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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even at night my inmost self instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 30 and Acts 23 : 6-11

The next day the commander wanted to know for certain the charges the Jews were making against Paul. So he released him from prison and called together the High Priest and the whole Council; and they brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul knew that part of the Council were Sadducees and others Pharisees; so he spoke out in the Council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee. It is for the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial here.”

At these words, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the whole assembly was divided. For the Sadducees claim that there is neither resurrection, nor Angels nor spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all these things.

Then the shouting grew louder, and some teachers of the Law of the Pharisee party protested, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Maybe a spirit or an Angel has spoken to him.” With this the argument became so violent that the commander feared that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He therefore ordered the soldiers to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him back to the fortress.

That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Courage! As you have borne witness to Me here in Jerusalem, so must you do in Rome.”

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we approach the end of the season of Easter and as we are about to celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension tomorrow, each and every one of us are called as Christians to be the witnesses of the truth of Christ, that is to proclaim Him in our lives and in our daily actions, that others may come to believe in the Lord and follow Him into their salvation much as we have received the same offer of salvation.

In our first reading today, we heard the account of how St. Paul went to the renowned forum in the great city of Athens, named Areopagus, where many people often came for philosophical debates and discussions between those who were interested. St. Paul went and joined in the debate as he came forth presenting the words of God and His calling, preaching to many of the pagan philosophers about the one and only true God, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all the whole world.

St. Paul revealed the truth about God, the One Who loved all mankind, regardless of whoever and wherever they are, the One Who created the whole world and the entire universe, to those philosophers, many of whom had probably spent many years, decades and even perhaps their entire lives just to find the meaning and purpose of their lives. Some among the philosophers and pagans were intrigued by what St. Paul had revealed and spoken to them, and were open to listen more to him.

Unfortunately, many among the people ridiculed St. Paul and his revelations and words, laughed at him, ignored him and scorned him. This was to be expected given that the commonly held ideas and thoughts of that time were polytheism in worship, where people believed in many gods and deities, as well as many who worshipped elements and aspects of nature, including the Greeks and Romans, many of whom linked the elements of these paganism into their philosophical thinking.

Nonetheless, St. Paul tried and did his best to explain about God to these people in the place many considered to be the heart of Hellenistic paganism and philosophy, many of which aspect were against the Christian faith. He was patient yet succinct and detailed in his explanation and refute of the false pagan ways and practices. As a result, some of the pagans as mentioned did become intrigued by the revelations made by St. Paul, and it was likely that some among them did become Christians in the end.

St. Paul laboured and worked hard, revealing what he himself has received from the Spirit of Truth as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. The Holy Spirit has been sent from God to all the Apostles and disciples, who by laying of hands have passed the same Holy Spirit to all Christians, all throughout the ages and up to us all living today. We too have received the same Spirit, the same revelation and truth, as what we believe in our Christian faith and Creed that we believe in the One and only True God Who created all the world and the universe.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, to us have been entrusted the same mission and calling as St. Paul, and the missions and works of the Church are still far from being completed. On the contrary, there are still many areas where we can still contribute more in our own various capacities, to engage our fellow brothers and sisters especially those who have not yet known Christ in meaningful and respectful discourse that they too may come to believe in Him through us.

But if we want others to believe in God through us, then we ourselves must have genuine and strong faith in Him. Otherwise, how can we expect others to believe when we ourselves do not fully believe and practice our faith in our own daily lives and actions? We will be hypocrites and wicked if we do otherwise. That is why we should follow the good examples set by our predecessors. Today, we happen to celebrate the feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, a devout and holy priest, a dedicated servant of God whose examples can definitely inspire us.

St. Bernardine of Siena was renowned for his great piety and revolutionary style of preaching. Just like St. Paul, St. Bernardine of Siena spoke honestly and freely to the people. St. Bernardine of Siena reached out to the people and spoke to them about matters that directly influenced their lives. His efforts led to many people beginning to seek God more earnestly or trying to reevaluate their way of life. Many turned away from excesses of life and reorientate their lives towards God once again.

Of course, this did not mean that St. Bernardine did not encounter troubles during his journeys and works. There were also those that opposed and despised him, and in more than one occasions, people had tried to disturb and sabotage his sermons and works. That was the same rejection and difficulties that St. Paul and the other early Christian missionaries have experienced as well, and which we may experience ourselves during our own lives too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that we have been called to be faithful witnesses of the Lord in all occasions. Let us all be inspired by the faith of our holy predecessors, St. Paul and many other Apostles, saints and martyrs, St. Bernardine of Siena whose memory we celebrate today. Let us strive to be ever more committed to our faith, and dedicate ourselves with ever greater passion with each and every passing moments, giving ourselves to the service of God and our fellow men. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 16 : 12-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth. He has nothing to say of Himself, but He will speak of what He hears, and He will tell you of the things to come.”

“He will take what is Mine and make it known to you; in doing this, He will glorify Me. All that the Father has is Mine; because of this, I have just told you that the Spirit will take what is Mine, and make it known to you.”

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 148 : 1-2, 11-12, 13, 14

Alleluia! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heavenly heights. Praise Him, all His Angels; praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.

Kings of the earth and nations, princes and all rulers of the world, young men and maidens, old and young together.

Let them praise the Name of the Lord. For His Name alone is exalted; His majesty is above earth and heaven.

He has given His people glory; He has a praise to His faithful, to Israel, the people close to Him. Alleluia.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernadine of Siena, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 17 : 15, 22 – Acts 18 : 1

Paul was taken as far as Athens by his escort, who then returned to Beroea with instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible. Then Paul stood up in the Areopagus hall and said, “Athenian citizens, I note that in every way you are very religious. As I walked around looking at your shrines, I even discovered an altar with this inscription : To an unknown God. Now, what you worship as unknown, I intend to make known to you.”

“God, Who made the world and all that is in it, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, being as He is Lord of heaven and earth. Nor does His worship depend on anything made by human hands, as if He were in need. Rather it is He Who gives life and breath and everything else to everyone.”

“From one stock He created the whole human race to live throughout all the earth, and He fixed the time and the boundaries of each nation. He wanted them to seek Him by themselves, even if it were only by groping for Him, succeed in finding Him. Yet He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being, as some of your poets have said : for we too are His offspring.”

“If we are indeed God’s offspring, we ought not to think of divinity as something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of human art and imagination. But now God prefers to overlook this time of ignorance and He calls on all people to change their ways. He has already set a day on which He will judge the world with justice through a Man He has appointed. And, so that all may believe it, He has just given a sign by raising this Man from the dead.”

When they heard Paul speak of a resurrection from death, some made fun of him, while others said, “We must hear you on this topic some other time.” At that point Paul left. But a few did join him, and believed. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus court, a woman named Damaris, and some others. After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth.

Monday, 20 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of the commandments that God has given to us and which He has revealed to us first of all through His servant Moses, in the form of the laws of the Old Testament, the laws of Moses, and then which He completed and revealed fully through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

The Lord assured all of us as we heard in our Gospel passage today that all those who obey His commandments will not be disappointed, as all of us who are in this world and obey His commandments will receive the promise of eternal glory and eternal life that can be found in God alone. Conversely, there can be no place in God’s presence for all those who refuse to obey the commandments of God.

And in the first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the efforts of St. Paul and St. Barnabas in the town of Lystra, where they performed miracles and signs, which the people misunderstood and misrepresented as the acts of the divine, that is their own divinity, the gods and deities of the Ancient Greco-Roman religion, of Zeus, the god of the sky, his supposed son Hercules and many other deities.

We see in these deities, in fact, the perversion of human desires and their own shortcomings, as is frequent among the polytheistic religions and customs that came before the advent of the Christian faith. For example, in the ancient Greek religion itself, many of the deities behaved no better and if not worse than that of human beings. Yes, they were supposedly powerful and mighty, with supernatural powers and control over the elements, but their behaviours were often debauched, a reflection of the imperfect humans who created them.

And all these were caused by man’s of self-desire to love themselves, to benefit themselves and to gain for themselves as much as can be profitable for them. They saw in their gods and deities a reflection of themselves, in what they hoped to achieve, more worldly power, more money and wealth, more sexual pleasures and many other forms of the indulgence of the flesh and the body and mind, and many other indulgences and pleasures.

That was why, they failed to recognise God’s truth being present in their midst, just as they mistook St. Paul and St. Barnabas as being the gods they coveted and worshipped being present right in their midst. But the Apostles presented to them the truth, that it was not all those false deities or human beings that should be worshipped, but God alone, the One and only True God. They did not allow themselves to be swayed by pride and desire for power, and that was exactly why the people there then must have been dumbfounded.

After all, who does not desire power and glory. If we can put ourselves in the shoes of the Apostles at that time, seeing the population of a whole city coming to you and bowing down before you as if you were gods and divinities surely would make you proud and arrogant, thinking that you are someone special and powerful. But that was where the Apostles clearly made their stand and resisted the temptation.

Instead, they firmly held onto their faith in God, remembering that first and foremost, it is God alone Who deserves such kind of love and adoration, and they put God before themselves and cast aside their pride and desire. They also loved their fellow brethren so dearly that they were willing to spend the time to explain to them the truth so that they would not fall into the wrong path or continue down the path of debauchery and sin.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, how about we ourselves? How have we lived our lives thus far? Have we been obedient to God’s will and commandments, or have we instead acted and done things according to our own selfish desires and wants? If we have been mostly doing the latter actions, then perhaps now is the time for us to reflect and begin making a change, by not putting ourselves and our own interests ahead of the obligations we have to God and the love which we ought to show our fellow brethren.

It was what St. Bernardine of Siena, who is today’s saint, had done with his own life. He was well known for his preaching against all kinds of immoral conduct, which ultimately stemmed from humanity’s prideful and selfish desires, and did a lot of work in trying to bring as many as possible to God’s redemption. He had many challenges, and not few opposed his work, but regardless, he continued to do the good works of God, loving God and his fellow men.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us all in out journey of life, and give us the courage and strength to be able to resist the temptation of pride and desire, and instead follow the good examples of the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas, and St. Bernardine of Siena in their tireless and loving dedication to God. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 20 May 2019 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 14 : 21-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever keeps My commandments is the one who loves Me. If he loves Me, he will also be loved by My Father; I too shall love him and show Myself clearly to him.”

Judas – not Judas Iscariot – asked Jesus, “Lord, how can it be that You will show Yourself clearly to us and not to the world!” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word and My Father will love him; and We will come to him and make a room in his home.”

“But if anyone does not love Me, he will not keep My words; and these words that you hear are not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me. I told you all this while I was still with you. From now on the Helper, the Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I have told you.”