Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are shown again of more of the works of the Apostles who had gone to proclaim the truth of God in more and more places in their long years and periods of ministry, reaching out to the people who have not yet known the Lord and speaking of the history of God’s salvation among His people, which He had fulfilled and made whole through Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Whose coming into this world heralded the coming of the time of grace, the time when the Lord came to gather His beloved people and reconciling all of us to Himself.

In our first reading today, we heard of the account of the works of St. Paul in evangelising amongst the Jewish people in Antioch in Pisidia in Asia Minor, where he went among the local Jewish diaspora community and spoke up about the Lord in the synagogue. He spoke courageously and at length about the works of God’s salvation among His people, on how He had led them out of Egypt, guiding them and protecting them all the way, appointing judges and kings, and also prophets to help them to remain on the right path, and sending them reminders and help whenever they faltered and fell into the wrong paths.

St. Paul also then spoke of the more recent events back then, regarding the works of St. John the Baptist that was quite well-known and popular among the Jewish people, even in the diaspora, and how he was the precursor and the one to prepare the path for the coming of the one true Messiah or Saviour for all the people, namely Christ Himself, the Son of God and the Holy One, Who has called and sent St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples to become His witnesses and missionaries among the people. St. Paul courageously spoke up about God’s truth and emphatically encouraging the people to come to believe in Christ and His teachings, and to accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.

However, this calling and mission was truly a difficult one, and there were plenty of obstacles and trials that the Apostles like St. Paul would have to endure, as they strive to minister to the people and proclaim the Good News of God, recalling what the Lord Himself had suffered and experienced at the hands of His enemies and even from one of His own closest collaborators, as highlighted in our Gospel passage today. The Lord was betrayed even by one of His own members of the Twelve, namely by Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him and handed Him over to the chief priests for a meagre sum of thirty pieces of silver.

That reality was why the followers of Christ will likely go through the same challenges, trials and sufferings as the Lord Himself had experienced, as after all, if they had rejected their Master’s teachings, and the Gospel today spoke of how the servants are not greater than their master, then all those who follow the Lord and work to proclaim His truth would therefore likely suffer similar kind of rejection, persecution and suffering. But they must not be afraid because God Himself will be with them and will be by their side, no matter what. This is the same truth that all of us have to believe in just as we also continue to carry out the works of evangelisation in the Name of the Lord.

We should be inspired by the examples set by some of our holy predecessors, the holy martyrs, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, as well as St. Pancras. All of them had devoted their lives and works to the Lord and for His glory, and in their own ways, they had endured many sufferings and tribulations, and were eventually martyred for the sake of their faith, and they faced those sufferings and ultimately their martyrdom, full of faith and trust in the Lord, believing that what they had done for the Lord’s sake, will be justified and worthy of God in the end, and they will be by the Lord’s side in triumph. They did not give up their struggles for their faith, to the very end.

St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were chamberlains or servants of the niece of the Roman Emperor Domitian according to the Christian tradition, whose name was Flavia Domitilla. According to tradition, they were martyred together with Flavia Domitilla, as they were Christians and the niece of the Emperor had also converted to the Christian faith, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Domitian himself, which was one of the more vicious ones in the series of persecutions against the Church, and it was told that both St. Nereus and St. Achilleus joyfully welcomed their suffering and martyrdom, in defending their faith.

Meanwhile, St. Pancras, also known as St. Pancratius of Rome, was a young man who lived through during yet another vicious moment of persecution against Christians, this time under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous for his particularly harsh persecution of all Christians. It was told that he was forced to offer sacrifices to the traditional Roman pagan gods, and he refused. The Emperor, impressed by St. Pancras’ bravery and courage, tried to persuade and coerce him through wealth and other means, to abandon his faith, but he would not be moved or persuaded. He remained faithful to the end and accepted his martyrdom with grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow the great examples of our predecessors in faith, and do whatever we can to proclaim the Lord and His truth by our faithful lives, at every moments and opportunities. Let us all be great inspiration and examples for one another in faith, and endeavour to bring even more people to the Lord and His salvation through our exemplary life. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 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 13 : 16-20

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, the servant is not greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than he who sent him. Understand this, and blessed are you, if you put it into practice.”

“I am not speaking of you all, because I know the ones I have chosen, and the Scripture has to be fulfilled that says : The one who shared My table has risen against Me. I tell you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may know that I am He.”

“Truly, I say to you, whoever welcomes the one I send, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes the One Who sent Me.”

Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 88 : 2-3, 21-22, 25 and 27

I will sing forever, o Lord, of Your love and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

I have found David My servant, and with My holy oil I have anointed him. My hand will be ever with him and My arm will sustain.

My faithfulness and love will be with him, and by My help he will be strong. He will call on Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.’

Thursday, 12 May 2022 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 13 : 13-25

From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and came to Perga in Pamphylia. There John left them and returned to Jerusalem, while they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent this message to them, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the assembly, please speak up.”

So Paul arose, motioned to them for silence and began, “Fellow Israelites and also all you who fear God, listen. The God of our people Israel chose our ancestors, and after He had made them increase during their stay in Egypt, He led them out by powerful deeds.”

“For forty years He fed them in the desert, and after He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave them their land as an inheritance. All this took four hundred and fifty years. After that, he gave them Judges until Samuel the prophet. Then they asked for a king and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, and he was king for forty years.”

“After that time, God removed him and raised up David as king, to whom He bore witness saying : ‘I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all I want him to do.’ It is from the descendants of David that God has now raised up the promised Saviour of Israel, Jesus.”

“Before He appeared, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. As John was ending his life’s work, he said : ‘I am not what you think I am, for after me another One is coming Whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.'”

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.