Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us celebrate together the great Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. We may be wondering why is it that we celebrate the feast of a chair, but this chair mentioned here is not just a mere physical object, not just merely a chair, but even more importantly, it is the seat of authority of the Apostle St. Peter, whom God had appointed to be the leader of all of His disciples, and to whom He had entrusted the governance and authority over His entire Church.

The Chair of St. Peter refers to the Cathedra of St. Peter, or Cathedra Sancti Petri, the seat of the Episcopal authority of St. Peter as the first Bishop of Rome. And like that of the other bishops, the seat of the bishop or the Cathedra is the symbol of the authority which has been granted over the bishop over the entire flock in the diocese entrusted to his care. But for St. Peter, this authority granted to him is unique in a sense that as the Bishop of Rome, he and his many successors, that is the Popes throughout the ages have been given the authority not just over the Diocese of Rome, but also over the entire Church.

Thus today’s feast has a special significance, as it reminds us of the unity that all of us Christians have with the entire Church, anchored on the person of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, who is the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, on whom God had established His Church. God had established His Church upon the solid rock foundation of St. Peter, whose name Cephas or Kepha in Aramaic, and Petros in Greek means rock.

We may think that God chose great and intellectual men, people with great capabilities and seemingly superhuman abilities. But that is not the way how God chose His servants and those whom He had deemed to be worthy. Men may have all the plans they prepared, and they may have all sorts of things in their mind, but it was not mankind who chose themselves before God, but God Who chose His people. He called those whom He had deemed to be worthy, not by any human standards, but by His standards.

St. Peter and the other members of the Twelve Apostles of our Lord Jesus were a diverse group of people, hailing from different origins and had different character and upbringing. Yet, most if not all of them are similar in one thing, that they, in the sight and opinion of mankind, are those who we commonly least expect to be those who were chosen for such important position.

Some of the Apostles were simple men, some holding positions that brought little prestige and acknowledgement then, even until today, such as fishermen and poor people of little renown. Most of the Apostles were illiterate and uneducated, a fact which we ourselves read in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, when the Pharisees and the elders were astounded at the great wisdom and eloquence at which the supposedly uneducated Apostles carried out the defence and witnessing of their faith.

St. Peter most important of all was a simple fisherman, who if we read the Gospels, is not a particularly faithful person. At times, there were moments when he faced challenges, doubts and weakness in his faith to the Lord. He was among the first of whom Jesus had called and chosen, and throughout his journey with our Lord, we heard of how, he stumbled when he tried to cross to Jesus walking on the water, as he doubted and his faith faltered, and started to sink before Jesus rescued him.

St. Peter also stumbled at Mount Tabor during the Transfiguration, when he wanted to convince Jesus to remain there on top of the mountain, awed by the glory of the Lord revealed to him there, and not wanting to go down to the lands below, to what Jesus had mentioned that He was to face great persecution, to be handed over to the chief priests and suffer death, and His disciples would suffer with Him.

And certainly all of us knew how St. Peter and the other Apostles fell asleep during the time when Jesus told them to stay on guard with Him at the Garden of Gethsemane during His time of agony and suffering, waiting for the betrayer Judas to come and take Him to the chief priests. He was chided with the other Apostles by Jesus, Who told them that while the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Finally, we all know how St. Peter denied Jesus three times during the time when He was incarcerated in the High Priest’s residence. In his fear, St. Peter denied Jesus not just once, but three times when the people around him accused him of being among those who followed Jesus. At that time, when Jesus had been arrested and were undergoing false charges of blasphemy, it was a very difficult time to be found out as those who followed Him, and St. Peter faltered.

Then all of must be wondering as to why Jesus chose St. Peter above all else, to be the one to whom He entrusted His entire Church, the entire body of all His faithful and beloved people to. Should God not have chosen better? Surely there are many more people who are more worthy of the task? This is exactly where what I have spoken about came to apply. It is not what man sees that God sees, and God sees faith and goodness where we may have failed to see it.

Even though his faith was weak, wavering, unsteady and shaken at many times, God saw in St. Peter, a heart and soul filled with genuine love and dedication, which is a trait also shared by the other Apostles, save that of Judas Iscariot the betrayer. All of them wavered in their faith, and had shaky belief in the Lord, but they all persevered through and did not give up, unlike Judas Iscariot. They showed the same qualities shared by the many other saints and martyrs of our Church.

God saw the goodness in them, and He forgave them their trespasses and failures, just as how Jesus forgave St. Peter three times after He had risen from the dead. It was a clear sign how Jesus had forgiven St. Peter and his denial, and his previous shortcomings. He knew just how much St. Peter loved Him, and just how far he would give himself to stand up and defend his faith in Him.

He gave him and the other Apostles His Holy Spirit, the Helper and strength through which He transformed these humble, uneducated and seemingly inconsequential and insignificant people, into steadfast and solid rocks of faith, the principal one which was the great faith of St. Peter, whom the Lord appointed to be the leader over all of the other Apostles, and by the virtue of that leadership, and the command which Jesus had given him, to take care of all the flock of the Lord.

Through all of these things which we have listened and pondered on this day, all of us can see how, first of all, God chose seemingly ordinary and insignificant man and woman, to be those whom He had chosen and blessed. He chose even sinners and those considered by many to be worthless and wicked, knowing that if these people repent, not only that they would be capable of truly great deeds, but at the same time, more soul would return to the Lord and be reconciled with Him.

Many saints were themselves great sinners, and they were called through repentance and much grief, having regretted their sins and wickedness, and therefore became the new parts of the Church, enriching it with their newfound faith and zeal. In the footsteps of the Apostles they have walked and toiled to make sure that the works which God had begun through His Apostles would be continued, that is the conversion of all mankind and the salvation of all souls. Through all of these, all of their contributions and works, they have glorified God and became examples for us all to follow.

Thus, all of us today need to continue the works of the Apostles, and united under the leadership of the Pope, who is the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, we need to continue to bring the Church through this modern day and time, and continue to preach the Good News of God, and call many others to repentance. The Lord had established His firm foundation on St. Peter, who was a simple man with wavering faith, but whom God had affirmed and strengthened, and thereafter became the solid rock foundation of the Church.

Let us all grow stronger in faith, by placing our complete trust in the Lord, and obey Him in all of His laws, commandments and precepts. Let us uphold the entirety of the teachings of the Church, through which we obediently follow the commandments of the Lord, just as He had taught these to His own Apostles and disciples. Let us all pray also for the intention of the entire Universal Church, and also for the Pope, our Vicar and leader, the Vicar of Christ on earth.

May the Lord bless us all, His Church on earth, and also our Pope, bishops, priests and all who had given themselves to the service of the Gospel and for the salvation of all mankind. May He strengthen our faith, that even though we may falter as St. Peter once did, but having put together our hope and faith in the Lord, we may grow stronger in faith, and become immovable like a rock, with steadfast and undying devotion as St. Peter and the other Apostles had in their Lord and Master, our God. St. Peter the Apostle, Vicar of Christ and Shepherd of all God’s people, pray for us and for God’s Church. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
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-Jona, 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.”

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 : Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
1 Peter 5 : 1-4

I now address myself to those elders among you; I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, hoping to share the Glory that is to be revealed.

Shepherd the flock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it not out of obligation but willingly for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart; do not lord it over those in your care, rather be an example to your flock.

Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will be given a crown of unfading glory.

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate together the memorial of the dedication of two of the great Papal Basilicas located in the holy city of Rome, dedicated to the two greatest of the saints of Christendom, the pillars of the Church, none other than St. Peter the Apostle, Prince and leader of all the Apostles of our Lord, and also St. Paul the Apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles and writer of the many Epistles in the New Testament.

Both of them were martyred in Rome, and therefore were seen as the patron saints of the city of Rome, where their tombs were located at, and at that time, Rome was the heart of the Roman Empire, the heart and centre of the secular superpower that was the Roman Empire, and where the Caesars, that is the Emperors ruled with absolute authority, and demanded from all others obedience and also worship.

For the Emperors were worshipped as gods and as incarnation of the gods, and by elevating themselves to the divinity, they deemed themselves as above others, and thus the Imperial Cult of the Roman Empire was created. And against this, came the two Apostles of our Lord, who in their separate ways ended up in the city of Rome, continuing the missions entrusted to them by the Lord.

And they were not chosen by the Lord for their might, their greatness or their talents, unlike the Roman Emperors who boasted of their wealth, or their human and military prowess. Instead, God chose a diverse range of people, and many of them are just like us, common people with our own stories and unique origins. He called His disciples and chose His Apostles from among fishermen, bandits, even tax collectors and others.

And it was not that their faith was great, or that they were as intelligent as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who at that time were those who were educated in the society, knowing the entirety of the laws of Moses. Most of the Apostles were uneducated and even illiterate, and yet, they went on to perform great deeds, some of which were told to us in the Acts of the Apostles. And why is that so? It was none other than because of the Lord and His works on them.

If we remember the passage from the Scriptures we heard today, and what we know of the Apostles, particularly that of St. Peter and St. Paul, certainly, they did not have an outstanding and great faith from the start. Both of them struggled and were troubled in their faith, and were also shaken at certain times, when doubt overpowered them and made them to tremble, and in the case of St. Peter, to sink in the waves, when he tried to walk towards Jesus, because he doubted.

The Apostles were afraid and doubtful when the elders and the chief priests sent guards to arrest Jesus, after He had been betrayed by one of His own Apostles, Judas Iscariot the traitor. The Apostles fled the scene and went into hiding when their Lord and Master was arrested, and we know how St. Peter himself, after having sworn to give his life for the sake of the Lord that very night, denied his Lord and Master three times in order to protect himself from harm.

I am sure that we also know how St. Paul grew up as a zealous and fanatical Pharisee, determined to hunt down as many followers of Christ as he could, arresting them and torturing them as he was misguided by his blind obedience to the false understanding of the Law of God. In fact, St. Peter and St. Paul were just like us, sinners and filled with doubt, indeed as what some of us would say, that we are unworthy of our Lord and His love.

But what made them different? In fact, what made our holy saints and martyrs to be different from us? It is because all of them went through a thorough and wholesome change in their lives, in how they lived their lives and in how they carried out their actions henceforth, and they turned from sinners and into God’s holy and devoted people, His saints.

St. Peter dedicated his whole life thereafter in the service of God, leading His fellow Apostles and the other disciples of Christ, coordinating the immense task of guiding and leading the early Church through moments of difficulties and through good moments when many became believers and therefore had to require new shepherds and guides, new bishops to be appointed to lead these.

St. Paul was converted when God called him on that fateful day when he was on his way to Damascus. God revealed His truth to him, and after having heard the truth and realising how wrong he was, St. Paul made that dramatic turnaround and from one of the greatest enemies of the Lord and His faithful people, he then became one of the Church and the Faith’s greatest champion and defender.

There is something that all of us can learn from this, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we did not choose to become servants of the Lord, but rather, He chose us and made us worthy. The Apostles, saints and many martyrs were ordinary men and women just like us, but they changed their ways of life and followed the Lord with conviction and commitment.

God transformed the holy Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, from their humble and even sinful origins, to become His greatest tools, as His greatest servants in bringing the souls of many of His beloved ones closer to Him and allowing many through them to listen to the truth about His salvation. The same call is now therefore made upon us as well. Each and every one of us as Christians have been called to serve the Lord, and to evangelise and preach the Good News of God to all.

And this is related to our celebration today, remembering the moment when the two great Basilicas dedicated to these two Apostles were consecrated and dedicated, made holy and had incense and the holy oils applied to it and the Altar within the Basilicas, and through the blessing of the Almighty God, these two great edifices became more than just a space, but rather they become a place worthy to house the Holy Presence of God.

Before a church, be it a small parish church, a large church, an important one such as Cathedrals and Basilicas, none of these can be used for the purpose of the celebration of the Holy Mass if they have not been consecrated and dedicated yet. And as I have mentioned in my homily for the Dedication of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran just two weeks earlier, this has implication and relevance for us that we all should know and understand.

Undedicated and unconsecrated, the great Basilicas and cathedrals are just mere buildings, spaces with architecture without meaning. Through the consecration, it has been made into a worthy and holy Residence and House of God. In the same manner, through our own baptism, through the dwelling of the Holy Spirit by our confirmation, and through the reception of the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist, each and every one of us, our bodies, minds, hearts and souls have been consecrated and dedicated to the Lord to be His holy Temples, where He shall dwell in us.

We are the Temple and the House of God, for God Himself has dwelled inside us, inside our mortal bodies and existence. And as a result, we should make sure that we live in accordance to the way of the Lord, obeying His laws and precepts, or else we would defile the sanctity of this Temple and House of God. God has transformed our humble and simple bodies and beings into His glorious residence, as much as those magnificent buildings and edifices has been transformed into the great places of worship.

Let us all therefore spend some time to reflect on this, thinking carefully of what each and every one of us should be doing in our respective lives. We should imitate the examples of the saints in their dedication and commitment, and follow the examples set by the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul. Do not be discouraged if we think that our faith is easily shaken and weak, for the Apostles themselves were once filled with doubt as well.

Let us all open ourselves, heart, mind, body and soul, that God may come into each and every one of us, transforming us completely from being creatures of the flesh and darkness, into creatures of the light, into sons and daughters of our Lord, worthy of the eternal life He has promised to all of His faithful ones. St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us sinners, that we may be like you and follow in your footsteps. Amen.

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!'”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

Alternative reading (in Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)
Matthew 14 : 22-33

At that time, immediately Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by Himself to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it.

At daybreak, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that It was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once Jesus said to them, “Courage! Do not be afraid. It is Me!”

Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You walking on the water.” Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”

As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God!”

Friday, 18 November 2016 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle and the Papal Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)
Psalm 118 : 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

How sweet are Your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.

I gasp in ardent yearning for Your commandments that I love.

Alternative reading (in Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)
Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

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.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!