Saturday, 29 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings, we heard first of all, the institution of the office of the deacons in the Church, when in the days of the early Church, there was a great difficulty in ensuring that all the Christian families and the faithful received the distribution of goods equally, as manpower was needed to do the works. And therefore, the Apostles decided to ordain seven men filled with the Holy Spirit, and charge them with the responsibility over those works.

In the Gospel today, meanwhile, we heard about the disciples of the Lord who were crossing the Lake of Galilee when they encountered a vicious storm and saw Jesus walking on the lake towards them. The disciples were frightened because they thought that they were seeing a ghost, and they did not have faith in Him. But Jesus revealed Himself to them, and told them not to be afraid, for it was indeed Him Whom they saw.

In what we heard in these readings from the Scriptures, we saw how God is always with His people, with all of those who have given themselves to Him and committed themselves to His cause. And the seven deacons which had been appointed was filled with the Holy Spirit and full of the faith they themselves showed before the Lord and His people, by their pious actions and commitment, and foremost of all, through their readiness to even lay down their lives for the Lord.

That was what happened to St. Stephen, one of the seven deacons, and one of the first martyrs of the Faith and the Church. We surely are aware of what had happened to him, as recorded in the other parts of the Acts of the Apostles, when the opponents of the faithful contrived against him and plotted to bring about his downfall through the means of false accusations and trials.

But St. Stephen stood up against all the lies and the false accusations levelled on him, and he spoke up about the truth of God, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, revealing to all those who had wanted to arrest him, how God had loved His people and wanted to save all of them, telling them of His exploits throughout history, and how He had ever been faithful, even though His people had not been faithful. And St. Stephen spoke of Jesus our Lord, Whom they rejected, but Who had come to be the Saviour of the world.

In the end, St. Stephen met his end in martyrdom, but he died knowing that God was by his side, and he even forgave all of his enemies, asking that God should not punish them for all that they had done against this faithful servant of God. This is the faith which he had shown through not just his beliefs, but also through his own actions. And all of us should emulate him and the other holy saints of the Lord, all of whom should become our inspiration in living out a genuine, Christian life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of the famous holy woman, the saint of the city of Siena, namely St. Catherine of Siena, one of the great Doctors of the Church, and a truly inspiring persona during her time, and even for long after her passing until this very day. St. Catherine of Siena was a very pious philosopher and theologian, who was known for a very great devotion to the Lord. She experienced visions from the Lord, which she related to others through her numerous writings.

Through her piety and faith in the Lord, she inspired many others to follow in her footsteps and walk in the way of the faith. She had even reconciled many factions and groups in conflict in the society and the community around her, by being intermediary and negotiator for both sides of the groups in dispute. She also took part in the resolution of conflicts and troubles in the community, as well as in the Church, which at that time was filled with conflict and human ambitions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians all of us are called to devote ourselves completely to the Lord, and to commit ourselves to the good works He had started among us. And many of us have different talents and abilities, which we can give for the sake of God and His people. Let us all devote ourselves and our time, our effort and everything that we can do, for the betterment of one another, and for the greater glory of God, following in the footsteps of the holy deacons and Apostles, and also of St. Catherine of Siena, our role models in faith. Amen.

Saturday, 29 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 6 : 16-21

At that time, when evening came, the disciples went down to the shore. After a while they got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the sea, for it was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to them. But the sea was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing.

They had rowed about three or four miles, when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and He was drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but He said to them, “It is I! Do not be afraid!” They wanted to take Him into the boat, but immediately the boat was at the shore to which they were going.

Saturday, 29 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 32 : 1-2, 4-5, 18-19

Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, praise is fitting for the upright. Give thanks to Him on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises.

For upright is the Lord’s word and worthy of trust is His work. The Lord loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

But the Lord’s eyes are upon those who fear Him, upon those who trust in His loving-kindness to deliver them from death and preserve them from famine.

Saturday, 29 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Acts 6 : 1-7

In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the so-called Hellenists complained against the so-called Hebrews, because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

So the Twelve summoned the whole body of disciples together and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God to serve at tables. So, friends, choose from among yourselves seven respected men full of Spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them to this task. As for us, we shall give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”

The whole community agreed and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and Holy Spirit : Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenus and Nicolaus of Antioch who was a proselyte. They presented these men to the Apostles who first prayed over them and then laid hands upon them.

The Word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly and even many priests accepted the faith.

Friday, 28 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard in the Scriptures from the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, of how the Pharisees, the chief priests and the elders of the people argued on how they should deal with the Apostles and their work in spreading the Good News about Jesus Christ the Messiah and Lord. They wanted to persecute them and silence them, and many of them wanted in fact to put them to death.

But the respected elder, Gamaliel spoke up in their midst, calling them to restrain themselves and let God decide what is right and wrong. He mentioned how the previous false prophets and Messiahs, who had declared themselves as the chosen ones, failed in whatever they had done. Their movement and efforts disappeared as soon as they perished or were defeated in their rebellions against the Romans and the authorities.

Gamaliel told all those who were assembled, that if the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles came from man as previous false prophets had done, then they would meet downfall on their own accord, but if the truth of Christ came indeed from God, then nothing that they do would be able to stop or hinder the progress of the good works God had begun in this world.

The wise Gamaliel had indeed spoken with wisdom, and understanding that what comes from God, indeed belongs to God, and what God has planned for us mankind, He shall do without fail. If we go against God, we shall fail. But if we remain true and faithful to His will, then He will do all that He can to make sure that we go forward in life, and through to the salvation which He had promised us all.

And in the Gospel today, we all heard about the famous event when Jesus fed a multitudes of five thousand men, not counting women and children who were also fed, with merely just five loaves of bread and two fishes, which Jesus miraculously broke into pieces enough to feed all the people who were gathered there. Many subsequently wanted to follow Him and liked to make Him as a King over them, after witnessing what He had done for them. But Jesus withdrew and hid Himself to avoid being forced into such a fate.

In this account of the feeding of the five thousand men and more, we saw how the Lord provided for His people, giving them food when they were hungry and had nothing to sustain themselves with. He loved each and every one of them, and showed them His compassion and love. He gave them all food to fill their stomachs, so that the people who were once hungry then became satisfied.

Yet, that was not all that the Lord had done, for He did not just give them food to eat. He had done that before, at the time when the Israelites went out of Egypt and travelled through the desert for forty years. He fed them with manna, the bread from heaven itself, sustaining them for all of those times. But, He did not just give physical and earthly food to the people, rather, He gave them true satisfaction and sustenance.

How so? It is by the giving of Himself, the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood, which gave us all sustenance, and true fulfilment. Jesus Himself mentioned that, unless we eat of His Body and drink of His Blood, we shall have no part in Him, and we shall be excluded from the promise of salvation and eternal glory, which He had promised to all those who are faithful to Him.

And all those who have faithfully shared in the gift of His own Body and Blood, shall never perish, for the Lord Himself has become our anchor, and He has become our support and strength. That was just as what Gamaliel mentioned to the gathering of the chief priests and elders. Those who put their trust in the world shall perish, but all those who place their trust in the Lord shall prosper and not be disappointed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are many people who have preceded us and have lived their lives in accordance to the will of God, even sometimes having to endure bitter persecutions. For example, St. Peter Chanel, the holy saint whose feast we celebrate today, was a devout priest and missionary who went to the region of Oceania to preach the Good News of the Lord there.

He endured bitter persecution by the king and his followers who resisted the effort to convert them to the faith. He was martyred in the midst of his evangelising work, but not before gaining many converts to the faith. Even eventually those who murdered him were converted as well and atoned for their sins. This was among many other examples of just how the Lord was always with His faithful ones and provided for them when they are in need.

St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort was another saint whose feast we are celebrating today. He was the founder of the Montfortian congregation, who was renowned for his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. He was a very hardworking person, committing his whole life to the service of God and the Gospels. 

He also placed his trust in the Lord and did his best to serve Him, and many good deeds and results had come about because of his devotion. Many were inspired by his actions to follow the Lord more faithfully, and many of them had a conversion of the heart. After we listen to the examples of these two saints of God and also that of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, should we not do the same too, brothers and sisters in Christ?

May the Lord help us to remain strong in our faith in Him, so that in everything and at all times, we will always be ever faithful to Him, and that we can give our complete and full trust to Him, our Lord, God and Saviour. May the Lord bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 28 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
John 6 : 1-15

At that time, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.” Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Friday, 28 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 28 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr, and St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)
Acts 5 : 34-42

But one of the members of the Council, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law highly respected by the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin. He ordered the men to be taken outside for a few minutes and then he spoke to the assembly.

“Fellow Israelites, consider well what you intend to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed and all his followers were dispersed or disappeared.”

“After him, Judas the Galilean appeared at the time of the census and persuaded many people to follow him. But he too perished and his whole following was scattered. So, in this present case, I advise you to have nothing to do with these men. Leave them alone. If their project or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand, it is from God, you will not be able to destroy it and you may indeed find yourselves fighting against God.”

The Council let themselves be persuaded. They called in the Apostles and had them whipped, and ordered them not to speak again of Jesus Saviour. Then they set them free. The Apostles went out from the Council rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name. Day after day, both in the Temple and in people’s homes, they continued to teach and to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah.

Thursday, 27 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us must have heard in the Scriptures, particularly in the Acts of the Apostles, how the Apostle St. Peter and the other disciples of the Lord had been oppressed by the chief priests, the elders and all those who did not wish to see the Christian faith flourishing among the people of God. We saw how the rulers and the powerful were against the works of Christ and His followers.

And we witnessed how St. Peter and the other Apostles courageously defended their faith, even to the point of making a stern rebuke at the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin ruling Council. They courageously said that they would rather obey the will of God and follow Him rather than obey the orders and the will of man. Essentially they were saying that they would not bend to the will of the Pharisees, the elders and the chief priests who were trying to silence them and stop them from carrying out the good works they have done in the Name of the Lord.

The attitude of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord shows us that we always have a choice in this world. Yes, a choice to obey either the wishes of the Lord, or to obey the wishes of this world. It is just as the Lord said in another occasion, as written in the Gospels, that one cannot serve two masters, he or she will either love one and despise the other, or vice versa. Man cannot serve both God and money. And similarly, it is often that obeying the Lord means disobeying the norms and ways of this world.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? Particularly in today’s world, and which was also true in the past, this world and our society are filled with many corruptions, many temptations, of power and influence, of desires for wealth and worldly possessions, the wickedness of the pleasures of the flesh, and many other things that had caused us mankind to be distracted on our path seeking the Lord, and ended up causing many to fall into sin and towards condemnation.

We are all given a choice, to choose between the way of the Lord and the way of wickedness. We have been given free will by the Lord to choose between righteousness and evil, between selfishness and selflessness, between hatred and love, between the love and desire for money and faith, between the light of the world, that is our Lord Jesus Christ, and the darkness of ignorance of the Lord.

The devil has worked very hard in order to persuade, coax and even force mankind to go to the path towards their downfall, so that they will share in the fate which the devil knew he will have to endure. He sought our downfall and damnation, and hence, he tried his best to make the path of wickedness and evil to be as attractive as possible, to be as easy and lucrative as possible. And thus, many had fallen into the trap he set for us.

But the Lord has not abandoned us to the devil and his devices. He had always loved us and remembered us, especially when we are besieged and are troubled by the forces of our enemies. He does not abandon us, but gives us His assistance and company, and He had sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and the disciples, giving them the wisdom, strength and power in order to continue the mission which He had given them, that is the conversion of all mankind to the cause of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are the successors to the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord. We are all the ones to whom God had entrusted the same mission He had given His Apostles and His Church. As Christians, all of us are responsible for the works which the Church of God are doing, spreading the Good News of God and the truth about His salvation.

There will indeed be opposition against us just as the Apostles had encountered opposition. And just as the saints and the holy disciples of the Lord had to even lay down their lives in holy martyrdom, the opposition against us may be difficult for us to overcome or to persevere through. But we must not give up, or else, not only that we fall into the sin which we had wanted to avoid, we will also cause others to fall.

Let us all realise that through our actions, words and deeds, we can help bring many more of our brethren towards God and His salvation. By being faithful in all the things we say and do, even amidst opposition and challenges from the society around us, even from among those whom we know, we can help one another on our way to the eternal life promised to us by the Lord.

May the Lord help us all, and bless all of our endeavours, so that in all the things we say and do, we will always be ever faithful to Him, and we will inspire many others to do the same as well. May God be with us all. Amen.

Thursday, 27 April 2017 : 2nd Week of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
John 3 : 31-36

At that time, John the Baptist said, “He Who comes from above is above all; he who comes from the earth belongs to the earth, and his words belong to the earth. He Who comes from heaven speaks of the things He has seen and heard; He bears witness to these things, but no one accepts His testimony. Whoever does receive His testimony acknowledges the truthfulness of God.”

“The One sent by God speaks God’s words, and gives the Spirit unstintingly. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything into His hands. Whoever believes in the Son lives with eternal life; but he who will not believe in the Son will never know life, and always faces the justice of God.”