Wednesday, 12 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the truth which God has revealed to us through His Apostles and through the Holy Spirit by Whom He willingly taught us about Himself and all that He wants us to know, this same truth which He has passed on to the Apostles to His Church. He revealed all these to us because He wants us to put our trust in Him and turn away from our sinful ways so that we may be worthy of Him and be forgiven from our many sins and faults.

In our first reading today, we heard the accounts of St. Paul and his visit to Athens, in what is now Greece. Athens was a truly great and magnificent city, which influence and prestige was even more remarkable at the time of St. Paul. Although it was no longer as dominant and great as it was a few centuries earlier when it dominated much of Greece and the Aegean and Mediterranean region, Athens was still a great city and a major centre of learning and philosophy, having been renowned for its many thinkers and philosophers, such as Plato, Socrates, Aristotle among others.

And Athens was also one of the main centres of Greek pagan beliefs, as one of its main cultural centre. At that time, when St. Paul visited Athens, it was truly a pagan city, with statues and idols of the Greco-Roman gods everywhere, and with most of its people believing strongly in their beliefs. It is with this context that St. Paul stood up in Areopagus, in the main venue where Athenians and others would come to discuss and debate matters as they had done so for centuries. He spoke courageously about the Lord, the One and only True God in that occasion.

St. Paul revealed before all the people that God was indeed truly the One true God, Who created all things and Who made all things happen. The Greco-Roman belief worshipped nature and its wonders, with gods corresponding to different parts of the natural world, such as the well known Zeus or Jupiter as the king of the gods and the ruler of the skies, of thunder and lightning, and Poseidon or Neptune as the god of the seas and horses, Hades or Pluto as the god of the dead and the underworld, Hera or Juno as the queen of the gods and the goddess of the family, Demeter or Ceres as the goddess of agriculture, and many others, too many to be discussed here.

And all these things, according to St. Paul, was not real gods as they were mankind’s representation of the natural world, of wonders and things that they could not comprehend and did not know. But all those things, be it the sun, the moon, the thunder, storms, and even death, all these are nothing more than just objects created by God. Hence, St. Paul pointed out to the Athenians that as they kept on wondering and debating on the truth of life, and worship those pagan gods and idols, there is the One true God Who would reveal to them the truth.

St. Paul therefore revealed that salvation has come from the Lord, Who sent His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as the Divine Word Incarnate, appearing in the flesh, as the true manifestation of divinity, revealing His truth to all. And that is why everyone has been called to the same truth, to know God Whom the Athenians ascribed as to the unknown God. St. Paul was making the Lord known to all those people who had not yet known Him. And we then heard the response from the people, many of whom made fun of him and refused to listen to the truth. Yet, there were some who were intrigued and interested by what St. Paul had said, and wanted him to speak to them more about the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord sent St. Paul to be one of His ministers in revealing the truth to His people, just as the other Apostles also went to various places to speak about the truth of God and the message of His salvation. St. Paul followed the Lord’s commands guided by the same Holy Spirit that the Lord promised His disciples as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. The Lord also gave us all the same Holy Spirit, and do you know that the same mission He has entrusted to His Apostles back then still apply to us as well? We are all called to continue the good works that the Apostles had begun.

In this present day world, all of us are called to be witnesses of the Lord in our respective communities, to reveal Him among all those whom we encounter in life through our own exemplary life and actions. By our commitment and dedication, we have a lot of potential and opportunities to reach out to many more people and let them know about the Lord and His truth, as what St. Paul had done in Athens and in various other places, revealing the truth about God with great courage. Are we able and willing to commit ourselves to follow in his footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, who were martyrs of the faith during the time of the early Roman Empire, who were either soldiers who converted to the faith and then martyred for courageously standing by their faith, or as servants of the niece of the Roman Emperor, who herself was a convert to the Christian faith. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian at that time, Christians went through a period of harsh persecution, and many including St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were martyred, both of them by beheading.

Then today we also mark the feast of St. Pancras, another martyr of the faith who was only a young boy at the time when he was martyred. Born to Roman citizens in the region of Phrygia in Asia Minor, his parents passed on early and he was taken care of by a relative. And then during the great persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, as everyone were forced to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods, St. Pancras resisted and refused to do as ordered with determination. The Emperor, impressed with the young man’s determination, attempted to persuade him with wealth and power, but these were refused and thus St. Pancras was martyred.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard the inspiring lives of those faithful saints, our holy predecessors, then we should ask ourselves, what are we doing then in proclaiming the truth of God? Have we been genuine in our faith and have we dedicated ourselves to the Lord and His ways, even if we have to suffer persecution and trials for our commitment? If we have not lived our lives in the way we should according to our faith, then perhaps we should keep what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages in mind, as we discern how each and every one of us as Christians can live our lives more faithfully and be good role models and examples for those around us.

Let us all be inspired by St. Paul, the other saints and martyrs, especially St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, and St. Pancras. Let us seek the Lord with renewed vigour and be genuine disciples of His, following Him wholeheartedly and truly living our lives as He has taught and shown us how we should live our lives. May God be with us always and may He guide us in our journey of faith. Amen.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 12 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 12 May 2021 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs and St. Pancras, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard of the promises of the Lord reassuring all of His disciples and therefore all of us His faithful ones that He will always be with us and will be faithful to the Covenant He has established with us and our ancestors. And this is indeed a very important and powerful reminder for each and every one of us as at the same time we are also reminded that being Christians will likely lead us down the path of many challenges to come, if we have not already experienced them.

In our first reading today, we heard how the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas encountered trouble during their missionary journey, as they were harassed and attacked by the Jewish people from Antioch and Iconium who incited the pagans and Gentiles to attack the two Apostles as well which resulted in both of them almost being killed by the masses. Thankfully by God’s providence and protection, the two of them managed to survive and they went on to another place.

Yet, that did not dampen their spirit and they remained firm in their commitment to serve God. If we noticed carefully, as both St. Paul and St. Barnabas went back towards Antioch, one of the important early centres of Christianity, they passed through the same city of Lystra and Iconium, where they had encountered troubles with the Jews and others who had almost persecuted them to death just earlier on. And in Antioch itself there had been many other forms of difficulties the Christians had encountered, just as how it was in Judea and Jerusalem.

Many among the faithful had suffered greatly because of their faith in Christ, either because they encountered stiff opposition and anger from some among the Jewish communities as well as from the Jewish authorities, some of whom were very strongly and ardently opposed to the Lord Jesus, His Way, ministry and teachings. In addition, they also encountered challenges from the pagans especially the pagan priests and ardent worshippers who saw the Christian faith as dangerous threat to their own popularity, authority, way of life and their pagan deities.

And to the Romans, who were the rulers and overlords of much of the known world and the Mediterranean region then, the rapid growth of Christianity were also often viewed with much suspicion and distrust, as the Romans also tended to group the Christians, especially during its earliest days with the Jews, whose rebellious ways and growing tensions almost resulted in uprisings and open rebellions during the earliest days of the Church. It was amidst all of these challenges and trials that the early Christians lived and professed their faith in God.

The Apostles strengthened and encouraged the resolve and faith of the people of God as mentioned in our first reading today, by reminding all of them of God’s providence and love, His faithfulness and commitment to the Covenant and the promises He had made with all of them. The Apostles encouraged the people of God and reassured them with the same reassurance from the Lord than even though they might be suffering the effects of the rejection and persecutions of the world, but the Lord was always with them and He would guide them through all the way.

And this was how so many courageous saints and martyrs came to be throughout the long history of the Church especially during times and moments of great persecutions. And today alone we are celebrating the feast of three of these great servants of God, who have all suffered martyrdom for their faith. They are St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, as well as St. Pancras, all the martyrs of the Lord from the earlier years and time in the Church.

St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were servants of a niece of the Roman Emperor Domitian, one of the early Roman Emperors, during whose reign the Apostle St. John wrote the Book of Revelations during his exile at the island of Patmos. St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were secret Christians who were probably persecuted by the early Christian persecution especially during the reign of that Emperor Domitian, who after Nero was the second Emperor to carry out harsh persecution against Christians. Those two faithful followers of God suffered and were martyred.

Meanwhile, St. Pancras, also known as St. Pancras of Rome was a young Christian man who was martyred under the reign of another Roman Emperor who was notorious for his particularly harsh and terrible persecution of Christians, namely Emperor Diocletian. He was forced to offer sacrifices to the Roman pagan gods and to the Emperor, then treated as if equal to the pagan deities, but St. Pancras, who was still just a teenager then, refused to do so.

The Emperor was really impressed with the courage and dedication showed by St. Pancras that he promised the teenager a lot of wealth and power if he would only abandon his faith in God. But St. Pancras still remained firm in his faith and would not be swayed or tempted by the Emperor’s offers, and in the end, he was also martyred by beheading, a true Christian and a devout son of God to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what all these three saints and martyrs had shown us is that suffering and persecution in some form will be inevitable in our journey and life. However, we must not lose faith or focus, and we must always remember that God is always by our side, protecting us, providing us with our needs among other things. That was how those faithful servants of God remained firm in their faith despite the challenges and sufferings that they had to face.

Let us all be inspired by their examples, their great courage and faith, and let us all be more committed and faithful in following the Lord from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us to be ever stronger in our piety and desire to love Him with all of our hearts, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs and St. Pancras, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 14 : 27-31a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace be with you! I give you My peace; not as the world gives peace do I give it to you. Do not be troubled; do not be afraid. You heard Me say, ‘I am going away, but I am coming to you.’ If you loved Me, you would be glad that I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

“I have told you this now before it takes place, so that when it does happen you may believe. It is very little what I may still tell you, for the prince of this world is at hand, although there is nothing in Me that he can claim. But see, the world must know that I love the Father, and that I do what the Father has taught Me to do.”

Tuesday, 12 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs and St. Pancras, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 12-13ab, 21

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures from generation to generation.

Let my mouth speak in praise of the Lord, let every creature bless His holy Name, forever and ever.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs and St. Pancras, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 14 : 19-28

Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and turned the people against Paul and Barnabas. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the town, leaving him for dead. But when his disciples gathered around him, he stood up and returned to the town. And the next day he left for Derbe with Barnabas.

After proclaiming the Gospel in that town and making many disciples, they returned to Lystra and Iconium and on to Antioch. They were strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain firm in the faith, for they said, “We must go through many trials to enter the Kingdom of God.”

In each Church they appointed elders and, after praying and fasting, they commended them to the Lord in Whom they had placed their faith. Then they travelled through Pisidia, and came to Pamphylia. They preached the Word in Perga and went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had first been commended to God’s grace for the task they had now completed.

On their arrival they gathered the Church together and told them all that God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the non-Jews. They spent a fairly long time there with the disciples.

Friday, 12 May 2017 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs and St. Pancras, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded that if we follow the Lord our God, even though on our life’s journey we will encounter, and indeed, had encountered many forms of tribulations, sufferings and troubles, all the challenges we have to face, but in the end of it all, God will reward us with His everlasting grace and love.

This is the promise which God Himself had made through His Son Jesus, Who revealed the perfect love of God to all of us. He has revealed that all of those who are faithful to Him, remain faithful and true to Him despite the temptations and the challenges from the world, will be rewarded, and places have been prepared for all of them in the glorious heaven.

This is why we believe that saints and holy martyrs are present, and they are with God, praying for our sake. For it is this belief in the resurrection from the dead, and the hope of a glorious everlasting life with God, in the bliss of heavenly glory and joy, that make us to have faith in God and believe in Him, because of the saints and martyrs that had preceded us, all those who had to even give their lives for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.

If they had not believed in the glory in the life that was to come to them, then it would indeed have been foolish for them to die as they had done, or to suffer as they have suffered. Yet, those faithful people continued to believe in God, and resisted the efforts by those who wanted them to abandon their faith in the Lord Jesus. That is because they believed in the promise of God, which is indeed not just a mere promise, but already a reality in waiting for those who keep their faith in Him.

That is what the holy martyrs whose memory we celebrate today had done in their lives. St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were martyrs of the early Church, among the earliest of the known martyrs, who lived during the years, as told by the tradition of the Church, of the Roman Emperor Domitian, who was known to persecute the Church and the faithful. And at that time, being a Christian meant difficulties, challenges, and they could even be arrested for being known as Christians.

Yet, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were among those Christians who did not let the difficulties of the time to hamper their zeal and devotion to the Lord, as many other martyrs had also done. And when the other saint, St. Pancras or St. Pancratius, who lived during the years of the great persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, was found out to be a Christian, he did not give up his faith, despite all that the enemies of the faith were trying to do in order to subvert them.

For example, when the Roman Emperor Diocletian tried to persuade St. Pancras to abandon his faith in the Lord, as he was impressed with his wisdom and intellect, St. Pancras refused to do so, even when he was offered good life and safe conduct by the Emperor, in exchange for his abandonment of the Lord and the Church. St. Pancras would rather choose to suffer and to perish rather than to follow what the world wanted him to do, because he had faith in the Lord and His promise.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now the question comes to us. Do we believe in God and in His teachings? Do we truly believe what He had promised all of us who are faithful to Him? Do we really believe in all that we have come to believe through the Church? If our answers to all of these are yes, then we must remember the examples of our predecessors, the holy saints and martyrs in particular, in how they lived their lives and also in how they encountered persecution and rejection.

Let us all be inspired by their examples, and strive to follow their examples in how we lived in our lives and in how we should be faithful to the Lord. May the Lord also give us strength to live our faith with commitment, and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. May God empower us to become ever more devoted disciples and followers of His will. Amen.

Friday, 12 May 2017 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs and St. Pancras, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
John 14 : 1-6

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not be troubled! Trust in God and trust in Me! In My Father’s house there are many rooms; otherwise, I would not have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. After I have gone and prepared a place for you, I shall come again and take you to Me, so that where I am, you also may be. Yet you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”