Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that often times as we carry on living our lives as Christians, we have to face oppression and persecution, facing difficult times and trials in living our lives while being faithful to God. It had happened to our ancestors, our predecessors who had kept their faith and it can happen to us as well.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of Daniel, the man of God from Judah who had spent much of his life in Babylon and then in the courts of the Persian kings that succeeded the Babylonians. King Darius the Great of Persia, the figure likely mentioned in that passage had Daniel as one of his courtiers, as a holy and wise man that he trusted. This resulted in jealousy and also hatred from others who despised Daniel and his faith in God.

As a result, those enemies of Daniel tried to leverage the king into enacting a law that outlawed the worship of God and therefore indirectly implicate Daniel and made him to be punishable by the same law. Daniel stood firm in his faith and he would not give in to the provisions of the law enacted on the advice of his enemies, and he remained faithful to God even when he was threatened with certain death.

The Lord preserved Daniel and protected him when he was thrown into the lion’s den, and even when the lions had purposely been made hungry but starving them, they did not harm or even touch Daniel at all. The Lord guarded him and kept him until the time that the king, who was very sympathetic to Daniel, released him from the lion’s den. It was thus that the king ordered the enemies of Daniel and all those who had accused and slandered him to be thrown into the lion’s den instead, and they were all crushed by the lions.

Then in our Gospel passage today we heard how the Lord Jesus revealed to His disciples of the coming of trials and challenging times for all of them as they all would face persecution and difficulties, and everything would not be the same as before. Their old world would be destroyed and ended, and even Jerusalem itself would not be spared. The city of Jerusalem itself would be surrounded and destroyed, and it would be one of the signs of what was to come.

When the Lord spoke of what would happen to Jerusalem, some of them might be thinking that what were to happen to Jerusalem would be the omen of the Second Coming of Christ, which the Lord Himself also proclaimed at that same occasion. Some early Christians believed that the Lord would very soon come again and free them from their sufferings and persecutions, under both the Jewish authorities and from the Romans. But it was not the case.

The Lord did not actually specify that He would come again right after Jerusalem was surrounded and destroyed, which actually happened just four decades after the Lord’s crucifixion. The Romans did surround and besiege Jerusalem after the major uprising by the Jewish people, which eventually resulted in the destruction of the city and the Temple of God, which was completely destroyed and torn down just as the Lord had predicted.

But the Lord again did not say that He would immediately come after that. Rather, as He revealed through St. John the Apostle in his vision received at the island of Patmos, which he wrote in the Book of Revelations, sufferings and trials will come again for all those who are faithful to God, much as how Daniel had suffered, and how many saints and martyrs, our holy predecessors had endured, and how many more will suffer because they remain faithful to God, even to this very day, and to the future to come.

What is important is that we must remember that the Lord is always ever by our side, and He will never abandon us. Even as we suffer, He is always guiding us and protecting us in various ways. We cannot and we should not lose hope in Him, and we should instead remain steadfast in His grace and providence, entrusting ourselves to His care and protection. All of us must have faith in the Lord and do our best to help one another as well, even as we struggle to endure the trials and challenges we are facing or are going to face in the future.

Today we also commemorate the feast of a great saint and martyr who should inspire us to live our lives worthily for the Lord, namely that of St. Catherine of Alexandria, also known as St. Catherine the Great. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a renowned Roman martyr, a holy woman and virgin who according to tradition was the daughter of the governor of Alexandria in Roman Egypt. At that time, during the reign of the Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, Christians throughout the Empire faced one last, particularly brutal period of intense persecutions, where churches were destroyed, their properties looted and confiscated, the Scriptures burnt, and many of the members of the faithful, both the leaders and the laity alike were oppressed.

St. Catherine was persuaded through a vision of the Blessed Mother of God and her Son, Our Lord and Saviour to become a Christian, and as the persecutions intensified, she chose to go to the Emperor, then Emperor Maxentius, and rebuke him for his misdeeds. Amused by her courage and beauty, it was told that the Emperor called forth fifty renowned pagan philosophers to debate with her, and they all could not argue with her. God gave her the wisdom and the courage, the strength and endurance to stand up faithfully for her Christian faith.

When she was persecuted and tortured, which she endured with great faith, it was told that her courage and faith touched so many, that even the wife of the Emperor and others were themselves convinced to become Christians, and thus were martyred along with her as well. The Emperor desperately tried to make St. Catherine to abandon her faith, even to the point of proposing marriage to her, which she rejected courageously and firmly, stating that her Spouse was none other than Jesus, her Lord and Saviour, to Whom alone she dedicated herself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from what we have heard and discussed regarding the life examples showed by St. Catherine of Alexandria, all of us can see that trials and persecutions may come at any time for those who follow Christ. The question is then, are we willing to endure those sufferings and trials for Christ? Or are we easily tempted and swayed to abandon Him for temporary gains and benefits of this world? Are we easily made to give up our faith because we are afraid of the consequences of following Him?

Let us ponder these things in our mind and let us consider what we can do to be good and faithful disciples of Our Lord in each and every moments of our lives. Let us pray to the Lord, asking Him to guide us and to strengthen us in our journey of faith so that we will always have the courage and strength to remain faithful to Him regardless of the trials, obstacles and challenges that we may have to face for the Lord’s sake. May God be with us all and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Daniel 3 : 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74

Dew and frost, praise and exalt Him forever.

Ice and cold, praise and exalt Him forever.

Frost and snow, praise and exalt Him forever.

Days and nights, praise and exalt Him forever.

Light and darkness, praise and exalt Him forever.

Lightning and clouds, praise and exalt Him forever.

Earth, praise and exalt Him forever.

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Daniel 6 : 12-28

So the administrators and satraps went to the king and reminded him about the prohibition, “O king, did you not publish a decree that anyone who prays or makes petition to any god or man except to you would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered, “Yes, and the decree stands, in accordance with Medo-Persian laws which cannot be altered or annulled.” Then they said, “But the Jewish exile Daniel pays no attention to you and to your decree. Three times a day he still prays to some God other than you.”

Greatly aggrieved at what he heard, the king decided to help Daniel. He made every effort till sundown to save him. But the men kept coming to him and insisting, “Remember, o king, that under the Medo-Persian laws every decree or prohibition issued by the king is irrevocable.” The king, therefore, could not help giving the order that Daniel be brought and thrown into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, Whom you serve faithfully, save you.”

A stone was placed at the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with that of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might remain unchanged. Then the king returned to his palace and spent a sleepless night, refusing food and entertainment. Very early next morning, he rose and hurried to the lions’ den. As he came near, he called in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the Living God, did your God, Whom you serve faithfully, save you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “Live forever, o king! My God sent His Angel, who closed the lions’ mouths, so that they did not hurt me. God did that because I am innocent in His sight. Neither have I wronged you, o king.”

The king felt very glad and ordered Daniel released from the lions’ den. No wound was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. At the king’s order, the men who had accused Daniel were thrown into the lions’ den, together with their wives and children. No sooner had they reached the floor of the den than the lions lunged at them and tore them to pieces.

King Darius wrote to the nations, to peoples of every language, “Peace to you all! I decree that throughout my kingdom people should reverence and fear the God of Daniel. For He is the Living God, and forever He endures; His Kingdom will not be crushed, His dominion will never cease. He rescues and He delivers; He performs signs and wonders both in heaven and on earth. And He came to Daniel’s rescue saving him from the lions’ tooth and claw.”

Daniel greatly prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us the challenges and trials that are part of our journey as Christians and how we should keep up faith and not be afraid. This is because the Lord will always be with us and by our side no matter what, and with His guidance and strength, we shall persevere through all the challenges and trials.

In our first reading today we heard of the words from the Book of Revelations of St. John regarding the happenings of the end times as the time of reckoning and judgment is coming up on the world, and the Angels of God bearing the seven great plagues that will befall the nations and the people who refused to believe in God. At that time, the righteous and those who are still faithful in God will be persecuted and oppressed by those unbelievers, and the plagues and other signs are reminders that God is by the side of His faithful.

The Lord will not abandon His people to darkness and destruction, and He, as the Lamb of God seen in the vision of St. John, has triumphed by His Passion and Resurrection from the dead, and not even death and evil can overcome Him. For He has defeated the ultimate enemy of all, that is death, and showing to all of us that there is light and hope beyond death, and death no longer has the final say for all of us. It used to be something that we were all scared of as death is a separation from our lives in this world.

The Lord reassured us all that death that we experience is only a temporary experience and is just a mark of the new beginning of a new life with Him, when we will be reunited completely with Him and enter into the eternal glory and the eternal life that have been prepared for all of us. However, unless we believe in Him and are faithful in HIm, dedicating ourselves to Him, there will be no place for us in His eternal kingdom and glory.

And all of these relate well to what we heard from our Gospel passage today. In our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord proclaiming the revelation of what His disciples and followers as Christians would encounter soon enough, after He established His Church and they preached His Good News to the nations. They would be persecuted, oppressed, rejected and ridiculed by many of those who refused to believe in the Lord and in His message, as well as those who saw the faithful as threats to their own power and influence.

Hence, that was why Christians especially in its early centuries faced so many persecutions, initially from the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin and the chief priests, the Pharisees and Sadducees and all those who were opposed to the Lord and His followers. And in addition, the Roman authorities and the state governments, as well as the Greeks and other pagan peoples who refused to believe in God also persecuted the faithful and made things difficult to them.

Yet, amidst all of that, many of our holy predecessors, the innumerable martyrs and saints of the Church remained firm in their faith and conviction to serve the Lord, dedicating their lives and all their efforts to follow the Lord to the very end. They endured those sufferings, trials, persecutions and challenges since they had faith that God would be with them and journeyed together with them even through the greatest sufferings and the deepest darkness and despair.

One of those saints is St. Catherine of Alexandria, one of the most famous and inspirational saints of the early Church. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a noble, born of a powerful family as her father was the governor of Alexandria in Egypt, a very important position in the Roman Empire at that time. St. Catherine was persuaded to become a Christian after receiving visions of the Lord and was convinced to embrace the Christian faith fully. And all these happened amidst one of the most bitter and brutal persecution against Christians.

It was told that St. Catherine was arrested and tortured for her Christian faith. And in the attempt to make her abandon her faith and to publicly denounce the Christian faith and truth, the Emperor made her to debate as many as fifty or more pagan philosophers, who were all unable to outsmart or debate her, unable to match her wisdom, the wisdom of God as passed on and revealed through the Holy Spirit. It was told that St. Catherine’s wisdom was such that even the Emperor’s own wife was touched, inspired and converted to the true faith.

And when all methods and ways had failed to persuade St. Catherine to abandon her faith, the desperate Emperor tried to turn her by offering her his hand in marriage. Normally, the temptation to abandon the faith to embrace marriage with the most powerful and influential person in the land would be so great. But St. Catherine resisted the offer and temptation, declaring publicly that she maintained her virginity and dedicated it to the Lord, refusing to stain her purity in any way, and neither would she abandon her faith. And thus, afterwards, she was martyred for remaining true to her faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the inspiring examples set by St. Catherine of Alexandria, as well as the many other examples made by the other holy men and women of God, who had chosen to walk with God and refused to abandon Him, let us all be inspired to follow their examples and walk in their footsteps even as challenges and trials are facing us and become great obstacles in our own respective journeys of faith. Let us all discern carefully our path going forward in life, that we may grow ever closer to God and in faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us all in our journey of faith. May He strengthen us and our resolve that we may persevere and be more courageous in our pursuit of faith, and be ourselves inspiring examples of faith to one another. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 12-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Before all these things happen, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you; you will be delivered to the synagogues and put in prison, and for My sake you will be brought before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”

“So keep this in mind : do not worry in advance about what to say, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death.”

“But even though, because of My Name, you will be hated by everyone, not a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance you will save your souls.”

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 7-8, 9

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

Let the sea resound and everything in it, the world and all its peoples. Let rivers clap their hands, hills and mountains sing with joy.

Before the Lord, for He comes to rule the earth. He will judge the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Revelations 15 : 1-4

Then I saw another great and marvellous sign in the heavens : seven Angels brought seven plagues which are the last, for with these the wrath of God will end. There was a sea of crystal mingled with fire, and the conquerors of the beast, of its name and the mark of its name stood by it.

They had been given the celestial harps and they sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb : Great and marvellous are Your works, o Lord, God and Master of the universe. Justice and truth guide Your steps, o King of the nations.

Lord, who will not give honour and glory to Your Name? For You alone are holy. All the nations will come and bow before You, for they have now seen Your judgments.

Monday, 25 November 2019 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture beginning the narrative from the Book of the prophet Daniel, a prophet who was brought into exile in Babylon during his youth in the ending days of the kingdom of Judah just before the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple of God. Daniel and his companions were brought to the faraway land, uprooted from their homes and families, and made to serve the King of Babylon and his ministers.

Such was the humiliation and suffering that they all had to suffer, humiliated of having lost their homeland and later on to hear how the city of God, Jerusalem and its Temple were razed and destroyed by the Babylonians, its treasures and riches carried off to the Babylonian kingdom, all the sacred vessels once used to worship God became instead the profane drinking cups of the kings and their nobles as described in the latter part of the Book of Daniel.

Amidst such a situation, it must have been difficult for Daniel and his companions, another three Israelites named Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, also known by their Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, to remain faithful to God and not to bend their knees to the pressures and demands of the Babylonians and their kings. Yet, that was exactly what they did, in remaining true to their faith even in such difficult conditions.

They gave their all to God, and in doing their best in whatever that God has led them into, in serving the king of Babylon and his ministers, in doing their best as the servants, and by the grace of God, they became the favoured servants of the king, and especially Daniel was honoured for his great wisdom and ability to interpret the king’s dreams while none other could do so. But, they would not budge when the king demanded that everyone, including them to bow down their knees to worship a golden statue that king Nebuchadnezzar built in his own likeness.

They had nothing on them, no wealth and no pride, no more than memory of the humiliation of their country and people, the destruction of their holy city and Temple, and yet, they gave their love and faith to God. In our Psalm today, we heard part of the song which Azariah the other two companions of Daniel sang when they were thrown into the blazing furnace by the order of the king when they openly defied the king’s demands to worship his golden statue.

They praised God Who had been with them all those while and reiterated their faith and love for Him. They sang of His glorious majesty in the presence of the king and all gathered from within the flame, apparently unharmed and an Angel of God by their side, as seen by the king and all. The king and everyone were astonished, and because of what happened, the king decided to destroy the golden statue that he had just built, and restored the three companions of Daniel to their previous honoured positions.

We see how God was always with His faithful ones, and for those who truly trust in Him and gave their all, they did not fear because they knew that God would be always by their side even amidst sufferings and challenges, even through martyrdoms and painful deaths. That is the same sentiment and example that the Lord Jesus highlighted in our Gospel passage today, as we heard another well-known story of the widow’s mite.

In that occasion, a poor widow came to the Temple bearing two small copper coins as offerings to God, while many rich men came to offer plentiful of offerings that were far greater than the poor widow’s offering. Yet, she offered and gave from her own shortage and limitations, and as a result, she gave from the deepest love in her heart. She is the epitome of what true Christian discipleship is, and like the prophet Daniel and his companions, she had given her all to God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what each and every one of us need to do as well. We need to do our best to serve the Lord with all of our strength, and to give the best for Him from the depths of our hearts. And today we have yet another example to look up to, in the person of St. Catherine of Alexandria, a holy woman and saint whose feast we celebrate today. St. Catherine of Alexandria was a faithful disciple of the Lord who went through a particularly brutal persecution under the pagan Roman Emperor Maxentius.

St. Catherine defended her fellow faithful when that Emperor persecuted Christians throughout his realm, rebuking him for his actions and stood up for the Lord. The Emperor tried to oppose her with the best pagan philosophers and thinkers of the time, but none of them were able to outshine her wisdom, and the Emperor in his anger made this faithful woman to undergo bitter suffering and torture. When the Emperor’s own wife and other women came to see St. Catherine in her suffering, it was told that even they converted and were martyred along as well.

St. Catherine of Alexandria gave everything for the Lord’s sake, even her own life, not holding back even when the pagan Emperor in desperation tried to get her by trying to woo her in marriage, as beautiful as St. Catherine was even after she was tortured. She remained firm in her dedication and committed herself and her virginity before God and the Emperor, by which then she was martyred after a long time of suffering, and became a great inspiration for many Christians after her time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to follow in the footsteps of St. Catherine of Alexandria, to imitate the love of the widow who gave her all to God, and also the dedication of Daniel and his fellow companions who remained true to their faith in God amidst all the challenges they had to face. Let us all thus strive to be true Christian disciples and do our very best to serve the Lord with all of our hearts and to give Him everything that we are, and committing ourselves to Him from now on. May He continue to bless us all and guide us in this journey, that we may draw ever closer to Him. Amen.

Monday, 25 November 2019 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury of the Temple. He also saw a poor widow, who dropped in two small coins. And He said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For all of them gave an offering from their plenty; but she, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on.”