Saturday, 18 May 2013 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters, God our Lord loves us, and He sent us His Son, Jesus Christ, to show that perfect love that He has for us. Jesus came that He may bring salvation to all mankind. He gave Himself for us on the cross, that through His sacrifice as our Paschal Lamb, we are purified from our sins and our unworthiness before the Lord.

He gave us His new commandments of love, that through His disciples, we receive the commandments to love one another, and to love God with all our beings, with all our attentions. He gave us these that we may have love in all of us, and therefore worthy of Him who created us, because God is love, and without love, we cannot be with Him.

He did not leave the Apostles empty handed either, when He departed from them and ascended into heaven. He gave the Apostles, and from them to us, the very Advocate, the Holy Spirit that is from God, that the Spirit would come and transform this world, with the power of God. The Holy Spirit came over the Apostles and energised them, and gave them the courage to preach the Good News of the Lord.

Through the Apostles, we too receive the Holy Spirit, which is descended to us through a continuous succession of shepherds in the Church, to our priests and bishops today. In the sacrament of baptism that we received, either directly after our birth or in our adulthood, we were welcomed into the Church of God, and be reunited with God through the waters and baptism, and we also receive the Holy Spirit, which is then strengthened by the conferring of the sacrament of confirmation.

The Holy Spirit empowers us and gives all of us the strength to be disciples and missionaries of the Lord, and that allows us to follow through Jesus’ mission to us, that is to evangelise to the entire world. We are today called to be messengers of God’s word. But brethren, we have to make sure that we ourselves are properly placed to proclaim God’s words to the nations, like St. Paul once did, to the people of Rome and beyond.

We have to follow the Church’s teachings and commandments of the Lord as taught by the Church. Listen to the homilies of our priests in the Mass, read the Scripture with commentaries on the passages, and learn more about our faith through reading of sources such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which contains basically everything that we need to know about our faith. Also understand and learn more on the history of the Church, which had existed since it was established by Jesus Christ Himself and which He had built on Peter, which the Pope, who is his successor, represents Christ in this world and act as the leader and shepherd of all God’s sheep and flocks.

Be careful not to spread false teachings and follow the false prophets that run rampant in our world today, as the Scripture is easily misinterpreted, and the witness to the faith as represented by St. John the Evangelist in his Gospel of John, which we read today, can easily be used by Satan to turn the word of God and twist it to serve his own purposes. Remember that Satan himself used the words of the Scripture in his attempts to tempt Jesus in the desert.

Pray and pray, and make sure that we have a healthy spiritual life, and feeding constantly on the word of God that provides us with spiritual sustenance, and receive often the Lord in the Most Precious Eucharist, and allow Him to dwell into ourselves, that the Holy Spirit that dwells within us can truly exercise its power and bear fruits of the Holy Spirit, such as love and compassion.

Jesus too did not leave us without hope, as through John too, He gave to us the vision of His second coming, of His long-awaited return to this world. This time not as a humble king, but as a terrible judge and triumphant King who would judge all creations and separate the good from the bad. He gave that vision to John, so that we will be ready and not be complacent, that when He comes, we will not be caught unprepared like the five unwise women, who did not bring extra oil with them. Be rather like the five wise women who stood ready with extra oil, that when the time comes, we are ready for the Lord.

Today, we celebrate the memorial and feast of a great Pope and saint of the early Church, that is Pope St. John I. Pope St. John I was an upright and faithful man, dedicated to the Lord, and was chosen to lead the Universal Church due to his holiness and love for the Lord, and prolonged service for the sake of the Lord and the Church. He was forced by the secular authorities, who have fallen to heresies, to gain moderation for the punishment for heresy, and despite the Pope’s opposition, he was forced to do so, and yet, when he had successfully done so, he was imprisoned for treachery and plotting charges against that secular ruler.

Despite the betrayal, and the imprisonment, Pope St. John I did not falter but remain steadfast to his death, as a  martyr of the faith. He is a role model, an upright person, whose faith in God and steadfastness is an example to all of us, to be more courageous like him in spreading the Good News of the Lord. We have to be courageous, to spread the message of God’s love, and may God be with all of us in this mission, which Christ had entrusted to us. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 18 May 2013 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

John 21 : 20-25

Peter looked back and saw that the disciple Jesus loved was following as well, the one who had reclined close to Jesus at the supper, and had asked Him, “Lord, who is to betray You?”

On seeing him, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain until I come, does that concern you? Follow Me!”

Because of this the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, “He will not die,” but, “Suppose I want him to remain until I come.”

It is this disciple who testifies about the things he has written here, and we know that his testimony is true. But Jesus did many other things; if all were written down, I think the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

Saturday, 18 May 2013 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Psalm 10 : 4, 5 and 7

The Lord is in His holy place – our God whose throne is in heaven. He looks down to earth to observe the race of Adam.

The Lord searches both righteous and wicked. He hates those who delight in violence. For the Lord is righteous; He loves justice. The upright will see His face.

Saturday, 18 May 2013 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Acts 28 : 16-20, 30-31

Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house with the soldier who guarded him. After three days, Paul called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered, he said to them : “Brothers, though I have not done anything against our people or against the traditions of our fathers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans.”

“They examined me and wanted to set me free, for they saw nothing in my case that deserved death. But the Jews objected, so I was forced to appeal to Caesar without the least intention of bringing any case against my own people. Therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I bear these chains.”

Paul stayed for two whole years in a house he himself rented, where he received without any hindrance all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.

Friday, 17 May 2013 : 7th Week of Easter (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers, and sisters, in our Lord Jesus Christ, to follow Christ means that we have to be ready to be persecuted, and to be opposed by the world. Because the world does not belong to Christ, and it belongs to the evil one, who relentlessly sends his fallen angels to corrupt mankind through the world, and when there are those who keep steadfast their faith in God, they will face tough times and suffering, but if we all remain faithful, we will receive rich rewards in heaven.

Peter and Paul suffered greatly for their faith in the Lord, and their evangelising mission across the pagan world at the time. They went through rejections, persecutions, trials, and ultimately martyrdom, which both of them received in Rome, at the capital of the Empire, under the reign of Nero, the Roman Emperor at the time, who blamed Christians for the great fire in Rome which Nero himself had likely caused.

But they welcomed their death with open hands, as they died in the way to glorify God, that through their death, new seeds of faith would emerge and bring the Church ever greater and stronger than before. Remember the saying that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. Indeed, the sacrifice of the many martyrs of the faith did not go to waste, because the blood that was outpoured from the martyrs becomes the source of inspiration to all of us, and that is why we glorify them as saints through the Church.

Peter, the leader of the Apostle, was made such because of his faith, and Christ entrusted to him the flock of sheep that has become His own. Christ entrusted His Church, that is the body of all the believers, in this world, and built it on Peter, the rock of faith. Why did Christ then do this, even though Peter had in fact rejected Christ three times, when in fear he denied the Lord during His time of suffering?

That was because Peter, despite his fear and his self-preserving move of denying Jesus, was ultimately a faithful apostle, and a person of love, who truly put Christ over all the others, especially when after that veil of fear had been lifted. And Peter, when Christ asked him thrice over whether he loved Him, he gave his sincere admission of an undying love, and also obedience.

That was why Christ gave him the command to feed and care for His sheep, as the first leader of the Church, the position which our Pope has today, and as the sole representative of Christ in this world, to lead the flock of Christ, as one, towards God. Peter, and Paul, another great apostle, Apostle to the Gentiles, died in Rome, and laid the foundations for the Church there, and after a long period of time, till today, we are where we are now, with the Bishop of Rome, our Pope, as our spiritual leader, the leader of the Church.

The Pope, our bishops, priests, and many other ministers of God’s Gospels, face daily persecution, opposition, and ridicule, especially from our world, and those outside the Church, but sadly, they even face opposition from those within the Church, who had been drifting away from the love of God, and corrupted by the world and relativism.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today follow in the footsteps of the apostles, especially that of Peter and Paul, who had defended their faith and place themselves in risk for the sake of the Lord. Not that we should risk our own lives, but rather, that we should help the ministers of the Gospel, our humble and hardworking priests and leaders of the Church in the evangelisation, through our own actions, that spread love throughout the world.

May God guide us and protect our Church leaders and all the missionaries, and may He show the world His truth, that all would believe. God bless all of us! Amen.

Friday, 17 May 2013 : 7th Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

John 21 : 15-19

After they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”

Homily of Pope Francis at the Papal Inauguration Mass, Tuesday, 19 March 2013

 

Text  from Rome Reports :

http://www.romereports.com/palio/popes-homily-during-inauguration-mass-protect-one-another-english-9484.html#.UUg6O1cVZp4

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
 
“I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.
I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.
In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.
To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.”