Wednesday, 29 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 8 : 1b-8

This was the beginning of a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem. All, except the Apostles, were scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church. He entered house after house and dragged off men and women, and had them put in jail.

At the same time, those who were scattered went about, preaching the word. Philip went down to a town of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. All the people paid close attention to what Philip said as they listened to him, and saw the miraculous signs that he did. For, in cases of possession, the unclean spirits came out shrieking loudly. Many people who were paralysed or crippled, were healed. So there was great joy in the town.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis M. Grignion de Montfort, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 7 : 51 – Acts 8 : 1a

Stephen said to the Council, “But you are a stubborn people, you hardened your hearts and closed your ears. You have always resisted the Holy Spirit just as your fathers did. Was there a prophet whom your ancestors did not persecute? They killed those who announced the coming of the Just One Whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the Law through the Angels but did not fulfil it.”

When the Council heard the reproach Stephen made against them, they were enraged and they gnashed their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared : “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.”

But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying : “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Then he knelt down and said in a loud voice : “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he died. Saul was there, approving his murder. This was the beginning of a great persecution against the Church in Jerusalem.

Monday, 27 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 6 : 8-15

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some persons then came forward, who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. They argued with Stephen but they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

As they were unable to face the truth, they bribed some men to say, ‘We heard him speak against Moses and against God.’ So they stirred up the people, the elders and the teachers of the Law; they took him by surprise, seized him and brought him before the Council.

Then they produced false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against our Holy Place and the Law. We even heard him say that Jesus the Nazarean will destroy our Holy Place and change the customs which Moses handed down to us.” And all who sat in the Council fixed their eyes on him, and his face appeared to them like the face of an Angel.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day after Christmas day we always celebrate the occasion of the Feast of the Protomartyr or the first martyr of the Church, namely St. Stephen the Deacon, one of the first seven holy deacons of the Church mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. He was chosen with the other deacons to minister to the people of God in the early Church, in the distribution of goods and care for them.

He was assailed by the enemies of the Church, the chief priests and the Pharisees who were annoyed and felt threatened by his preachings among the people about Jesus the Lord and Saviour and his great wisdom, which none of them could match, because the Lord and His Holy Spirit was with him, guiding his works and words. As we heard in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Stephen spoke courageously with guidance of the Holy Spirit, chastising the people for their lack of faith in God Who has shown them His ways for a long time.

St. Stephen was not afraid to stand up and defend his faith, even though he was alone against a large crowd who were hostile to him, and refused to listen to him earnestly. He preached to them the truth, and pointed out to them how their ancestors had treated the prophets and messengers sent by God to them in the same manner, persecuting them, torturing them and killing them.

And thus, the enemies of the Lord rushed against St. Stephen and stoned him to death. He became the very first martyr of the Church, as martyrs are those who died defending their faith in the Lord, refusing to give up and abandon their faith and their God. There were many martyrs who followed after St. Stephen, having to suffer and die for their faith in God, against the Jewish authorities, against the Roman Emperor and the authorities, and more.

You may be wondering, why is it that on this joyous and festive occasion of Christmas, that we celebrate the memory of a martyr, who died a painful death and was the first among the many holy martyrs of the Church, a memory of the difficult and terrible years of the early Church, when being a Christian could equate with imprisonment, torture, suffering, exile, being ostracised and death?

That is because Christmas reminds each and every one of us as Christians of our true calling and mission, that we ought to proclaim the truth of God, Who was born two millennia ago and celebrated as Christmas, as the Man, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man. Many at that time, and even until this very day, refused to believe in this truth, as they refused to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah or Saviour, while others refused to acknowledge that He is the Son of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is this truth that St. Stephen had suffered and died defending for. He refused to choose life and abandoning his faith in the Lord, but rather, he stood up for the truth and died faithfully in the Lord, defending it. Yet, at the same time, following the example of Christ, he forgave his enemies, and prayed for their sake, that God would forgive him from the sin caused by their murder.

What should all of us as Christians make of this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is a timely reminder for all of us as Christians, that this season of Christmas, while it is a joyful season, we must not be carried away with our celebrations and revelries, without understanding the full meaning of Christmas. As I have often mentioned, what is most important about Christmas, is God’s love for us, which He has given us through Jesus Christ, born into this world two millennia ago.

And as we remember this love which He has given us, then shall we not forget to love Him back in the same manner too? We can do this by devoting ourselves, our time and attention to Him, and while we do not need to go to the extent of the martyrs, who died defending their faith, shall we stand up for our faith whenever it is necessary to do so? Let us be sources of inspiration and strength for each other, in keeping ourselves faithful to the Lord, all the days of our life.

May the Lord, through His blessed servant, St. Stephen the Protomartyr, awaken in each and every one of us a strong zeal and love for Him, inflamed by the Holy Spirit, that we may proclaim His truth to the world, through our actions in life, taken and done while being ever mindful of God’s laws and commandments, that we may be true disciples of His, now and always. May God bless us always. Amen.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 10 : 17-22

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of Me, so you may witness to them and the pagans.”

“But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it is not you who will speak, but the Spirit of your Father in you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn again parents and have them put to death.”

“Everyone will hate you because of Me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Tuesday, 26 December 2017 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 30 : 3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17

Be a Rock of refuge for me, a Fortress for my safety. For You are my Rock and my Stronghold, lead me for Your Name’s sake.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit; You have redeemed me, o Lord, faithful God. I will rejoice and be glad in Your love, for You have seen my affliction.

Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, from those after my skin. Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me in Your love.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 6 : 8-10 and Acts 7 : 54-59

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some persons then came forward, who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. They argued with Stephen but they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

When the Council heard the reproach Stephen made against them, they were enraged and they gnashed their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared : “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.”

But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying : “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”