Saturday, 8 May 2021 : 5th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him. So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him.

As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

Sunday, 2 May 2021 : Fifth Sunday of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 9 : 26-31

When Saul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples there, but they were afraid of him, because they could not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the Apostles. He recounted to them, how Saul had seen the Lord on his way, and the words the Lord had spoken to him. He told them, also, how Saul had preached boldly in the Name of Jesus.

Then Saul began to live with them. He moved about freely in Jerusalem and preached openly, in the Name of the Lord. He also spoke to the Hellenists; and argued with them. But they wanted to kill him. When the believers learnt of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Meanwhile, the Church had peace. It was building up throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, with eyes turned to the Lord, and filled with comfort from the Holy Spirit.

Friday, 30 April 2021 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 13 : 26-33

Paul said to the Jews in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia, “Brothers, children and descendants of Abraham, and you also who fear God, it is to you that this message of salvation has been sent. It is a fact that the inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognise Jesus.”

“Yet in condemning Him, they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath but not understood. Even though they found no charge against Him that deserved death, they asked Pilate to have Him executed. And after they have carried out all that had been written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb.”

But God raised Him from the dead, and for many days thereafter He showed Himself to those who had come up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They have now become His witnesses before the people. We ourselves announce to you this Good News : All that God promised our ancestors, He has fulfilled for us, their descendants, by raising Jesus, according to what is written in the second psalm : You are My Son, this day I have begotten You.”

Thursday, 29 April 2021 : 4th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.'”

Monday, 25 January 2021 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, marking the momentous event when the great enemy of the Church and the faithful, Saul the young Pharisee turned towards God and became a convert, and eventually becoming one of the greatest champions and defenders of the Christian faith against all the threats rising up that time against the followers of the Lord.

Saul was a young and zealous Pharisee who was deeply involved in the persecutions of early Christians, and he was present at the moment when St. Stephen was martyred and stoned to death. He was also instrumental in leading the efforts of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council in their attempts to destroy the Church and the followers of Christ in its earliest moments. Saul went from place to place and carried out often violent attacks and arrests against the followers of the Lord.

Therefore, it was most unlikely and unexpected for Saul to be called by God, and yet, God called him and spoke to him as he was on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christian faithful and destroy the Church there. The Lord revealed Himself to Saul and spoke of how his actions had been misled and mistaken. Saul turned towards the Lord and was baptised as a Christian. And from then on henceforth, he became a courageous and faithful defender of the faith and worked hard to bring the Good News of God to all the peoples.

That was how St. Paul the Apostle came to be. Much like Simon being called by the Lord and was bestowed the new name of Peter (the ‘Rock’) by the Lord, and even earlier on, as Abram, the father of many nations, upon his making of a Covenant with God, became Abraham, thus the change in name from Saul to Paul also signified this change in attitude and life, from one that was filled with wickedness and misguided anger against the Lord and His faithful, to one that is guided and entrusted fully to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, we are all called to reflect on our own conversion. For all of us, we have been baptised and therefore called to share in the same ministry and calling that St. Paul himself had received from the Lord. All of us are partakers of this same calling and ministry as those who have gone before us and responded to the Lord’s call, in being His faithful witnesses and in standing up for their faith in Him.

As we can see how this terrible and most unworthy sinner, who had caused so much grief and suffering for the early Christians, could be converted and turned to the path of righteousness, becoming one of the greatest champions of the faith, thus, all of us we are also able to respond to the Lord’s call and be transformed by His power and love, His grace and mercy to be true witnesses and as faithful servants of His cause. Through the Lord, everything is made possible, and we can indeed be strengthened in all things through Him.

Are we then willing to take up our crosses and follow our Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ? Indeed, we have been called by the Lord, but it is really up to us to accept this calling and respond to Him. If we are willing to respond to Him just as St. Paul had done then we will be just like him and the other Apostles, as the true and faithful bearers of our Christian faith in the midst of our communities in this darkened world.

Brothers and sisters, let us all open our hearts and minds, and allow the Lord to enter into our lives, and allow Him to transform us and work His wonders through us that all of us may carry out His will obediently and bring about many good things for everyone all around us, that more and more people may come to know the Lord to us, be called to the same faith we have, and be saved.

Let us all faithfully continue all the good works that the Apostles and their successors had begun, and let us all contribute to the best of our abilities, to the good works of the Church in proclaiming the truth of the Gospels, the Good News of salvation and the eternal life in Christ. May all of us draw ever closer to the Lord and may God strengthen us all in faith, as we continue journeying through life, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 25 January 2021 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-18

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Monday, 25 January 2021 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise YHVH, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Monday, 25 January 2021 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 3-16

Paul spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here, in this city, where I was educated in the school of Gamaliel, according to the strict observance of our law. And I was dedicated to God’s service, as are all of you today. As for this Way, I persecuted it to the point of death and arrested its followers, both men and women, throwing them into prison.”

“The High Priest and the whole Council of elders can bear witness to this. From them, I received letters for the Jewish brothers in Damascus; and I set out to arrest those who were there, and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But, as I was travelling along, nearing Damascus, at about noon, a great light from the sky suddenly flashed about me.”

“I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me : ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me : ‘I am Jesus, the Nazorean, Whom you persecute.’ The men who were with me saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of the One Who was speaking to me. I asked : ‘What shall I do, Lord?’”

“And the Lord replied : ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there, you will be told all that you are destined to do.’ Yet, the brightness of that light had blinded me; and so, I was led by the hand into Damascus by my companions. There, a certain Ananias came to me. He was a devout observer of the law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who were living there.”

“As he stood by me, he said : ‘Brother Saul, recover your sight.’ At that moment, I could see; and I looked at him. He, then, said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know His will, to see the Just One, and to hear the words from His mouth. From now on, you shall be His witness before all the pagan people, and tell them all that you have seen and heard.’”

“‘And now, why delay? Get up and be baptised, and have your sins washed away, by calling upon His Name.’”

Alternative reading

Acts 9 : 1-22

Meanwhile, Saul considered nothing but violence and death for the disciples of the Lord. He went to the High Priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus that would authorise him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem, anyone he might find, man or woman, belonging to the Way.

As he travelled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute Me?” And he asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus, Whom you persecute. Now, get up, and go into the city; there, you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were travelling with him stood there speechless : they had heard the sound, but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground and, opening his eyes, he could not see. They took him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. He was blind; and he did not eat or drink for three days.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, to whom the Lord called in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Here I am, Lord!” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, at once, to Straight Street and ask, at the house of Judas, for a man of Tarsus named Saul. You will find him praying, for he has just seen in a vision that a man named Ananias has come in and placed his hands upon him, to restore his sight.”

Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, and all the harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem; and now, he is here, with authority from the High Priest, to arrest all who call upon Your Name.”

But the Lord said to him, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument, to bring My Name to the pagan nations and their kings, and the people of Israel as well. I, Myself, will show him how much he will have to suffer for My Name.”

So Ananias left and went to the house. He laid his hands upon Saul and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you, so that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see; he got up and was baptised. Then he took food and was strengthened.

For several days Saul stayed with the disciples at Damascus, and he soon began to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. All who heard were astonished and said, “Is this not the one who cast out, in Jerusalem, all those calling upon this Name? Did he not come here, to bring them bound before the chief priests?”

But Saul grew more and more powerful; and he confounded the Jews living in Damascus when he proved that Jesus was the Messiah.

Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast in the Church as we recall the important moment when the Lord called St. Paul, then known as Saul, a young and zealous Pharisee who had once been a great enemy of the Church and the faithful. Saul was very adamant on hunting all the followers of Christ and strove to put them all into prison, and approved even their killing as what has happened to St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church.

Saul was in the midst of this zealous pursuit when he went to Damascus in trying to eradicate all the faithful people of God who had taken refuge and lived there. The fact that Saul was even willing to venture far outside the land of Judah and even Galilee, was a testament to just how persistent he was in trying to destroy the Church and the Christian faith. Or so he thought, as in the end, he never managed to fulfil what he had planned and wanted.

As we heard in our first reading today, when Saul was still on his way to Damascus, God appeared to him in a great vision in which He revealed Himself to Saul as the One Whom he has been persecuting all the while when he was on a misguided rampage and attack against those who followed the Lord. Saul must have certainly been struck by that experience, and he was also struck blind by that vision.

We heard how Saul had to be helped and assisted, as his whole world turned into darkness for three days without being able to do anything at all. But God then sent Ananias to heal Saul, and after Ananias prayed over him, Saul was healed and received baptism in the Name of the Lord. This was a very significant moment in the history of the Church as the one who used to be a great enemy and persecutor of the Church had in a short moment become its greatest defender instead.

Saul had been called by God and had a moment of great revelation which entirely changed his life and direction. What he had once firmly believed in and championed in defending the purity of the Jewish customs, tradition and faith against the then thought to be ‘heretical’ teachings of Jesus Christ, had instead been overturned completely and the truth was revealed to him that in fact Jesus was the One Who had been right all along.

In the end, Saul became a Christian and as we can see throughout most of the Acts of the Apostles, he became a great champion of the Christian faith. He was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, through his tireless and extensive missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean and in his visits to the many communities of the faithful at that time. He also wrote and communicated extensively with those communities by letters, many of which are preserved in our New Testament.

Saul took up the name Paul eventually as a very symbolic act of total conversion as he left behind completely his past life as an enemy of Christ and His followers and embarked on a journey of total devotion to God, suffering so many trials and tribulations, rejected by many and were almost stoned to death and killed on more than one occasion, because he served the Lord and did nothing else than to glorify God.

We have heard and known of how remarkable this conversion that had happened to Saul, becoming St. Paul and had a complete turnover in his life, called to serve God from being a great sinner and enemy of the Lord’s faithful. But what is the real significance for us? How does this real life story of the conversion of St. Paul has to do with us? And the answer is that all of us are just like St. Paul in one way or another.

We must all understand that every single one of us are sinners, and God sees us all equally and we are all the same and equal before Him. He is not prejudiced at all with us, regardless whether we have the greater or lesser sins. In the end, sins, no matter how great or small, significant or insignificant, are still sins that we need to be forgiven from by God. And because we are all sinners, we all need God’s healing and mercy, which He will readily extend and give to us.

If God Himself has called Saul, a great sinner and someone who had caused so much suffering and misery in the lives of many of the early Christians, it means that He must have forgiven him completely and did not take his many sins into account after he had had a change of heart and mind. Through baptism, Saul had been reborn into new life that God has called him into, the new Christian life that he dedicated himself, as Paul from then on. Then, all of us too have been called by God to follow the example of St. Paul.

We must not despise or judge anyone just because we think that we are better than them in any way, especially with regards to sin. If a very terrible sinner like Saul could change and be converted, then so can the worst of sinners as long as they are willing to open their hearts and minds to allow God to enter into their lives and transform them as He once did with Saul. And before we judge or be prejudiced against anyone, we should first look at ourselves.

In this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, all of us are also called by God to reflect on the conversion of this great saint so as to emulate it in our own respective lives. If we have not been faithful to God, if we have forgotten about Him in the midst of our very busy life schedules and works, if we have abandoned Him and preferred something else to Him, not being thankful to Him for all the love and care that He has shown us, and if we have been being angry at Him just because we thought that He did not listen to our prayers, then I am sure that we need this time to contemplate.

I am certain that each and every one of us, being sinner and imperfect, need God’s healing grace and mercy. But we often closed our hearts and minds against Him that we ended up acting as how Saul once acted in the years of his youth, zealous and very energetic but completely misguided and misled by blind faith and blind obedience. In the same manner, we have often acted out of disobedience and we fell into sin because we prefer to follow our own ways and disregard God’s will.

All of that led us to be lost and separated from God. We must realise that there are still lots of temptations and forces out there trying to keep us away from God and His salvation. Are we then able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same manner as St. Paul has committed his? He has shown us what it truly means by a genuine conversion, that his whole life was changed for the greater glory of God as he lived for the sole purpose of glorifying God from the moment of his conversion.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to allow God to transform us as well? Are we able to go through a genuine and wholehearted conversion in life, changing our attitude from now on? If we have been lukewarm in our faith, may we be more faithful from now on and love God more. And if we have been distant from God, let us all strive to be closer to Him and to renew our relationships with Him. If we have been sinful all these while, let us all sin no more and seek to live our lives from now with faith.

May the Lord, through the intercession of His Apostle St. Paul, continue to bless us all and guide us in our respective journeys in life. May He strengthen us all and empower each and every one of us to live ever more faithfully in His presence. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 25 January 2020 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-18

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”