the Lord with renewed conviction and desire to love Him and serve Him at all times, and let us reach out to our fellow brethren, proclaiming the truth of God at all times.

May God be with us all, and may He strengthen us and encourage us to walk ever more faithfully in His path, following the zeal and piety of St. Bernardine of Siena, St. Paul the Apostle, and all the other courageous and faithful saints and martyrs, our most noble inspirations in faith and life. Amen.

Thursday, 20 May 2021 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.”