Saturday, 2 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded that to believe in God is not really as easy as we may think it is. It is often that believing in God require us to go against the norms and the conventions of this world. Our faith in Christ will require us to go beyond logic and merely worldly forms of understanding and knowledge, for this indeed requires us to have genuine faith to be able to believe in God.

In our first reading today, we heard about the works of St. Peter the Apostle, who went to the city of Lydda during his ministry and travel around in order to spread the Good News of the Lord. In that city, St. Peter performed a great miracle, in which he healed the sick man Aeneas, who had been paralysed and bedridden for over eight years without any hope, until the moment when through St. Peter, the Lord healed this man and made him whole again.

And then, St. Peter went to the town of Joppa and performed yet another great miracle, raising the faithful woman Tabitha from her death, just after she had passed on. Tabitha was restored to life by the grace and power of the Lord through His Apostle St. Peter, and witnessed by many people, who like at the healing of Aeneas in Lydda, all became believers and chose to be baptised as Christians. They believed because they truly saw how God had worked wonders in their midst.

All of these showed us just how the Lord has done things in ways that many would not have been able to comprehend using any of standard and conventional logic or intelligence of this world. Aeneas had been bedridden and paralysed for many years, something that even to this very day are still suffered by some people despite the great advancements in technology and science. None of these could completely heal the sick person in the way that Aeneas had been healed.

Similarly, the even more amazing resurrection of Tabitha defy any known logic and knowledge, as no human knowledge or ability were ever capable of overcoming death or even prolonging one’s life beyond what had been naturally determined by God. This, together with the resurrection of Lazarus and the dead daughter of a synagogue official by the Lord Jesus earlier in His ministry would serve as concrete proofs of how the Lord was truly the One sent by God to be the Saviour of the whole world.

Therefore, if we link these to what we have heard in our Gospel today, which from the sixth chapter of the Holy Gospel according to St. John on the conclusion of the discourse of the Bread of Life by Jesus to the people, then we will see how difficult it was indeed to be a follower of Christ. In fact, as we have heard, many of the followers of Jesus left Him behind after He spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, with many of them refusing to believe Him and saying how can anyone believe in such hard truth and words?

That is the reality, brothers and sisters in Christ, that this faith in Christ, our Christian faith which we have is not something we should take for granted, as we may often find it difficult to remain faithful especially when we are confronted with arguments and realities that are opposite and in contrast to our faith. Yet, at the same time, it is entirely possible for us to continue to be faithful and to dedicate ourselves with all of our hearts for the Lord.

As the Lord Himself had shown us that no one can come to the Father except through Him, there were still some of those who trusted in Him and clung to Him, and these were probably considered as foolish and peculiar by others. Yet, in the end, all those who remained true to their faith in God were not disappointed, for the Lord was with them, guided them throughout their journey, and gave them all the promise of eternal glory for their commitment and faith in Him.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one saint who has been remembered as a great defender of the Christian faith, a champion of the true and orthodox faith of the Apostles and the Church fathers, himself a renowned Church father and elder, namely St. Athanasius, also known as a champion of Christian orthodoxy against various heresies, particularly against the Arian heresy that was then widespread and enjoyed support even among many bishops and the secular leaders.

St. Athanasius was the Bishop and Patriarch of Alexandria, and therefore was one of the most senior and influential leaders of the Church of his time. In response to the widespread Arian heresy both within his See and throughout the Church at the time, St. Athanasius led the efforts to counter the falsehoods of the Arians and tried his best to get rid of the heretical teachings both in his See and beyond. He was the rallying point and centre of the efforts to return to the true and orthodox Christian faith.

St. Athanasius had to endure a lot of trials and challenges for all of his efforts and his dedication to the truth of God, against all those who had chosen to believe in their own misguided and perverse version of the faith, which was how those heresies came to be in the first place. Those heretical teachings altered the truth of God and combined them with falsehoods and lies, which were perhaps more acceptable and palatable than the truth itself, but were wrong in essence and truth.

St. Athanasius had to go against both secular authorities and all those bishops, priests and lay supporters of the Arian heresy among others, and he spent many years in exile from his See of Alexandria, being exiled a total of five times no less. That was how St. Athanasius endured so much for being faithful and committed to the truth of God. St. Athanasius remained courageous and strong even despite all the oppositions against him and despite all the humiliations, attacks and other persecutions he had received.

In the end, St. Athanasius, his tireless efforts, his great personal piety and dedication to the Lord was instrumental as part of the greater effort by many others who also defended the true and unchanging Christian faith as upheld by the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea and the subsequent Ecumenical Councils. Arian heresy was eventually subdued, and the true faith triumphed at last. It did take many, many years before this victory was achieved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Athanasius and be inspired by his faith and courage. Let us all stay firm in our dedication and commitment to the Lord, knowing that we may have to face opposition and challenges in our journey of faith, when our faith may be challenged by the temptations and the falsehoods that lie in this world and all around us, much as St. Athanasius himself had once experienced. Let us not be disheartened, for be assured that God Himself will be with us, and He will guide us through all these.

May the Lord be our help and may He strengthen us all to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on. May God be with us all and may He empowers us all to be courageous in being true Christians from now on. May God bless us all and our many good endeavours from now on for the greater glory of God. St. Athanasius, holy defender of faith and blessed servant of God, pray for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 2 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 60-69

At that time, after the Jews heard Jesus, many of His followers said, “This language is very hard! Who can accept it?”

Jesus was aware that His disciples were murmuring about this, and so He said to them, “Does this offend you? Then how will you react when you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, not the flesh. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

From the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray Him. So He added, “As I have told you, no one can come to Me unless it is granted by the Father.” After this many disciples withdrew and no longer followed Him. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Will you also go away?

Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We now believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Saturday, 2 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 115 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the Lord.

I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. It is painful to the Lord to see the death of His faithful.

O Lord, I am Your servant, truly Your servant, Your handmaid’s son. You have freed me from my bonds. I will offer You a thanksgiving sacrifice; I will call on the Name of the Lord.

Saturday, 2 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 9 : 31-42

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.

As Peter travelled around, he went to visit the saints who lived in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas who was paralysed, and had been bedridden for eight years. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!”

And the man got up at once. All the people living in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. There was a disciple in Joppa named Tabitha, which means Dorcas or Gazelle. She was always doing good works and helping the poor. At that time she fell sick and died. After having washed her body, they laid her in the upstairs room.

As Lydda is near Joppa, the disciples, on hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter went with them. On his arrival they took him upstairs to the room. All the widows crowded around him in tears, showing him the clothes that Dorcas had made while she was with them.

Peter made them them all leave the room and then he knelt down and prayed. Turning to the dead body he said, “Tabitha, stand up.” She opened her eyes, looked at Peter and sat up. Peter gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the saints and widows and presented her to them alive.

This became known throughout all of Joppa and many people believed in the Lord because of it.

Friday, 1 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the first day of the month of May, which is celebrated all across the world as the Labour Day and May Day, the Church celebrates the great feast of the Patron of all workers, namely that of St. Joseph the Worker, a great saint and one of the most important figures in the Church as the Foster-Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. St. Joseph the Worker was also upright, virtuous and good in all the things he had done, a hardworking servant of God in all things.

St. Joseph is the Protector of the Universal Church for the important roles he had taken up in his life, in his tireless efforts to protect his family, the young Baby Jesus and His mother Mary. St. Joseph was the one who brought the Holy Family safely first to Bethlehem, when Mary gave birth to the Lord Jesus in a stable, and then later on, St. Joseph brought them to Egypt on the run from king Herod the Great and his agents trying to have the Lord Jesus murdered. It was also him who then brought them all back to Nazareth, where St. Joseph and Mary raised up Jesus well.

St. Joseph was just a mere carpenter, an occupation that did not earn a lot of money, then as well as even today. Even today, carpenters are often forgotten and easily overlooked, and they are even looked down upon and disrespected by many segments of the community. St. Joseph was a poor carpenter of a small village of Nazareth, a backwater area in the whole Jewish world and even more so in the greater world. Galilee, where Nazareth was, was at the periphery of the Jewish lands, and many of the people in Judea and Jerusalem looked down on the Galileans because of that, and all the more for a poor, unknown carpenter like St. Joseph.

Yet, St. Joseph was full of virtues and faith, and he dedicated his life to the service of God, raising the Lord Himself as his own foster Son, with great dedication and hardwork, not minding his reputation and anything else. He did his work for the greater glory of God and not for his own personal ambitions, glory or desires. Normally these are what most people would have sought for and desired over, such things like glory, wealth, reputation, fame among others, but not so for St. Joseph.

That is why we all look up at St. Joseph, the Worker, as the Patron saint of all workers and everyone in the workforce and in various employments. He is our great role model in how he lived his life, in how he devoted himself and his work to God, and in his tireless pursuit of the glorification of God rather than his own glory, vanity and power. That is why today, we celebrate the great virtues by which St. Joseph had lived his life and carried out his missions and efforts dutifully throughout his life.

Today, therefore, as we commemorate this Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, let us first of all remember all workers all around the world, in various occupations, particularly all those who are struggling with their work and all those who are about to lose their employment or rice bowl of income. We know of just how devastating the current terrible coronavirus pandemic had been to many workers in various sectors of employment and the society, how many businesses and companies had folded and closed down because of this pandemic as well as other issues.

Let us remember them in our prayers and ask St. Joseph the Worker to intercede for their sake, that the Lord will be with them all and guide them through these difficult times, that hopefully they will be able to find their good way out of their current predicament. And therefore, we also must not forget all those who are now working tirelessly to sustain themselves and their families, all those who are employed in the essential services and also all those who are trying their best to sustain their families in this great and needy moments.

We should also ask St. Joseph the Worker to intercede for all of our frontline workers, all those healthcare workers and all the personnel involved in the frontline of the battle against the pandemic, as well as others involved in the planning and the efforts to maintain the whole communities of people under these most difficult and challenging of times. Let us ask for the intercession of St. Joseph the Worker that through him, the Lord may be moved to show His mercy, compassion and love to all of us suffering now.

And lastly, let us all ourselves be inspired by the great examples set by St. Joseph the Worker in his life, his virtues and his dedication to the Lord. Let us all be shining examples of virtue and good work ourselves, by living our lives following the good examples of St. Joseph, by being faithful in all things, upright and virtuous in our actions and dealings, in how we interact with one another, and more. Let us all strive to be ever more faithful with each and every passing moments of our lives.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in our works and efforts, and may He show us His mercy and love, particularly during these most difficult and challenging moments we are encountering at the moment. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 1 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 52-59

At that time, the Jews were arguing among themselves, “How can this Man give us flesh to eat?” So Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, if you do not eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you. The one who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood lives eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

“My Flesh is really food, and My Blood is truly drink. Those who eat My Flesh and drink My Blood, lives in Me, and I in them. Just as the Father, Who is life, sent Me, and I have life from the Father, so whoever eats Me will have life from Me. This is the Bread which came from heaven; not like that of your ancestors, who ate and later died. Those who eat this Bread will live forever.”

Jesus spoke in this way in Capernaum when He taught them in the synagogue.

Alternative reading (Mass of St. Joseph)

Matthew 13 : 54-58

At that time, Jesus went to His hometown and taught the people in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, “Where did He get this wisdom and these special powers? Is He not the carpenter’s Son? Is Mary not His mother and are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas not His brothers? Are not all His sisters living here? How did He get all this?” And so they took offence at Him.

Jesus said to them, “The only place where prophets are not welcome is their hometown and in their own family.” And He did not perform many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Friday, 1 May 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

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

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

Alternative reading (Mass of St. Joseph)

Psalm 89 : 2, 3-4, 12-13, 14 and 16

Before the mountains were formed, before You made the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity – You are God.

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night.

So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will You be angry, o Lord? Have mercy on Your servant.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. Let Your work be seen by Your servants and Your glorious power by their children.