Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of two saints who are among the most important saints of the Universal Church and in particular of the Church of Rome, the seat of the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, the leader of the whole Church. Today we mark the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, two of the most prominent of the Apostles of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

St. Peter was the leader of the Apostles and the one to whom the Lord Jesus has entrusted the governance of His entire Church, to be the shepherd among shepherds, supported by the Apostles and the other disciples, as the pillars of the Church of God. It was on the faith of St. Peter, whose name means the ‘Rock’ from his name ‘Petros’ in Greek and ‘Cephas’ in the original Aramaic, that God Himself established the firm foundation of His Church.

Meanwhile, St. Paul was once known as Saul, and although he was once a fanatic Pharisee and enemy of the faithful, but God called him to be his Apostle, to be the one He sent to the people especially to those who are of the non-Jewish origin, also called the Gentiles. Hence, that is why St. Paul is also known by his title of the Apostle to the Gentiles, in the crucial role he played in delivering the faith and the message of God’s truth to many places.

We may then think that St. Peter the Apostle and also St. Paul and the other Apostles are like superhuman and mighty beings, unlike us all. But the truth is in fact that St. Peter, St. Paul and all the other Apostles are no more and no less as human as we are, as flawed and weak as we are, as vulnerable and as sinful as we are. They were called from their various backgrounds and origins, all with the same purpose, that is to serve the Lord.

In our first reading passage today, we heard about St. Peter and how he had been arrested by the order of king Herod who had earlier on put St. James the Apostle to the sword in martyrdom. And the same fate would have been St. Peter’s, and he waited for the day of his trial in the prison. Yet, the Lord had a different plan for St. Peter, as He sent His Angel to break him free of his chains and opened the way for him to escape back to the Christian community.

This was just one among the many trials, challenges and difficulties that St. Peter had to endure in the time of his service and work as an Apostle. And just imagine that St. Peter was initially just an uneducated, rough and unintellectual fisherman who sailed his fishing boat in the Lake of Galilee, a lowly profession, looked down upon and often ignored by the society as a whole. This same fisherman then became a great Apostle, travelling from places to places, preaching and revealing the truth of God to many people, Jews and Gentiles alike.

This was the same St. Peter, who was the one that denied the Lord not just once but three times, when the Lord was arrested by the Jewish authorities and despite having pledged his dedication and desire to serve the Lord and to even die for Him. At that moment, the faith and courage of St. Peter faltered and when confronted by the people who claimed that he belonged to the group of the Lord Jesus, he denied any involvement and denied knowing Him.

And if we look at St. Paul, at the time when he was still known as Saul, there could not have been a worse and more unlikely candidate to be the servant of God than him, for there he was, a young and fanatical Pharisee, whose methods in seeking for and arresting those who professed the Christian faith was particularly brutal and repressive, putting into prison and probably even killing those who have been known to be the followers of the Lord.

Yet, God called Saul when he encountered Him on the way to Damascus to destroy the Christian community there. He came to see the truth of God and received the wisdom and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and from then on, became a committed and hardworking disciple and servant of the Lord, a total change and conversion from his previous life and principles. From a great sworn enemy of the Lord and His Church, into His greatest champion and defender.

That was the same change that the Apostles, including St. Peter experienced as they received God’s love and promise of the Holy Spirit, when at Pentecost they were bestowed the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. And for the case of St. Peter, in the Gospels, we heard of how the Lord Jesus forgave him and called on him to renew his commitment, knowing that despite having denied him three times, he did so out of fear and uncertainty, but still with a heart that is focused, centred and filled with faith and love for Him.

That is why the Lord asked St. Peter three times, “Peter, do you love Me?” To which St. Peter responded with, “Yes, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love You.” This threefold profession of love by St. Peter is not only symbolic of how God has forgiven his threefold denial, but also a reaffirmation of what God has said in today’s Gospel passage, that He has established His very own Church on the firm foundation of the Rock of faith that is St. Peter.

And just as St. Paul who dedicated himself to the Lord so well and so courageously, in his many missionary and evangelising journeys throughout the cities of the Eastern Mediterranean region, enduring the worst persecutions and challenges, ridicules and humiliations, imprisonment and even threats to his life, St. Peter and St. Paul dedicated themselves, having been called and chosen by God to be the instruments of His good works among His own people.

St. Peter and St. Paul eventually would come to Rome as the last part of their earthly ministry and journey. St. Peter having established many Christian communities in the cities of Antioch among many others came to Rome to be the first of the bishops of Rome, as the elder and overseer of the Church community in Rome, and by virtue of his position as the leader of the Apostles and the Church, he became the first Pope, the first of God’s Vicar on earth.

Meanwhile, St. Paul came to Rome during his last missionary journey as part of his evangelising journey as he went for his last trial, being falsely accused by his enemies and the Jewish authorities, and he claimed the right he had as a Roman citizen to stand before the Roman Emperor and to be tried by him in Rome. St. Paul therefore came to Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire and according to the Acts of the Apostles, he ministered to the faithful there and helped to establish the Church.

Eventually, great persecution of Christians occurred, under the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero, who blamed the great fire that happened in the city of Rome to the Christians as scapegoats. And both St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in that city, the city of Rome, as great witnesses of their faith for the Lord, glorifying Him in their death just as it had been by their lives and many good works for His sake.

St. Peter was arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to die by crucifixion in the area now known as the Vatican, where now the great Papal Basilica of St. Peter and the Vatican City is located at. St. Peter, with great conviction and humility, proclaimed that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Master, Lord and Saviour. Therefore, he asked to be crucified upside down on the cross, and he died glorifying God.

St. Paul was also imprisoned and made to suffer by the same persecution, and he was martyred by beheading in Rome, marking the end of his many years of service and struggle for the sake of the Lord. But similarly, by his death in martyrdom, he proclaimed the glory of God, and became a great inspiration, together with St. Peter and the other Apostles, for the faithful throughout the ages to follow.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this great Solemnity in the memory of these two principal Apostles of the Church, the great St. Peter and St. Paul, holy servants of God, let us all reflect on our own lives. God has in fact called us all in many different ways, just as He has called St. Peter and St. Paul all those years ago. He has given us the same gift of the Holy Spirit and the many talents and abilities we have, and He has called us to be His servants and disciples just as the Apostles had been.

We are all called to be the successors to the works that the Apostles had done, which they had given their whole lives for, in glorifying God. And as I said earlier, God did not call these people from their great or even superhuman origins. Rather, He called ordinary people, from ordinary backgrounds and even from those that we may think or presume to be unlikely and impossible origins.

He called His Apostles and gave them the strength, courage and wisdom to do what He has called them all to do. That is exactly what we should be doing as well. In our own ordinary lives and in our daily living, we should therefore put our trust in God, and turn towards Him wholeheartedly so that we may truly be inspired by the courage and the examples showed by the Apostles that we may bring glory to God by our every actions in life.

Let us all be good and courageous witnesses of our faith in God, in each and every days of our lives. Let us all be like the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, in how we live our lives as great testimonies of faith so that hopefully many more people would be inspired and touched to follow the righteous path towards God’s salvation. Holy Apostles, St. Peter, Vicar of Christ and Prince of the Apostles, pray for us, and St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, pray for us. Amen.

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Timothy 4 : 6-8, 17-18

As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, with which the Lord, the just Judge, will reward me, on that day, and not only me, but all those who have longed for His glorious coming.

But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength, to proclaim the Word fully, and let all the pagans hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will save me from all evil, bringing me to His heavenly kingdom. Glory to Him forever and ever. Amen!

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I will praise YHVH all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in YHVH; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

YHVH’s Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of YHVH! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Saturday, 29 June 2019 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 12 : 1-11

About that time king Herod decided to persecute some members of the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword, and when he saw how it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.

This happened during the Festival of the Unleavened Bread. Herod had him seized and thrown into prison with four squads, each of four soldiers, to guard him. He wanted to bring him to trial before the people after the Passover feast, but while Peter was kept in prison, the whole Church prayed earnestly for him.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound by a double chain, while guards kept watch at the gate of the prison. Suddenly, an Angel of the Lord stood there and a light shone in the prison cell. The Angel tapped Peter on the side and woke him saying, “Get up quickly!”

At once, the chains fell from Peter’s wrists. The Angel said, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” Peter did so; and the Angel added, “Now, put on your cloak and follow me.” Peter followed him out; yet he did not realise that what was happening with the Angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

They passed the first guard, and then the second, and they came to the iron door leading out to the city, which opened by itself for them. They went out and made their way down a narrow alley, when suddenly the Angel left him. Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know that the Lord has sent His Angel and has rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from all that the Jews had in store for me.”

Friday, 25 January 2019 : 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 together the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, remembering the moment when an unbelievable and amazing transformation of a person, who had once been a great enemy of the Church and the communities of the faithful, turned into a great defender and zealous champion of the Lord. And all of these happened to show us that no matter how great a sinner we are, God’s call is for everyone, and to those who heed to His call, He will grant the grace to be His beloved children.

St. Paul, as Saul prior to his conversion, was indeed the most unlikely person to have been called upon by the Lord, as not only that he was an enemy of the faithful, as a young member of the Pharisees, but he also led and initiated such a brutal and terrible persecution of the early Church and its members, that no one would have predicted or expected that such a complete and total turnaround of a person’s life would have been possible. But indeed, for the Lord, everything is possible.

St. Paul encountered the Lord on the way to Damascus, in the midst of his zealous persecution of Christians. He met the Lord Who showed him the truth about Who He was, and the mistakes and wrong path that he had taken all those while. St. Paul thereafter made a total turnaround in his life and became a believer of the Lord, gave himself to be baptised and the Holy Spirit came down on him, and thus, we saw how magnificent was the extent of his great conversion.

To the Apostles and the disciples, the Lord had commanded them, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, to go forth to the nations and proclaim His Good News to those people, that they too may be turned into the path of the Lord, repent from their sins and therefore, be like what St. Paul the Apostle had shown us in his conversion to the faith. In all of these, we must see just how great and wonderful is God’s love for each and every one of us, that His last and great commandment for His Church, is about our salvation.

His commandment to His Church, to go forth to the nations and to proclaim His salvation, was meant clearly to extend the grace of this salvation which He has brought into this world, to all of mankind, and not just to limit it within the nation and the people of Israel as what some among the early Christians would have thought to be the case. And St. Paul was among the most important of those whom God had chosen to be the instrument to bear witness to the truth and the salvation of God.

God called this murderous and fanatically anti-Christian Pharisee, in order to become His own disciple, and St. Paul accepted the part that he has been called into, to be God’s witness and a zealous defender of the true Christian faith, despite all the wickedness he had committed earlier in life, because of the false ways he had once followed. Through this, we can see how God is always ever merciful, even to the worst of sinners, and is calling on every one of us to repent from our sins.

But God’s works among us His people is made concrete and evident through the means of His Church, by the courageous efforts put in place by the servants and followers who had dedicated their lives and listened to His truth, as shown by the faith that St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples, as well as those who succeeded them, through many generations and many ages, in proclaiming the Good News and bringing more and more people to the salvation in God.

Now, all of us as Christians are reminded today, of two important facts that each and every one of us must realise, in order to know better the significance of our faith, that first of all, God is ever loving and ever merciful towards us, and if He Himself has shown His mercy towards someone who had sinned so greatly and so much as St. Paul had, giving him the opportunity to serve Him anew, and to walk once again in His righteous path.

And then, secondly, each and every one of us must be aware that all of us are truly the successors of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, making up His Church in this world in the present day and time. And whatever works and missions that the Lord had granted and entrusted to His Church, thus the same works and missions are ours to bear, as members of His same Church, the same Church to which St. Paul and the other holy and faithful servants of the Lord had belonged to.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to follow the Lord and to walk in His path, following in the footsteps of St. Paul, to go forth proclaiming the Good News to all peoples of all the nations. We are called to continue the works that the holy Apostles of the Lord had begun, and the best way for us to do it, is to truly bear witness to the Lord by our own exemplary life, grounded and filled with faith in God.

This means that, in everything we say and do, and in every moments of our life, we must show our faith through our way of life, by showing love for God, the love for His laws and teachings, and also, the love for our fellow men and women, who are our fellow brothers and sisters in the same Lord. Let us all renew this conviction and commitment to live from now on, in accordance with our faith, and do the best we can in order to bring His truth and His salvation into this world.

May the Lord bless us and guide us, and may He continue to love us, each and every single days of our life as He has always done, and may He be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 25 January 2019 : 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.”