Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us heard from the Acts of the Apostles, an excerpt from which our first reading was taken, about the experience which St. Peter the Apostle had received, when he was called by God to visit an influential Gentile, or a non-Jew named Cornelius. St. Peter initially received a vision from God, of animals from various kinds, which are not counted among those considered clean by the Jewish dietary laws.

God commanded St. Peter through His voice, to eat those animals, which St. Peter refused to do so, because he had been obedient to the Jewish dietary customs and would not want to do something contrary to those rules and laws. But God rebuked St. Peter and said that, whatever He had deemed to be clean and worthy, St. Peter should not have considered as unclean.

This vision repeated for three times, and which came to his mind once again, as St. Peter came to the house of Cornelius and his family, who believed in God and were baptised as Christians after having heard the Good News. Then St. Peter realised what God’s true intention was when He showed him the vision three times. It showed him that God, ultimately loves each and every one of us, regardless of who we are and what our background is, regardless of our race or language, appearance or by whichever parameter we often categorise ourselves with.

He is our Shepherd, Who knows each and every one of us, as He mentioned it in our Gospel passage today. And He has called all of His sheep to Himself, and leading them to the right path towards salvation. He desires nothing else for us other than our reconciliation and happiness in Him. And to Him, every one of us are equally beloved and dear to Him, unlike the Israelites at the time of Jesus, who thought that the Lord loved them alone over all the other nations.

Indeed, God has called the Israelites first from among all the other nations. They were His first chosen people, but that time, God wanted to reveal the truth about Himself, that all people, from all races and from all sorts of origins and backgrounds are His, and they are dear to Him. He has thus called on all of them to come to Him, to be reconciled and to be reunited in one flock, led and guided by Him, the Good Shepherd of all.

And to them, He sent His disciples, such as St. Peter, and especially St. Paul, the Apostle who had the most interaction with the Gentiles. Through these devoted servants and messengers, He turned the hearts of many of them to Him, and many were called to the faith, just as Cornelius and his family had shown us. Those Gentiles showed great faith, just as much and in fact even more than the Jews themselves, and they received the same gift of faith and the Holy Spirit as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to remember the missionary nature of our faith. All of us have received this faith from someone else, be it from our own parents, or from someone who have instructed us in the faith. And they, in turn, have received the faith from others as well. Ultimately, all of us received our faith from God, through His Church, by the works of His Apostles and disciples, by which we have received the Good News and therefore made to share in His inheritance.

And many of these servants of God have suffered and died, just as the Apostles had, in order to bring us the faith and the Good News. Among them, today we remember two faithful saints, St. George and St. Adalbert, both of whom were martyred for their faith, and became source of great inspiration to many of the faithful throughout the ages. They have done all they could in order to bring God’s salvation to His people, imitating the example of He Who is the Good Shepherd.

St. George was a Roman soldier who served under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was renowned for his particularly intense persecution of Christians. St. George himself was secretly a Christian, and when the Emperor commanded a universal persecution of all Christians, their arrest and torture, and for all the members of the army to sacrifice to the pagan Roman gods and to the Emperor, St. George was said to have resolved to remain faithful to God, and embraced the likely fate of his own martyrdom.

St. George openly declared his faith before the Emperor, who in his outrage, sent St. George to be imprisoned and tortured, hoping that he would abandon his faith after having been subjected to torture, suffering, as well as persuasions and temptations. It was told that the Emperor even sent a beautiful young woman to seduce St. George, but it backfired, as the young woman was instead converted, after having been convinced as such by the holy saint.

In fact, it was told that the Empress herself was so touched by St. George’s faith that she herself became a convert, and henceforth known as St. Alexandra of Rome, martyred together with St. George for their faith in God. The Emperor was particularly angered by the fact that even his wife had been persuaded and convinced to accept the Christian faith.

Meanwhile, St. Adalbert was a faithful and devout servant of God, who in his capacity as the bishop of Prague in what is now Czech Republic, went to evangelise among the pagan peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. He was devoted to the mission entrusted to him, and despite challenges and opposition from those who disagreed with his ways, St. Adalbert persevered faithfully and his flock benefitted greatly from his commitment and hard work.

St. Adalbert devoted himself to missionary work, and many people were baptised under his work. Many souls were saved from certain damnation by his works, calling men to repentance and to be forgiven and reconciled with God. However, he did not have his work easily done before him, and instead, he encountered many challenges and opposition, not least from the pagans themselves, many of whom refused to be converted to the true faith.

That was how St. Adalbert met his martyrdom as he went on to preach to the Baltic pagans, many of whom refused to welcome him and accept the Lord as their Saviour. But, his perseverance and hard work won him the admiration of many among the faithful, as well as many others who walked in his footsteps throughout the years. As we can see, St. George and St. Adalbert have both shown us, how we can be faithful to the Lord, in the mission entrusted to them.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we too, have been entrusted with the same mission. The Lord wanted all the people, all of mankind to be reconciled with Him, and there are still many out there who have not yet received the Lord and His Good News, and many still have rejected Him and wandered off His path. It is now up to us, to continue the good works that the Apostles, and the saints, St. George and St. Adalbert had begun.

May the Lord be with us and guide us in this journey, so that we may be able to find our own way to Him, and be able to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the mission and cause He has entrusted to us. May the Lord bless us all and our endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 10 : 1-10

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. But the shepherd of the sheep enters by the gate. The keeper opens the gate to him and the sheep hear his voice; he calls each of his sheep by name and leads them out.”

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but rather they will run away from him, because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this comparison, but they did not understand what He was saying to them.

So Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, I am the Gate of the sheep. All who came were thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not hear them. I am the Gate. Whoever enters through Me will be saved; he will go in and out freely and find food. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, life in all its fullness.”

Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 41 : 2-3 and Psalm 42 : 3, 4

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for You, o God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God?

Send forth Your light and Your truth; let them be my guide, let them take me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You reside.

Then will I go to the Altar of God, to God, my gladness and delight. I will praise You with the lyre an harp, o God, my God.

Monday, 23 April 2018 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 11 : 1-18

News came to the Apostles and the brothers and sisters in Judea that even foreigners had received the Word of God. So, when Peter went up to Jerusalem, these Jewish believers began to argue with him, “You went to the home of uncircumcised people and ate with them!”

So Peter began to give them the facts as they had happened, “I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when, in a trance, I saw a vision. Something like a large sheet came down from the sky and drew near to me, landing on the ground by its four corners. As I stared at it, I saw four-legged creatures of the earth, wild beasts and reptiles, and birds of the sky.”

“Then I heard a voice saying to me : ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ I replied, ‘Certainly not, Lord! No common or unclean creature has ever entered my mouth.’ A second time the voice from the heavens spoke, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call unclean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all drawn up into the sky. At that moment three men, who had been sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were staying.”

“The Spirit instructed me to go with them without hesitation; so these six brothers came along with me and we entered into the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an Angel standing in his house and telling him : ‘Send someone to Joppa and fetch Simon, also known as Peter. He will bring you a message by which you and all your household will be saved.”

“I had begun to address them when suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon them, just as it had come upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said : ‘John baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ If, then, God had given them the same gift that He had given us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to resist God?”

When they heard this they set their minds at rest and praised God saying, “Then God has granted life-giving repentance to the pagan nations as well.”

Saturday, 23 April 2016 : Fourth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the opposition which the Jews and the Pharisees showed to the works of St. Paul and the other Apostles as they went about to preach about the Lord. These people were not happy that the Apostles were preaching their teachings and were gaining plenty on followers, many people who abandoned their old ways and listened to the truth, believing in Jesus and became members of the Church.

And in addition, those Jews and influential Pharisees were also irritated at the fact that St. Paul and the other Apostles, St. Barnabas and others, who preached the faith and salvation also to the non-Jews, or the Gentiles. These people at that time would refer to the Greeks, the Romans and all others whom the Jews regarded as those who did not belong to the chosen race of Israel, and also those who did not obey the laws of Moses as they did.

In order to understand this, we have to understand the dynamics of the society and the communities of the people of God at that time. The people at the time of Jesus, especially in Judea and in some other regions were divided between the Jews and the Gentiles or the non-Jews. The Jewish people, or the descendants of the people of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel kept the laws of Moses faithfully, all the ordinances, rules and laws descended through the generations to them.

And the Jews often kept to themselves and observed those laws strictly, and in many occasions, many of them kept the laws without truly knowing the true intention of those laws as originally intended by God when He gave it to His people through Moses. And in the end, because of the fact that God had chosen them to be His people, they developed the superiority feelings and attitude in their dealings with the Gentiles.

How is this so, brethren? The Jews often treated the Gentiles as those who were not worthy of God’s salvation, and that they alone were worthy to receive God and His grace. And those others were not chosen by God and therefore were heathens and pagans. This is one of the explanation why the Jews were not happy when St. Paul and the other Apostles were preaching that the non-Jews could also be saved by believing in Jesus.

Even within the Church itself at that time, there were Pharisees who believed in God, who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. And yet, if we read through the subsequent parts of the Acts of the Apostles, we will see in some parts, the tension and disagreements between them and St. Paul and the Apostles based on their works with the Gentiles and about their salvation in Jesus.

In all these, we see how mankind often placed their trust in things other than God. Even though the laws of Moses were originally given to the people of Israel by God, but over the many centuries that followed, its true meaning and purpose had been twisted beyond recognition by the many different interpretations and modifications that those people throughout the ages had done to the Law of God.

And these people resisted any change or modification to what they thought was right, and they refused to believe in the truth revealed by God through Jesus His Son. And when the Apostles tried to continue the good works of God, by preaching that same truth to them and to those who have not yet heard of it, they resisted and even persecuted the Apostles and the holy servants of God.

It is a reminder for us all that each and every one of us as those who have believed in God and who have been charged with the same responsibility to preach the Good News to all mankind, will not have it easy for us to live this life in good faith. We will encounter difficulties, challenges and even persecution for enduring to be faithful and remaining committed to God and His cause.

But we should not give up or give in to the world and its demands, just as in the past, St. Adalbert and St. George, the saints whose feasts we are celebrating today, have been devoted to God and were committed to a holy life, and for the salvation of their fellow brethren, even though they were threatened with suffering and even with a painful death.

St. George the Martyr was a great soldier, a soldier in the Roman army, who served during the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was renowned for his particularly oppressive attitude against the Church and all Christians. But St. George did not hesitate at all to resist the Emperor, when he pronounced the persecution of Christians throughout the Empire. And when he ordered all the soldiers to renounce their former gods and offer sacrifices to the Emperor and the pagan gods, St. George refused to do so.

Thus, St. George courageously stood by the faith which he had in the Lord even in the face of suffering and death. He faced his death without fear, knowing that the Lord would be with him, and through his examples, many others would be inspired to remain strong in their faith as well, and thus avoid damnation and destruction which is awaiting all those who refuse to believe in God.

St. Adalbert on the other hand was a renowned bishop of Prague, known also as St. Adalbert of Prague. He was a great servant of the Lord, a faithful worker who spread the Good News among the then still pagan peoples of the region known as Bohemia and Prussia, in what is now northern Germany and western Poland. St. Adalbert continued to minister to the people there despite challenges and opposition, and even when his life was threatened, he did not give up.

And thus, when he was martyred in the midst of doing his works, he did not fear and he was filled with joy knowing that, just as St. George had done before him, and just as many other holy saints and martyrs had done before him, he will be rewarded gloriously for all that he has done for the sake of the people of God, out of love for his Lord and Master.

Let us all also therefore be inspired to live faithfully as these holy saints had lived, and let us all fill our lives with good deeds and commit ourselves to God in all that we do. May this Easter season be a time of renewal for us all, that we may draw ever closer to the Lord our God, and be closer to His saving grace. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 23 April 2016 : Fourth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 14 : 7-14

At that time, Jesus spoke to His disciples at the Last Supper, “If you know Me, you will know the Father also; indeed you know Him, and you have seen Him.”

Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough.” Jesus said to him, “What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever sees Me sees the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?”

“All that I say to you, I do not say of Myself. The Father Who dwells in Me is doing His own work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; at least believe it on the evidence of these works that I do.”

“Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in Me will do the same works that I do; and he will even do greater than these, for I am going to the Father. Everything you ask in My Name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon My Name, I will do.”

Saturday, 23 April 2016 : Fourth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

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.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.