Saturday, 24 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, all of us are reminded that we must always stay firm in the Lord and in our Christian faith, and we should not allow ourselves to be swayed or to be deceived by falsehoods, lest the devil is trying as he has always been, in order to turn us away from God and in trying to persuade and coerce us to embrace the ways of the world, and distance ourselves from the true path.

All of us must realise that being Christians often mean that we have to make the most unconventional of choices and tread the most unlikely of paths, as we follow the Lord and speak faithfully of His truth, and the path going forward is not necessarily going to be easy or smooth for us. This is what the devil will try to capitalise as he will definitely try to persuade and coerce us to follow the easier, more logical and more profitable and fruitful way forward, luring us the path of God’s truth.

In our first reading today, we heard of the works of St. Peter the Apostle as he preached the truth of God in various places like Lydda and Joppa all around the land, strengthening the faith of those who have come to believe in the Lord and calling on many others to embrace the Lord. And it was during that visit to Lydda and Joppa that St. Peter showed just how unconventional and different our Christian faith can be, as he healed the paralytic man Aeneas in Lydda, and brought the faithful woman Tabitha back to life in Joppa.

Such things that happened truly are beyond ordinary comprehension and norms, and could not be explained by any human means or standards. The Lord has given His followers the authority and power to heal the sick and even to raise people from the dead through faith. And this is what we are all called to remember, that we must indeed have faith and trust in the Lord, in His providence and love, in His care and compassion to each and every one of us. We must believe in Him and all that He has done for us.

In our Gospel today, the Lord was abandoned by many of those who followed Him because He spoke to them the reality that He is the One Who would give them all His own Body and Blood, to be broken and shared among them, as the Bread of Life and the Salvation of all, through Whom all would receive the assurance of life eternal. But many would not open their minds to the Lord and few were willing to accept the hard truth, as they refused to accept that One like the Lord could have given them His own Flesh and Blood.

Yet, as we heard from our Gospel today and from those in the previous days, on this discourse of the Bread of Life, the Lord did not mince His words or soften it by euphemisms. Instead, He spoke plainly and clearly, highlighting that it is indeed through Him that God’s salvation would come, and by revealing Himself as the Bread of Life, He was giving them all advance premonition of what He would do at His Passion and death, when He chose willingly to accept suffering and death for the sake of our salvation and liberation from the bondage to the same sin and death.

And that is what the disciples of the Lord were preaching on, and what they were willing to suffer and die for in the mission which God has entrusted to them, following in the footsteps of the Apostles themselves, in the same Lord through which St. Peter had performed wondrous miracles as highlighted in our first reading today. Many saints and martyrs showed us all what it means to be true disciples of the Lord, in their exemplary lives, dedication and faith, in how they generously give of themselves for the glory of the Lord.

Today we celebrate the memory of one of those faithful saints, namely St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen. St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen was a priest who ministered to the faithful in many parts of Switzerland as a Capuchin friar, at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation efforts. St. Fidelis courageously and patiently spoke of the truth of the Lord against the Calvinists who rejected the truth of God, particularly in what the Lord Himself had stated it clearly today, of the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist.

St. Fidelis ministered to the people faithfully and managed to gain a great number of converts, which angered the Calvinists who saw him as a great threat to their community and their misguided faith. As such they plotted against him and tried to find ways to destroy him. St. Fidelis himself according to tradition had known of what would happen to him, and surrendered himself to the Lord, entrusting himself completely into His hands, as Calvinist soldiers struck at him and murdered him when he refused to abandon his true faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, his faith and dedication to the Lord, and how he and many other saints and martyrs, from the days of the Apostles to this very day, we are all reminded that as members and parts of the Church each and every one of us also have the same share in the calling and mission entrusted to us by God. But are we willing to commit ourselves in the manner that the Apostles, the saints and martyrs, like how St. Fidelis had committed himself and his own life?

Let us all discern carefully therefore how we are to proceed on in this life, going forward knowing that we are all parts of the same Church and have upon us the same mission entrusted to us by God Himself, to be His faithful and courageous witnesses, through our own actions and deeds, by everything we do, even to the smallest things, within our own communities. May all of us be exemplary in our faith and life, that we may inspire more and more to come and to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. Amen.

Saturday, 24 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 24 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 24 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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, 23 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all listen to the words of the Lord speaking to us about the conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, as he was called by God on the way to Damascus, when as Saul he wanted to bring destruction and death to all the Christians living there with the express permission and authority from the High Priests and the Sanhedrin. Saul was struck by a great light and saw the Lord in a vision, and it was there that he received the truth from God, of the mistakes he had done in pursuing his path.

Saul was touched by God and through His disciple, Ananias, Saul received baptism, the wisdom and truth of God through the Holy Spirit, by which his eyes were opened to the truth and he received the courage to preach the truth, the truth that he had been denying and tried to snuff out by striking against the followers of the Lord. And he spoke therefore of the Lord, the same Crucified Messiah rejected by many among the Jews and by most of the Jewish authorities. He preached the Lord Jesus Christ, Risen from the dead, Who has given His own Body and Blood for us, for our salvation.

The Jewish people refused to accept that the Lord could have given them His own Body and Blood for them to eat and share among them, and many of them left after this occasion, unable to accept the hard truth from the Lord. They all refused to believe in the reality of the Body and Blood of Christ being shed and given to all. Even the disciples were shaken by what they heard at that time, and found it hard to believe too. But after the Lord had indeed shed His Blood and broken His Body on the Cross, for the salvation of all, the disciples finally understood what the Lord meant.

Thus, as they had witnessed all the important events surrounding the moments of the Lord’s Passion, suffering and death, and His glorious Resurrection, the disciples of the Lord went forth strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit to speak about the truth and the salvation of God, through Whom all has received the assurance of new life by partaking in the same Precious Body and Blood, given through the Church in the Holy Eucharist.

It is this same mission then that St. Paul was also called into, as he shed his old life and existence as an ardent enemy of the faithful, leaving behind his old name of Saul and taking up the new name of Paul to indicate his conversion and change. While once he had enjoyed the favour of the Jewish population and the authorities, he willingly left all that behind for the Lord and His truth, labouring hard for many years in various places, having to encounter many challenges and persecutions, almost being killed in some of those occasions.

Yet, it was due to their great courage and dedication that the Church grew and flourished even under the most difficult of circumstances. These disciples of the Lord and their successors and all those whom had been called to be His servants are inspirations to us. And we remember in particular two of them, whose feasts we are celebrating today. St. George, who was a soldier and a renowned martyr remembered all around the world for his exploits and dedication, as well as St. Adalbert, a courageous bishop and missionary who also suffered martyrdom for his actions.

St. George was a member of the Roman military, and a high ranking one at that, as he was a member of the Praetorian Guards, the personal protectors of the Roman Emperors. At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous for his harsh and particularly brutal oppression of Christians, was the ruling Emperor, and he decreed that all the Christians throughout the Empire has to abandon their God and offer obedience and worship to the pagan gods and to the Roman Emperor, or else suffer terrible consequences.

And in particular, Emperor Diocletian enforced this on the members of the military and also his Praetorian Guards, of which St. George belonged to. The faithful follower of God refused to do as commanded by the Emperor, and when confronted over his Christian faith and dedication, he chose to suffer and die rather than to abandon his Christian faith or to apostasise and scandalise the faith by offering sacrifices to the Roman gods and to the Emperor. As such, he was executed by decapitation, died a martyr, and yet, his courage in faith inspired countless others throughout time.

Meanwhile, St. Adalbert, also known as St. Adalbert of Prague was the Bishop of Prague and was remembered for his ministry and evangelisation to the pagans, particularly to the Hungarians and to the Prussians, both of whom were still mostly pagan back then. He was also an ardent missionary and dedicated bishop to the Bohemians in Prague and the rest of his diocese that back then was only partly Christianised. St. Adalbert had to face difficulties and challenges from the secular rulers and once had to endure exile as he opposed the actions of the nobles and lords, standing up for the Christian faith in doing so.

Later on, he would go on to more missionary works in Hungary and in the lands of Prussia, in present day northern parts of Poland, where he managed to gain quite a bit of success in converting many to the true faith. Yet, he also encountered challenges from the pagans who refused to believe in him, and with the plotting of some of the pagan priests, St. Adalbert was murdered and died a martyr in the midst of his works of evangelisation. To the very end, he remained firm in his commitment and dedication to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the examples of these faithful servants of God, all those who have responded to the Lord’s call and embraced Him wholeheartedly as their Lord and Saviour. Let us all ourselves also be inspired to follow in their footsteps and dedicate ourselves from now on to be faithful disciples of the Lord. Let us all do our best in our respective fields and capacity, to be true disciples of the Lord in all of our daily actions throughout life. May God be with us and may He strengthen us all that we may always serve Him, each day, with dedication and faith. Amen.

Friday, 23 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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.

Friday, 23 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

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.

Friday, 23 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. George, Martyr and St. Adalbert, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 9 : 1-20

Meanwhile Saul considered nothing but violence and death for the disciples of the Lord. He went to the High Priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus that would authorise him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem anyone he might find, man or woman, belonging to the Way.

As he travelled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” And he asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus Whom you persecute. Now get up and go into the city; there you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were travelling with him stood there speechless : they had heard the sound, but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground and, opening his eyes, he could not see. They took him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. He was blind and he did not eat or drink for three days.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, to whom the Lord called in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Here I am, Lord!” Then the Lord said to him, “Go at once to Straight Street and ask, at the house of Judas, for a man of Tarsus named Saul. You will find him praying, for he has just seen in a vision that a man named Ananias has come in and placed his hands upon him, to restore his sight.”

Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man and all the harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem, and now he is here with authority from the High Priest to arrest all who call upon Your Name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument to bring My Name to the pagan nations and their kings, and the people of Israel as well. I Myself will show him how much he will have to suffer for My Name.”

So Ananias left and went to the house. He laid his hands upon Saul and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you so that you may receive your sight and be filled with Holy Spirit.” Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see; he got up and was baptised. Then he took food and was strengthened.

For several days Saul stayed with the disciples at Damascus, and he soon began to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God.

Thursday, 22 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this day as we continue to listen from the Scriptures we are called to continue to proclaim the Word of God and His truth in our respective communities, in our lives and in our actions. We are all called to proclaim the Lord, our Living Bread, the Bread of Life and the Lamb of God, Who has come into this world to be our Saviour and leading us out of the darkness into the light.

We all proclaim Him as Our Lord and Saviour, as part of our Christian faith, our true belief and dedication, and we proclaim Him as the Light and Hope in the midst of all the darkness in this world, that through Christ and all that He has done for us, He has restored us to a new hope and freed us from the chains of sin and the tyranny of death that had separated us from Him. God’s great love for us had been manifested in Christ and His love, and as such, we His people who know Him, ought to be His good and faithful witnesses in this world, proclaiming Him through our actions and deeds.

Like St. Philip the Apostle, we have received the same Holy Spirit from God, through our baptism, and those of us who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, we have been further strengthened by the same Spirit, through which God is guiding us to be His faithful witnesses and servants, to lead others and many people to Him. St. Philip ministered in the regions that he went to and met an Ethiopian official, on his way back from Jerusalem, and revealed to him the true identity of the Messiah proclaimed in the Scriptures, which the official happened to be reading.

St. Philip so convinced the Ethiopian official that he was willing to embrace baptism, and gave himself to be baptised by the Apostle. St. Philip has received this very truth and revelation from none other than the Lord Himself, Who in our Gospel passage today, spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life and the Saviour, sent from the Father in heaven into this world, to bring all of mankind to salvation, and to a new life, restoring them to true joy and grace. And unlike the old manna eaten by the Israelites in the past, the Bread of Life, given and offered freely by the Lord Himself, would bring all to life, eternal life in God.

But this truth is not something that is easily believed by many, as the Lord Himself, when He spoke of the truth before all the assembled people, He faced many skepticism and doubts, and many left Him and abandoned Him when He spoke in such terms. Even His disciples told Him that such a truth was truly very hard to take in and to be comprehended. Yet, it is this same truth which St. Philip had spoken of to the Ethiopian official, and the same truth that the Apostles, and so many saints and holy martyrs had toiled and laboured for, all suffering for the sake of the Lord.

Yet, they all rejoiced at the chance to suffer in the Lord, to continue to preach the truth and reach out more and more people despite the opposition, persecution, challenges and trials that they faced. Their exemplary faith and unceasing devotion to the Lord became source of inspiration for many others who followed in their footsteps, their commitment and courage became source of strength for those who also faced the same trials and challenges well after the time of the earliest disciples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? As Christians are we all inspired by the examples showed by our holy and dedicated predecessors? Are we inspired to reach out and be part of the Church’s continued efforts to evangelise and to proclaim the Good News and the truth to the people of God? As we are reminded today through the Scriptures, we are all part of this work of evangelisation, and the responsibility is upon us to be faithful always to the Lord, at all times, and to be exemplary in the way we live our lives in the most Christian way possible.

Otherwise, if our faith is just but in name or formality only, and if our actions show that we are not truly faithful, and are disobedient of the Lord, then it will be a scandal to our faith and a disgrace to the Lord. And we all shall be accountable to all these that we have done at the day of Judgment. Surely this is not what we want or intend to do. But that’s why we are reminded today yet again, during this most blessed time of Easter, to be a true Easter people, filled with the spirit and joy of Easter to proclaim joyfully the Lord, His truth and Resurrection to all. May God be with us always, and may He, our Risen Lord, bless us and our every good efforts and endeavours, always. Amen.

Thursday, 22 April 2021 : 3rd Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 44-51

At that time, Jesus said to the Jews, “No one can come to Me unless he is drawn by the Father Who sent Me; and I will raise Him up on the last day. It has been written in the Prophets : They shall all be taught by God. So whoever listens and learns from the Father comes to Me.”

“For no one has seen the Father except the One Who comes from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Though your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, they died. But here you have the Bread which comes from heaven, so that you may eat of it, and not die.”

“I am the Living Bread which as come from heaven; whoever eats of this Bread will live forever. The Bread I shall give is My flesh, and I will give it for the life of the world.”