Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding us of the works of God among us, which we often refused to heed or believe in, resulting in many of us choosing down the path of rebellion and disobedience against God, not trusting in God but instead in our own ways and choices, which we often made in contrary to His will, and not following God and His path. As a result, this led to some of us falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin, and we have to avoid that.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos detailing the conversation between Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, of the northern kingdom of Israel, and Amos, the prophet of God. At that time, the northern kingdom of Israel had long rebelled against God and the House of David, following their own path and way of worship, ever since the first king of that northern kingdom, Jeroboam, but not the Jeroboam mentioned in today’s passage, led the people into sin by establishing a parallel centre of worship in Bethel, in opposition to the one and true God Who ought to be worshipped at that time in Jerusalem.

Amaziah complained to this other king Jeroboam, the second Jeroboam to rule over the northern kingdom just a few decades before its ultimate destruction by the Assyrians. Amaziah as the priest of Bethel, likely representing the same pagan worship as instituted by the first king Jeroboam, found Amos, his works and prophecies to be a great annoyance and interference in his domain, and Amaziah complained to the king himself for what the prophet Amos had prophesied against the king and the northern kingdom itself.

Amaziah himself tried to push Amos away and told him off by telling him to go back to his native land of Judah. Yet, to this Amos immediately countered by saying that his mission and calling, and everything he had done come from the Lord and how God called him to do His will. Amos was to be the one to proclaim a warning and judgment of the Lord on the Israelites in the northern kingdom for all of their continued rebellion against God and refusal to obey His Law and their unwillingness to listen to the words of the many prophets that had been sent to their midst.

In our Gospel passage today, similarly we heard the case of when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, some of whom criticised the Lord harshly for His words in proclaiming forgiveness of sins in the midst of Him healing a man who had been paralysed. The Lord had pity on the man and helped him, healing him from his troubles, and through that occasion, He also highlighted that as the Holy One of God, the Son, the Divine Word Incarnate, He has the authority to forgive sins and to deliver us from those sins, and to heal us from our afflictions, be it physical or spiritual in nature.

We heard how the Lord encountered tough opposition not only in what we encountered in the Gospel passage today but also in other occasions, where He and His disciples had to go up against the forces of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law arrayed against them. It was just like how at the time of the prophet Amos who had to go against the wickedness and stubbornness of the people of Israel, whose pride and arrogance in refusing to listen to God became their undoing. Their downfall was because they were not humble enough to admit that they were wrong and mistaken in their path, and unfortunately many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law fell into that same path.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings ought to highlight to us how as Christians each and every one of us are challenged to embrace God’s calling for us all to be great missionaries and witnesses of our faith in the midst of our various communities, within our families and circles of friends and acquaintances among others. Each one of us are called to be like the prophet Amos, and to be like the Lord Himself in standing up courageously for our faith in the midst of opposition and challenges that we may face in our journey of faith. However, it is not just that, as we are also called to be ever vigilant and on guard against the threat from our pride, ego, greed and desire, all of which could lead us down the wrong path to ruin.

Today, we all should follow the good examples of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, those who have defended their faith and committed themselves to the Lord in the face of suffering and persecutions. They were the ones who suffered with St. Peter and St. Paul, whose great Solemnity we have just celebrated yesterday. These First Martyrs of the Roman Church were those who were persecuted, arrested and killed during the years of the first Great Persecution of Christians done by the Roman Emperor Nero, during which many were afflicted and even martyred for their faith, and for their refusal to abandon the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all hence renew our faith and commitment in God, following the examples of our holy predecessors and that of the Lord Himself, and while also being vigilant and heeding the warning of what we should not be doing based on what we have heard in our Scripture passages today. Let us all strive to be good examples and inspiration to one another through our life and actions, all throughout this life, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here, they brought to Him a paralysed man, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, My son! Your sins are forgiven.”

Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking; and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home!”

The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 18 : 8, 9, 10, 11

The Law of the Lord is perfect : it gives life to the soul. The word of the Lord is trustworthy : it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right : they give joy to the heart. The commandments of the Lord are clear : they enlighten the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is pure, it endures forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, all of them just and right.

They are more precious than gold – pure gold of a jeweller; they are much sweeter than honey which drops from the honeycomb.

Thursday, 30 June 2022 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Amos 7 : 10-17

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, then sent word to king Jeroboam of Israel, “Amos is conspiring against you in the very centre of Israel; what he says goes too far. These are his very words : Jeroboam shall die by the sword and Israel shall be exiled from its land.”

Amaziah then said to Amos, “Off with you, seer, go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there by prophesying. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is a king’s sanctuary and a national shrine.”

Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet or one of the fellow prophets. I am a breeder of sheep and a dresser of sycamore trees. But YHVH took me from shepherding the flock and said to me : Go, prophesy to My people Israel. Now hear the word of YHVH, you who say : No more prophesy against Israel, no more insults against the family of Isaac!”

“This is what YHVH says : Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, your land shall be divided up and given to others, and you, yourself, shall die in a foreign land, for Israel shall be driven far from its land.”

Thursday, 23 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the occasion of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which commemorates the moment when St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Lord and Saviour of the world, was born into this world, into the family of Zechariah and Elizabeth, his parents. Today we mark the moment when the Lord brought forth into this world the news and revelation of His salvation, of the long awaited salvation and Saviour that He has always promised and spoken about to His people. The Lord has reassured all of us that His love for us has always endured, and He will deliver unto us His providence and strength.

St. John the Baptist was born as a servant of God, called and chosen from even before he was conceived and born. His parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth were already relatively old and Elizabeth herself was likely already well-past childbearing age. It was at that time which God came to intervene and sent His Angel to announce to Zechariah first that he and his wife would have a son, the one whom God had called and chosen to be His servant, to be the one to fulfil the prophecy of the prophets, as we heard in our first reading today, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. St. John the Baptist was the fulfilment of that prophecy, mentioning the coming of a servant who would speak of the coming of the one true Lord and Saviour of the world.

Through St. John the Baptist, who was miraculously conceived and born of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the Lord brought forth His Good News into this world, as He told them all through St. John that He would come soon, and because the salvation of this world was about to come, the people were also called through St. John the Baptist to return to the Lord, repenting from their sinful ways and wickedness. St. John the Baptist dedicated his whole life to God, and he spent his years preparing himself in the desert, and committing himself henceforth to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God.

He laboured for many years, preaching about the coming of the Messiah, calling of the people to turn back towards God, and going up even against the Pharisees and the religious authorities who questioned him and doubted his efforts, and he courageously carried out his ministry in serving God and His people, with all of his strength. Through him, many thousands and more became believers, and turned back towards God, seeking to be baptised by St. John the Baptist as a mark of their willingness to convert and to turn away from their sinful ways. St. John the Baptist revealed the Lord’s truth and works to them, and many more would come to believe in God, preparing the path for the eventual coming of the Lord Himself.

Not only that, but just as I am sure we are quite aware of through the life of St. John the Baptist, this great and courageous saint and servant of God also endured prison, suffering and even martyrdom in the midst of his mission, as he courageously spoke up against the adulterous behaviour and relationship that king Herod of Galilee had with his own brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias in particular held grudge against St. John the Baptist, and she manipulated the king to order the execution of St. John the Baptist, who had by then been imprisoned. Hence, that was how St. John the Baptist came to the end of his mission in this world, after many years of faithful service.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice today in this celebration of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, rejoicing in the memory of the birth of this great saint and servant of God, let us also therefore remember everything that he had done for the sake of God’s people, the dedication and zeal with which he had carried out his mission, in embracing the call and the mission that God had entrusted to him, and which he carried out fervently and humbly, as when he was asked if he was the Messiah, he immediately told them that he was not the Messiah, but rather merely the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Saviour.

Let us all discern our own path in life, and see how each one of us can be inspired to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist, in all that he had done as a faithful disciple of the Lord. Each and every one of us as Christians have been called to various missions and ministries, given the opportunities and the talents, the gifts of abilities and other means to reach out to one another, and to proclaim God’s truth, love and hope to our world today. Every one of us should be inspired by the examples that St. John the Baptist has shown us, and we should walk in his footsteps as faithful disciples of the Lord.

May the Lord continue to guide each and every one of us to be ever more faithful and committed to Him, and may He continue to bless us and strengthen us with faith, such that we may continue to serve Him in our own various capacities and opportunities with zeal and dedication, inspired by what his saints, especially that of St. John the Baptist, had shown us. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 23 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 57-66, 80

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they made signs to his father for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John;” and they were very surprised. Immediately, Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea and the people talked about these events. All who heard of it, pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the desert, until the day when he appeared openly in Israel.

Thursday, 23 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 13 : 22-26

After that time, God removed Saul and raised up David as king, to whom He bore witness saying : I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all I want him to do.

It is from the descendants of David that God has now raised up the promised Saviour of Israel, Jesus. Before He appeared, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. As John was ending his life’s work, he said : ‘I am not what you think I am, for, after me, another One is coming, Whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’

Brothers, children and descendants of Abraham, and you, also, who fear God, it is to you that this message of salvation has been sent.

Thursday, 23 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 138 : 1-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

O YHVH, You know me : You have scrutinised me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand, You discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; You are familiar with all my ways.

It was You Who formed my inmost part and knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank You for these wonders You have done, and my heart praises You.

For Your marvellous deeds. Even my bones were known to You when I was being formed in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Thursday, 23 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 49 : 1-6

Listen to me, o islands, pay attention, people from distant lands. YHVH called me from my mother’s womb; He pronounced my name before I was born. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword. He hid me in the shadow of His hand. He made me into a polished arrow set apart in His quiver.

He said to me, “You are Israel, My servant. Through you I will be known.” “I have laboured in vain,” I thought, “and spent my strength for nothing.” Yet what is due me was in the hand of YHVH, and my reward was with my God. I am important in the sight of YHVH, and my God is my Strength.

And now YHVH has spoken, He Who formed me in the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, to gather Israel to Him. He said : “It is not enough that you be My servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make you the light of the nations, that My salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”

Thursday, 16 June 2022 : Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, Corpus Christi (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord, also known as Corpus Christi, marking the commemoration of the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. Today we commemorate the Lord truly present in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which we partake and consume during every celebration of the Holy Mass. As Christians, we all firmly believe that the Eucharist we partake and receive in the Holy Mass is none other than the Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Himself.

Although the appearance of the bread and wine remains, but the mystery of our faith in what is known as Transubstantiation means that the bread and wine had actually, by the power of God, through the priests, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and the authority given to them by the Lord through His Church, become the very essence, reality and matter of the Lord’s own Body and Blood. We have faith that this is the truth, and what we truly eat and drink is the Lord Himself, Whose Body has been broken for us, and Whose Blood has been shed and poured down to us, to wash us clean and to bring us to salvation and eternal life.

In our first reading today, we heard the account of the encounter between Abraham, the father of the faithful and Melchizedek, the High Priest of Salem and the High Priest of God Most High. In that occasion, Abraham gave offering to God through Melchizedek, who then offered Abraham’s offering to God, as His High Priest. Melchizedek according to Church tradition had always been a rather mysterious figure, but one who was highly respected and regarded, and there were many theories and explanations that some tried to provide with regards to Melchizedek. Some said that Melchizedek prefigured Christ Himself, in His role as the High Priest, just as Melchizedek being a High Priest of God as well.

Regardless what it was, the link between Melchizedek and Christ established Christ as the High Priest of all mankind, Who offered the sacrifice and offering on our behalf, for the absolution of our many sins. And this is where He uniquely offered on our behalf, the perfect and worthy offering, of none other than His own Precious Body and Blood, the only offering that is worthy enough for the atonement and forgiveness of our sins. Hence, Our Lord offered His sacrificial offering both as the High Priest as well as the Paschal Lamb being sacrificed.

In our second reading today, from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, we heard the Apostle recounting to the faithful what happened at the night of the Last Supper, when the Lord Instituted the Holy Eucharist, by offering the bread and wine that He had blessed, and gave them to His disciples, saying clearly that the bread was truly His Body, broken and given to them, while the wine was truly His Blood, shed and poured on all the people, to all sinners, for the salvation of souls and for the forgiveness of sins. He instituted the Holy Eucharist to give us all the means by which we can be saved from the darkness of our sins.

At the Last Supper, the Lord began His offering as the New Passover and the New Covenant that He established with all of mankind. He offered His own Precious and Holy Body and Blood because in the past, the offering and sacrifice of even unblemished lamb was not sufficient for the absolution of the whole multitude of mankind’s many sins. At the original Passover in Egypt, which the Israelites henceforth commemorated every year, the Passover lamb was slain and then its blood used to mark the houses of the Israelites, that they might be rescued and freed from the slavery and suffering they endured in Egypt. Thus, in the New Passover that the Lord had brought with Him, He Himself, as the Paschal Lamb, and the High Priest, offer on our behalf, the sacrificial offering to redeem us and free us from the suffering and slavery to our sins.

But that sacrifice and offerings did not end at the Last Supper. On the contrary, everything that happened during the Passion of the Lord, His suffering and journey, the suffering and rejection He endured, and His Way of the Cross, culminating with His death and suffering on the Cross. It was at Good Friday that His sacrifice and offering was completed and made perfect, as He offered His own Body and Blood, the Divine Word Incarnate, as the perfect and unblemished offering that cleansed all the faithful from the taints of sin. Through the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the Lord has given us the assurance and guarantee of salvation and eternal life.

That is what the Lord also meant to do as highlighted in our Gospel passage today, as we heard from that the account of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand men with unknown thousands more of women and children with merely five bread and two fishes. He fed them all, and nourished them, giving them the strength to go on, as they were all hungry after following Him and listening to Him for His words and teachings. He then later on would tell them that He is the Bread of Life, the One Who had come into this world to bring life and nourish all of us, with the food that is His Body, and the drink that is His Blood, and as He said it Himself, all of us who share and partake in His Body and Blood shall never die and will have eternal life.

That is because when we eat His Body and drink His Blood, the Lord Himself has come to dwell within us, and He has made us into the Temple of His Holy Presence. As long as He remains in us and we remain in Him, we shall not be lost from Him, and we shall forever enjoy the glorious inheritance and true joy that can come from the Lord alone. The Lord has given His Body and Blood to us freely, and through this act of ultimate love and sacrifice, He has opened for us the gates of Heaven and the path to eternal life. This is what He has promised us and provided for us, and yet, many of us still do not have the firm faith in His providence and love.

Many of us still do not show that we truly believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. We may profess our faith in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, but from the way we behave and respond to the Eucharist more often than not showed just how little we appreciate the Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, and how little the faith and love that we have in Him. We treated the Lord with indifference and even contempt, in the manner how we receive the Holy Eucharist, in our lack of respect for the Holy Mass and the important tenets of our Christian faith, and in not living our lives in accordance to what we have been expected as Christians.

Today, each and every one of us are reminded that we have been so fortunate that the Lord, our most loving Father, Creator and Master, have been so kind, patient and compassionate towards us that He has given us all His Son, to be Our Lord and Saviour, and by Whose sacrifice, both as our High Priest and Paschal Lamb, He has brought unto us the assurance and guarantee of salvation and eternal life, by giving us His own Body and His own Blood, for us to partake, that He may dwell in us, and that we may always be together with Him.

Let us remind ourselves that we are in the Holy Presence of God, that the Lord Himself has dwelled amongst us, and within us. Let us remind ourselves that we have to be worthy of Him, and strive to be better Christians for now on, in honouring and loving the most loving and perfect sacrifice that He has shown us, in bringing about our salvation. Let us all deepen our faith from now on, in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, that what we receive in the Holy Eucharist, is truly real Body and the real Blood of Our Lord, and not just merely bread and wine, or just merely a symbol.

And we have to begin that from ourselves. We have to give due reverence and honour to the Holy Eucharist, in the manner we receive it, such that we ensure that we are in a proper disposition and state of grace, just as St. Paul said that it would be harmful for Christians who are not in the state of grace to partake of the Holy Eucharist. We have to keep in mind that our every actions and deeds reflect our faith and what we believe in, and how can we expect others to believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, Transubstantiation and that the Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood of the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist, at every celebration of the Holy Mass, if we ourselves have not wholeheartedly believed in it and showed that we truly believe?

May the Lord, Who has given us His own Precious Body and Blood, for our salvation, continue to love us and may He strengthen each and every one of us by His grace and love. May all of us draw ever closer to the Lord and His saving grace, with each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us all and be with all of our works, efforts and good endeavours, now and always. Amen.