Wednesday, 5 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about two people who are saying goodbyes to their respective loved ones, praying and asking God for His protection and providence on those whom they loved. In our first reading today we heard St. Paul reminding the elders of the faithful in Ephesus and praying over them before he left them for the last time, and in our Gospel passage we heard of the Lord Jesus praying over His disciples just before He was about to embark on His Passion.

St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles passage today reminded the elders to be watchful and to be careful in the management of their flock, especially against those who espoused heretical and wrong teachings of the faith, that they would not let all those people to mislead the faithful and causing divisions in the Church, and he also reminded them of God’s providence and love for His faithful ones, commending them to God’s love and care.

And St. Paul showed his dedication and commitment to the cause to which God has called him to, as he said how he sought neither reward nor monetary compensation for all that he has done. He did everything for God and dedicated himself wholly to His cause, and this came from the background of his great and many sufferings, in all the things he had been made to endure throughout his many years of ministering and working among the people of God.

What St. Paul had said to the elders of Ephesus, the joy he expressed to them even as he was about to leave them for his final journey, was exactly what the Lord prayed for in today’s Gospel passage, as He Himself was about to embark on His Passion, enduring bitter and most painful suffering and rejection, the massive burden of the Cross and all. The Lord prayed to His heavenly Father, that even as He was about to leave them, they would not be left without a new joy that God would give them.

What is this joy, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the joy of love, of knowing that while once there had been bitter divisions and conflict, God has triumphed in gathering all those whom He loved, to be part of His Church, to gather as the body of Apostles and believers together, saved by the power of God, by the very action of sacrificial love and the perfect giving which Christ in our Gospel passage today, was about to do for His beloved ones.

Remember how St. Paul mentioned in today’s first reading that ‘happiness lies more in giving than in receiving’? This was exactly Christ has done for us. He was so filled with joy in the ultimate gift He was about to give them, the gift of His boundless love, and by Whose actions, all of us were about to be saved from death and eternal destruction. It was God’s everlasting and infinitely great love for each and every one of us that made everything possible.

Indeed, Christ had His agonising moments just after that time, when He prayed in the Gardens of Gethsemane. His humanity agonised the great and unimaginable sufferings that He had to endure, but His perfect obedience to His Father’s will, and ultimately, His wonderful love for each and every single one of us surpassed everything, all sorrow, all hesitations and all fears. He embarked on His sacrificial love journey, took up His Cross with joy, the joy of knowing how because of that, many of us were about to be saved.

That was the same joy and courage that St. Paul had when he said his farewell to the elders of Ephesus. He reflected the joy and strength that Christ had shown, because St. Paul knew that in whatever he himself was about to do, he was about to give a wonderful testimony of his faith and dedication even to the very end, even to his martyrdom and death. And he was joyful because everything he was about to do would become the source of joy and strength for countless generations of Christians to come.

That was the joyful feeling of knowing how many people would be saved because of our own faith and commitment to God. And today, we celebrate the feast of yet another famous and faithful saint, a holy woman and martyr who dedicated her life to God. St. Lucy, also known as St. Lucia of Syracuse was a faithful woman who consecrated and dedicated her life to God, promising her complete fidelity and virginity to God.

But her mother, not knowing of her commitment wanted to arrange her to marry a wealthy young pagan man. St. Lucy instead convinced her mother instead to donate generous sums of her own family’s property and wealth to the poor, revealing to her the revelations and power of God through another saint and martyr, St. Agatha. But the pagan family was furious and denounced the actions of St. Lucy before the authorities, at a time when Christians were persecuted terribly for their faith.

St. Lucy was made to suffer and was tortured, forced to make sacrifices to the Emperor but she refused to do so. The governor tried to defile her sacred virginity in a brothel, but miraculously no one could make her to move when they were about to do so. Eventually, they tried to burn her on the stake and yet it also did not work, and finally, they killed her by putting a sword through her throat. To the very end, St. Lucy endured in her faith and was joyful in accepting her death, because by her very examples and actions, many would also come to believe in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to follow in the good examples of St. Lucy, St. Paul the Apostle and Christ Our Lord Himself, in their joyful service of the Lord. Let us all live our lives from now on filled with faith and dedication to God in everything. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 17 : 11b-19

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “Holy Father, keep those You have given Me in Your Name, so that they may be one, as we also are. When I was with them, I kept them safe in Your Name; and not one was lost, except the one who was already lost, and in this, the Scripture was fulfilled. And now I come to You; in the world I speak these things, so that those whom You gave Me, might have joy – all My joy within themselves.”

“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world, I do not ask You to remove them from the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.”

“I have sent them into the world as You sent Me into the world; and for their sake, I go to the sacrifice by which I am consecrated, so that they too may be consecrated in truth.”

Wednesday, 5 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 67 : 29-30, 33-35a, 35bc and 36c

Summon Your power, o God, with the strength You have wielded for us. To Your Temple in Jerusalem, kings will come with gifts.

Sing to God, o kingdoms of the world; sing praises to the Lord, to Him Who rides the ancient heavens, and speaks in the voice of thunder. Proclaim the might of God.

He is great in Israel, powerful in heavens. Blessed be God!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 20 : 28-38

Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has placed into your care. Shepherd the Church of the Lord that He has won, at the price of His own Blood. I know that, after I leave, ruthless wolves will come among you and not spare the flock. And, from among you, some will arise, corrupting the truth, and inducing the disciples to follow them.

Be on the watch, therefore, remembering that, for three years, night and day, I did not cease to warn everyone, even with tears. Now, I commend you to God, and to His grace-filled word, which is able to make you grow and gain the inheritance that you shall share with all the saints.

I have not looked for anyone’s silver, gold or clothing. You, yourselves, know, that these hands of mine have provided for both my needs and the needs of those who were with me. In every way, I have shown you that by working hard one must help the weak, remembering the words that the Lord Jesus Himself said, “Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving.”

After this discourse, Paul knelt down with them and prayed. Then, they all began to weep and threw their arms around him and kissed him. They were deeply distressed because he had said that they would never see him again. And they went with him even to the ship.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the need for us to be good disciples of the Lord, while at the same time, we must also be obedient to the current rules and laws of the land, in the world that we live in today, as the Lord showed us through the parable of the silver coin, which He told His disciples and the Pharisees, on who to obey in the matter of paying taxes and faith.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law attempted to bring Jesus into their trap, by asking Him a very controversial question and issue during that time. At that time, the matter of paying taxes was a very important one, as the Jewish people lived under the sovereignty and might of the Roman Empire, which had slowly increased their power and sovereignty over the Jews.

The Jews, who had just within a century or two, won their hard-fought independence from the tyranny of the Seleucids, as recorded in the Book of the Maccabees, found themselves to be under another overlord, the Romans, who imposed on them taxes to be paid to the Roman state, that is to the Emperor, as well as certain requirements that were loathed by the Jews.

That is why, the tax collectors were highly reviled and hated at the time of Jesus, and they were treated as equally badly as the prostitutes, as sinners and traitors to the people. Yet, those people did not benefit from what they have done, as they merely had to do what was necessary, to collect money and taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers, a task that was increasingly difficult at that time.

Thus, the Pharisees prepared a well-laid trap for Jesus, as if the Lord answered that the people should not pay taxes to Caesar or the Emperor, then the Pharisees and the elders could have quickly reported Him to the Roman authorities, using His argument and words against Him. How is that so? That is because they would have presented the argument that the Lord Jesus was leading a rebellion against Rome, and His great popularity and large following would have validated that argument in the eyes of the Romans.

On the other hand, should the Lord have said that the people must pay taxes to Caesar, then He would also be in a difficult situation, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would have quickly capitalised on His words and condemned Him just as they condemned the tax collectors. He would have been labelled as a traitor, having betrayed the people by His own support for the Roman taxes.

Therefore, as we can see, by right, the Lord was in a very difficult situation, as it does not matter what He said, He would encounter difficulty and problem either way. But the Lord knew what was in the minds of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. He knew that they were plotting against Him, and He refused to be led into their trap. Instead, He presented to them the power of His divine wisdom, and revealed to them the undebatable truth.

Through the Lord’s own words, He told them all to give what is due to God, and give what is due to Caesar. He based this upon the fact that the silver coins used for the paying of the taxes ultimately were minted and issued by the Roman state. Therefore, what the people had done by paying taxes, were merely returning what the state had loaned out to them. It was not theirs in the first place.

Meanwhile, the Lord reminded them all, especially the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, that we have even more important things that we owe the Lord, much more than all the worldly goods and possessions of this world. And that is, our love and commitment to Him. God does not need anything, as He is all perfect and good, and there is nothing that we have, that did not come from God.

However, God loves each and every one of us dearly, and while in theory He has no need for our love, but as in any loving relationships, love exists between two parties. Thus, if God has loved us all so much, then it is only right that we should love Him in the same manner, and this is what the Lord Jesus said, as ‘give the Lord God, what is due for Him as Our God.’

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law did not love God. Rather, they loved themselves, and tried their best to accumulate for themselves, all power, glory, honour, fame and greatness. That is what God was angry with them for, and He reminded us not to follow in their footsteps. Instead, He has shown us all the example, how to be truly faithful and obedient to Him.

And today, we commemorate the feast of St. Boniface, holy bishop and martyr of the faith. St. Boniface was a great missionary in the region now known as northern Germany, where pagans still lived in large numbers during the time of St. Boniface. He preached to many of the pagans, calling them to repent from their sins, and explained about the faith to many who asked about the Lord.

He encountered difficulties and many challenges during his mission, but many people converted to the faith because of his courageous work and devotion to God. St. Boniface would then encounter his martyrdom when he and his company was attacked by bandits, who sought to plunder the belongings of the group. They thought that those belongings would contain precious treasure, while in fact they were books on Christian teachings.

St. Boniface told his followers not to fight back against the enemies, and they would rather hold back their arms, as according to their faith, the way of violence is not the way to be taken. Rather than treasuring his life over that of his possessions, it was told that St. Boniface defended his faith and the Gospels to the very end. We can see from this, just how devout and committed this holy man of God had been.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to love the Lord with all of our hearts, by giving Him our very best. As St. Boniface had shown us, let us put the Lord as the focus and the centre of our lives, and then, let us also be obedient and good members of the community we are living in, obeying the laws of the land, as long as they are aligned with what God had taught us in our Christian faith. Let us all give to God what God deserves, and give to the worldly authorities what we owe to them. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 13-17

At that time, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees with members of Herod’s party, with the purpose of trapping him by his own words. They came and said to Jesus, “Master, we know that You are truthful; You are not influenced by anyone, and Your answers do not vary according to who is listening to You, but You truly teach God’s way. Tell us, is it against the Law to pay taxes to Caesar? Should we pay them or not?”

But Jesus saw through their trick and answered, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a silver coin and let Me see it.” They brought Him one and Jesus asked, “Whose image is this, and whose name?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they were greatly astonished.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 89 : 2, 3-4, 10, 14 and 16

Before the mountains were formed, before You made the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity – You are God.

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night.

Seventy years to our life, or eighty if we are strong; yet, most of them are sorrow and trouble; speeding by, they sweep us along.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. Let Your work be seen by Your servants and Your glorious power by their children.