Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 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, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are all reminded through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures to be faithful to God and to follow His teachings and ways, rejecting the falsehoods of the world and to resist the temptations to sin against God. And we are also reminded to put our trust and to have faith in God, and not to be afraid, for God is and will always be by our side.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Amos, we heard of the words of the Lord through Amos chastising His people for their lack of faith and sinfulness. At that time, the Israelites and their descendants had veered away from the path that God had shown them, persecuted the prophets sent into their midst to remind them and to guide them back to the path of righteousness.

As the people continued to sin and disobey God, that was why the Lord reminded His people to listen to Him and to His prophets, that they ought to turn away from sin and embrace once again the path of the Lord, for those who have sinned against God, they all know what the terrible consequences of their choices were. Their sins were by their own conscious choice and by their deliberate actions in following the temptations of their desires, ego and pride that led them to their downfall.

Then, in the Gospel today, all of us heard of the narrative of the moment when the Lord and His disciples were travelling in a boat in the middle of the lake of Galilee when a great storm raged over the waters, with terrible winds and waves that were so great that the disciples all feared for their lives. They panicked and begged the Lord to save them all, and the Lord rebuked them for their little faith in Him. They had not yet placed their complete trust in Him and that was why then the Lord showed them, they had truly nothing to fear.

By taming and calming down the storm, the Lord showed all of His disciples that it is folly for them to trust in any worldly powers or matters, and not to trust in the Lord. If we trust in the Lord, then in the end, everything will be fine for us even though in the journey we may encounter challenges, trials and difficulties. We need to remain faithful and endure the difficulties and obstacles in our path if we are to follow the path of the Lord as good and devout Christians.

Today, all of us celebrate the feast of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, celebrating the memories of the martyrs of the great persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, during the time of the Great Fire of Rome and the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. These Christians were the victims of slander and false accusation, as scapegoats by the Emperor who was allegedly the one responsible for the Great Fire of Rome, and yet, put the blame squarely on the Christians living in Rome.

And thus, many of the Christians there faced persecution, arrests, imprisonment, and many suffered martyrdom for their faith. And some among them were the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, whose great Solemnity we celebrated just yesterday. This feast today marks the memory of all the other martyrs of the faith, who had also suffered in this first wave of great persecution of Christians, those who trusted in the Lord and remained faithful despite the sufferings they had to endure.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, when we are facing the great storm of uncertainty in our lives, are we able to trust in the Lord to lead us through the difficult moments and persevere through the challenges without losing our faith in Him? Let us all trust in the Lord more, and be inspired by the faith of the Holy Martyrs of Rome, whose memory we glorify and remember today. Let us all follow the Lord with ever greater commitment and faith, and let us all be righteous and just in all of our words, deeds and actions from now on.

May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us, and may He strengthen us all in faith, and may He empower us all to be His faithful and good disciples. And may the First Holy Martyrs of the Roman Church intercede for us as well, praying for us sinners still living in this world and enduring the temptations and sufferings of life. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 8 : 23-27

At that time, Jesus got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a fierce storm burst upon the lake, with waves sweeping the boat. But Jesus was asleep.

The disciples woke Him up and cried, “Lord save us! We are lost!” But Jesus answered, “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith?” Then He stood up and rebuked the wind and sea; and it became completely calm.

The disciples were astonished. They said, “What kind of Man is He? Even the winds and the sea obey Him.”

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 5 : 5-6, 7, 8

You are not a God Who delights in wickedness; evil has no place in You. The arrogant cannot stand before You. You hate all who do evil.

You destroy all who speak falsehood, who thirst for blood and live on lies; all of them YHVH detests.

But I, by Your love and grace, may come into Your house. In reverence, I bow down and worship at Your holy Temple.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Amos 3 : 1-8 and Amos 4 : 11-12

Hear this word which YHVH speaks against you, people of Israel, against the whole family which He brought up from the land of Egypt. YHVH said, “Only you have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will call you to account for all your wrongdoings.”

“Do two walk together unless they have agreed? Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey? Does a young lion growl in its den unless it has seized something? Does a bird get caught in a snare if the snare has not been baited? Does a tiger spring up from the ground unless it has caught something?”

“If a trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened? If disaster strikes a city, has not YHVH caused it? Yet YHVH does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants, the prophets. If the lion roars, who will not be afraid? If YHVH speaks, Who will not prophesy?”

“I overthrew you, a divine punishment, as happened to Sodom and Gomorrah; you were like a brand snatched from the blaze, yet you never returned to Me,” says YHVH. “Therefore, I will deal with you in My own way, Israel, and since I will do this to you, prepare, Israel, to meet your God!”

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 5-17

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the Angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.

But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

“Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 1 : 8-12

You have not, yet, seen Him, and, yet, you love Him; even without seeing Him, you believe in Him, and experience a heavenly joy beyond all words, for you are reaching the goal of your faith : the salvation of your souls.

This was the salvation for which the prophets so eagerly looked when, in days past, they foretold the favour of God, with regard to you. But they could only investigate when the Spirit of Christ present within them, pointed out the time and the circumstances, of this – the sufferings of Christ, and the glories which would follow.

It was revealed to them, that they were working, not for themselves, but for you. Thus, in these days, after the Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven, the Gospel’s preachers have taught you these mysteries, which even the Angels long to see.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6, 15 and 17

In You, o Lord, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me, turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge, a Stronghold to give me safety, for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o Lord, have been my Hope, my Trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day, little though it is what I can understand. You have taught me from my youth and until now I proclaim Your marvels.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 1 : 4-10

A word of YHVH came to me, “Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you; even before you were born I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations!”

I said, “Ah, Lord YHVH! I do not know how to speak; I am still young!” But YHVH replied, “Do not say; ‘I am still young’, for now you will go, whatever be the mission I am entrusting to you, and you will speak of whatever I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you – it is YHVH Who speaks!”

Then YHVH stretched out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put My words in your mouth. See! Today I give you authority over nations and over kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard how king Sennacherib of Assyria came up to Jerusalem with all of his mighty army and besieged it, seeking to destroy the entire city and conquer the whole kingdom of Judah just as at that time Assyria had been conquering many smaller states to create a large and powerful empire. And the might of the Assyrian army was such that king Sennacherib became proud and vain, thinking that nothing on earth and even in heaven could have stand up against him and his empire’s might.

And that was how king Sennacherib blasphemed against God before the walls of Jerusalem, as he mocked the sons and daughters of Israel with their God, calling their continued resistance and clinging unto hope in God as being useless and meaningless. And in his pride and hubris, thinking that he had all the power in the world and thinking that he had nothing and no one to account to by himself, he sinned against God through his words and deeds.

This was then when the Lord reassured His people, from king Hezekiah of Judah and the entire people in Jerusalem and Judah through His prophet Isaiah, whom He sent with His words saying that despite all of his might and the vast armies he possessed, king Sennacherib of Assyria would never conquer Jerusalem and he would never achieve whatever he had desired for, and that his armies would be crushed by the hands and the power of God, and the king himself would meet his just end for all the sins that he had committed against God and men alike.

Thus God also sent His Angels, destroying the entire armies of the Assyrians during the night, and a total of no less than a hundred and eighty-five thousand mighty warriors of the Assyrians perished, certainly a great humiliation for the king who had to abandon the siege and return to his homeland in great shame, his pride and hubris crushed by the righteousness and justice of God, and it was told then he was murdered by two of his own sons who probably desired his power and kingdom.

This is what the Lord spoke to His disciples about in our Gospel passage today, when He spoke to them on the matter of how difficult it is and will be to enter the kingdom of God, like passing through a narrow gate. Many people had attempted it and failed, and many more will try to go through and not be able to make it through. And the main reasons of these failures have been covered just earlier on. The pride, ego, hubris, ambitions and the desires of our hearts are the ones responsible for keeping us away from God.

As long as we allow our lives, our words and actions, our paths to be swayed and controlled by these things, we will not be able to progress further in this path towards salvation in God. For worldly desires, pride and greed in us keep us away from God, making us selfish and inward looking, thinking only about ourselves and our carnal desires and wishes, and failing to do what we need to do in order to attain the worthy entry into the eternal kingdom of God, and earn the grace of eternal life and true joy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of what had happened to king Sennacherib of Assyria, his hubris and pride that led to his downfall, his greed and sins that brought him to infamy and probably damnation, let us all reflect on our own lives and actions. Have we been faithful to the Lord as we should have all these while? Have we been dedicating ourselves and our actions for the glory of God, or have we instead been so engrossed with our own selfish desires, indulging our ego and pride, our greed and worldly concerns and wants?

Let us all therefore turn towards God with all of our hearts from now on, and let us all be ever filled with love for Him, and instead of allowing pride, hubris, greed and desire to lead us astray and down the wrong path, we should remove from our hearts all these pride and unhealthy desires and attachments, so that we may be able to come closer to God and grow stronger in faith. Let us not meet our downfall and end like king Sennacherib and like so many others who have fallen into sin and even damnation because they could not resist the temptation of the flesh and worldly glory and ambition.

May the Lord help each and every one of us, that we can all be more humble and be more attuned with Him in faith, that instead of living for our own selfish desires and wants, our ambitions and pride, we can from now on live faithfully and be ever closer to God, and be exemplary in humility, in piety and devotion, that everyone who see us and witness our words and actions may truly believe in God through us, and by our righteousness, virtues and faith, may we be worthy of God’s eternal kingdom and glory. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 7 : 6, 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs, or throw your pearls before pigs. They might trample on them, and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.”

“So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you : there, you have the Law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the road, that leads to destruction, and many go that way. How narrow is the gate that leads to life; and how rough, the road; few there are, who find it.”