Thursday, 2 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 17 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in Me. May they all be one, as You Father are in Me and I am in You. May they be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

“I have given them the glory You have given Me, that they may be one as We are One : I in them and You in Me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that You have sent Me, and that I have loved them, just as You loved Me.”

“Father, since You have given them to Me, I want them to be with Me where I am, and see the glory You gave Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me.”

“As I revealed Your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and also may be in them.”

Saturday, 22 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are reminded of the need for all of us to love the Lord and entrust ourselves to Him, and often times we will find that giving ourselves to the service of God would require making a sacrifice on our side, and believe in His loving kindness despite the trials, challenges and obstacles we may face in our respective journey through life.

In our first reading today, as we listened to the words of the Lord, we heard the tragic story of the defeat of King Saul and the forces of Israel at the battle of Mount Gilboa against the Philistines. The Philistines were a powerful neighbouring people of the Israelites who at that time were on the rise and were making attacks and raids deep into the lands of the Israelites causing untold sufferings and harm to the people of God.

The forces of the Israelites was defeated, King Saul and his sons, including Jonathan, David’s close friend, were killed. The sins committed by Saul and his disobedience against God eventually contributed to this loss, as his lack of faith in God meant that they lost the guidance and providence from God. The news of that bitter defeat was relayed to David, who as the one chosen by God and anointed as the new King of Israel, had been waiting anxiously for the news of what happened.

Certainly, David was devastated at the news of the loss of not just the king and the forces of Israel, but also his close friend, Jonathan, Saul’s son. He sang a song of lamentation for them, even for Saul, who had previously tried to harm him and plotted against his life because of his place as the chosen one to replace the former as King. David entrusted his fate to the Lord, and if we recall yesterday’s reading, of David sparing Saul and his men, and did not kill them despite having the perfect chance to do so, showed us just how much David trusted in the Lord, unlike Saul who disobeyed Him.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the curious passage from the Gospel, in which we heard about the Lord and His disciples performing their work, and they were so busy in doing their work that they had no time to rest at all and even eat, and they all became hungry. We heard how the relatives of the Lord took charge of Him and told the people, that He was out of His mind. That was because He spent so much time at work and His ministry, that He did not spend much time with His family.

The Lord and His disciples, whom He had called from diverse origins, all committed themselves to the calling and ministry that God had entrusted to them. In the Lord’s own words, we heard in another occasion in the Gospels how He had no place to lay His head, and He and His disciples often had to spend time in the wilderness, travelling from places to places in ministering to the people of God, and at times also evading the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who often shadowed and followed them.

This is a reminder for us that following the Lord isn’t always an easy and comfortable journey, and more often than not, we may be required to make plenty of sacrifices along the way. Those sacrifices were not without merit though, as everyone who had given themselves to the Lord and committed themselves to Him shall receive from Him the affirmation and assurance of eternal life and glory. They shall never be disappointed and they shall attain the grace of heavenly glory reserved for those who have kept their faith in God.

Today we celebrate the feast of a great saint whose faith and dedication to the Lord can inspire us to follow Him more wholeheartedly, namely that of St. Vincent the Deacon, a holy martyr of the faith. St. Vincent, also known as St. Vincent of Zaragoza, was a deacon in the Roman town of Caesar Augusta, the precursor of modern Zaragoza. He was serving the Bishop of Zaragoza and the flock of the faithful there during the difficult years of intense persecutions of the faithful under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Vincent and the bishop among many other Christians were arrested as part of that great persecution, and he refused to burn the Sacred Scriptures as ordered by the Roman governor, and chose to stay faithful despite the certainty of death in doing so. He also rebuked the actions of the governor and affirmed that no amount of coercions or threats could change their minds, as they would rather choose to suffer and die rather than to disobey and abandon God. That was how St. Vincent was martyred, according to tradition, by burning on a hot gridiron.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all follow the inspiring examples set by St. Vincent the Deacon and many other of our holy and dedicated predecessors, and let us no longer be lukewarm in our faith but instead doing all that we can to follow the Lord wholeheartedly from now on, without fear and having full trust of the Lord, Who is always with us and journeying with us, even in the darkest moments of our lives. May God be with us all and may He bless all of our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 22 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Mark 3 : 20-21

At that time, Jesus and His disciples went home. The crowd began to gather again and they could not even have a meal. Knowing what was happening, His relatives came to take charge of Him, “He is out of His mind,” they said.

Saturday, 22 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 79 : 2-3, 5-7

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You, Who lead Joseph like a flock; You, Who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

O YHVH of hosts, how long will Your anger burn against the prayers of Your people? You have fed them with the bread of woe, and have given them tears to drink in their sorrow. You have made us the scorn of our neighbours and the laughingstock of our oppressors.

Saturday, 22 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

2 Samuel 1 : 1-4, 11-12, 19, 23-27

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, he stayed at Ziklag for two days. On the third day a man arrived from the camp of Saul with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. When he approached David, the man threw himself to the ground in homage.

David asked him, “Where are you from?” And he answered, “I have escaped from the Israelite camp.” David then said, “Tell me what happened.” And the man told him, “The soldiers fled from the battle but many of them fell and died. Saul and his son Jonathan – they too are dead.”

At this, David took hold of his clothes and tore them and his men did the same. And they mourned, weeping and fasting until evening, for the death of Saul and his son Jonathan, for all the people of Judah and for the nation of Israel.

David sang this song of lamentation for Saul and his son Jonathan, “Your glory, o Israel, is slain upon your mountains! How the mighty ones have fallen! Saul and Jonathan, beloved and cherished, neither in life nor in death were they parted; swifter than eagles they were and stronger than lions.”

“Women of Israel, weep over Saul who clothed you in precious scarlet. How the valiant have fallen! In the midst of the battle Jonathan lies slain on your mountains. I grieve for you, my brother Jonathan; how dear have you been to me! Your love for me was wonderful, ever more than the love of women. How the valiant have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!”

Friday, 21 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to reflect on what the Lord had told us through the accounts of David and how he spared Saul, the King of Israel, and not killing or harming him despite having the perfect opportunity to do so. Then we also heard the calling of the Twelve Apostles as those whom the Lord had chosen as the ones to be His chief helpers in spreading the Good News and in reaching out to as many people as possible.

First of all, as we heard from the first reading from the Book of Samuel, we heard how David who was pursued by King Saul had to go into hiding from place to place, and had to go into the cave in which they were cornered. But Saul and his men were not aware that David was just within their reach. At that moment, when Saul was sleeping, it was the perfect opportunity for David to strike at Saul and claim the Kingship of Israel for himself. After all, he had been made the rightful king and the chosen, anointed one of God through the prophet Samuel.

Yet, David did not do so, and only cut a part of the king’s robe, and even that was regretted by him. He knew that Saul himself was anointed by God like himself. Although God had indeed chosen him as the new King over all Israel to replace Saul, but David still acted with honour and recognised him still as king, and he did not want harm to come either to Saul or any of his men. If David had wanted it, he could have grabbed the opportunity and ended his own suffering and trials, seizing the power that was rightfully his. But he did not do so.

That is where we see what kind of man David was. He was truly filled with love for God, a true and genuine love for his Lord and Master. He did everything to serve the Lord and to glorify His Name, and because of that, he put himself in the righteous way of the Lord. For although he has been chosen as the new King of Israel, but that should not have given him the justification to murder a person in the time of his weakness, and less still to do so for the pursuit of power and personal glory. He chose to entrust himself and his fate to the Lord, and made his peace with Saul. It was at that very same occasion in which Saul recognised David as the next, rightful King or Israel.

In the Gospel passage today, we then heard from the story of the calling of the Twelve Apostles, whom God chose from among all of His disciples. The Lord called His Apostles to be the ones to do His works and to bring forth the Good News of salvation to more people, as they did in those years after He has ascended into Heaven. The Apostles went to many places, doing the Lord’s works and establishing the foundations of the Church and building the Christian communities in those places.

They led the faithful through their righteous and just leadership, and through all that they had done in putting God’s works before everything else. They sacrificed a lot in their efforts, suffering persecutions and even having to shed blood and die for the glory of God. They had to endure exile and other forms of difficulties, and yet, they remained virtuous and patient, full of faith in the Lord and they did not allow the temptations and pressures from the world around them to sway them otherwise.

Today, all of us are also presented with the good faith and examples as set by St. Agnes, a renowned Roman martyr from the time of intense persecutions of Christians and the Church. St. Agnes was born into a noble family in Rome, and she was also born as a Christian. At that time, the Roman state and the Emperor were very much against the Christian faith and the Church, and in one last brutal attempt to eradicate them and destroy the threat that Christianity posed to the traditional Roman beliefs and religion.

St. Agnes as a young Roman noblewoman had many suitors and those who were interested in her. Many of those suitors were rejected by St. Agnes as she had dedicated herself to the purity of her dedication to God. She consecrated herself and her virginity, not allowing any of those men to desecrate her virginity and sanctity. This led to some among her suitors to be angry at her, and reported her to the authorities as a suspected Christian, which was a crime then punishable by death.

The Roman prefect, named Sempronius condemned her to death and attempted to kill her by various methods. However, the attempts by several men to defile her virginity failed because they were immediately struck blind before the deed. The attempts to hurt her by other means such as burning on a stake also failed when the flames refused to burn the wood. Eventually, it was by beheading or being stabbed in the throat that St. Agnes met her end through martyrdom, and yet her reward in God is glorious.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have just discussed and through the life of St. Agnes of Rome, we can see how God was always with us and He has always guided us and protected us just as how He prevented those men from defiling the sacred virginity of St. Agnes. The Lord has always been with us and He will guard us against those that intend to harm us. We must have faith in Him and believe in His providence.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore put ourselves in the hands of the Lord and commit ourselves to His embrace, knowing that in Him alone lies our hope and our salvation. May the Lord be with us all and may He give us the strength to follow Him wholeheartedly rom now on, and always, without fear or worry. Amen.

Friday, 21 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 3 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed Twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘Apostles.’ He wanted to send them out to preach; and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Canaanean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Friday, 21 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 56 : 2, 3-4, 6 and 11

Have mercy on me, o God, have mercy; for my soul takes refuge in You; I will find shelter in the shadow of Your wings, till the disaster has passed.

I call on God the Most High; on God, Who has done everything for me : may He send from heaven, a Saviour, and put my oppressors to shame. May God send me His love and faithfulness.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Your glory be over all the earth! For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Friday, 21 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Samuel 24 : 3-21

So Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel and went in search of David and his men to the east of the Wild Goat crags. When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he entered a cave to relieve himself.

Now David and his men were far back in the cave. David’s men said to him, “This is the day which YHVH spoke of : ‘Look I will deliver your enemy into your hands and you will do with him as you see fit.’” So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David regretted having cut off an end of Saul’s robe, and he said to his men, “Let me not lay my hands on my master, for he is YHVH’s anointed.”

With these words, David restrained his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way. Then David himself stepped out of the cave and called after Saul, “My master, the king!” When Saul looked back, David knelt and then bowed to the ground in homage and asked him, “Why do you listen to those who say that I want to harm you?”

“Look, today you have seen that YHVH delivered you into my hands in the cave. I was told to kill you but I held myself back and said : ‘I will not lift my hands against my master who is YHVH’s anointed.’ My father, look at this end of your robe which I am holding! I cut off the end of your robe but did not kill you.”

“Now you may know that I mean you no harm or treason. I have done you no wrong and yet you are hunting me down to kill me. May YHVH be judge between you and me; and may He exact justice from you in my case. But I shall do you no harm. As the saying goes, ‘From the wicked comes wickedness’; as for me, my hand shall not harm you.”

“But who is it you are after, o king of Israel? Are you pursuing a dead dog? A flea? May YHVH be Judge between you and me. May He see and uphold my cause and deliver me from your hands.”

After David had spoken these words, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, my son David?” He wept aloud and said to David, “You are right and I am wrong, for you have repaid with kindness the harm I have inflicted on you. This day you have shown your righteousness to me by not taking my life when YHVH put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go unharmed?”

“May YHVH reward you for what you have done for me today. Now I know for certain that you shall reign and the kingdom of Israel will be firm in your hand.”

Thursday, 20 January 2022 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Sebastian, Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember the love that God has shown us by His many ways of extending His help and providence to us. God reached out to us through the people we encounter in our lives and He also sent us none other than His own beloved Son to be our Saviour. Through Him and His coming into our midst, we have heard the Lord’s love manifested and giving us all a new hope.

In our first reading today we heard the account from the Book of the prophet Samuel in which the story of David and how he was almost harmed by King Saul out of jealousy and fear was brought to us. At that time, David was a servant of the king, a great warrior and leader entrusted with the forces of the Israelites, and David became very famous especially after he managed to defeat the great Philistine champion, Goliath, the story of which we heard just earlier yesterday.

David had also been anointed as the new chosen King over the Israelites by Samuel himself, as the one whom God had chosen to be the leader over His people in place of King Saul. Saul came to know that David was the one chosen to be his successor, and he was overcome with fear, resulting in him attempting to bring harm upon David. Fortunately for David, he came to befriend Jonathan, one of the sons of King Saul who favoured and liked him. As such, he was able to evade Saul’s attempts to harm him.

David had to endure difficulties and challenges because of his growing popularity and the fact that God had chosen him as the successor to Saul, and he even had to go into exile and hiding when Saul wanted to kill him. Jonathan, the son of Saul helped him to escape and from then on, David went on a journey from place to place, evading Saul while trying to do good for the people of God. God was with him all the way, and eventually he would become the King of Israel.

Then, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus and His disciples were going around from place to place, ministering to the people of God, and He healed many of those who were sick among them, casting out demons from those who were possessed and delivering the truth of God, revealing the true purpose and intention of the Law so that they may come to believe in God and be saved by following His path in their lives.

The Lord’s coming into this world, Him dwelling in our midst as the manifestation of God’s love in the flesh, to be our Saviour, is a proof of His ever enduring love and compassionate nature, in all that He has done for us, in calling us to follow Him and in showing us the way and path towards eternal life and true happiness with Him. And as long as we remain faithful to Him and walk in the path that He has shown and taught us through His Church, we shall have that assurance from God.

We have no need to be afraid of the challenges and trials facing us, because God Himself is with us, journeying with us and guiding us down our way. Just as He has provided for David, He will also provide for us all as well. Today, we have two saints whose feast we are celebrating, whose lives can be great inspiration for us to follow. These two servants of God, Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian had endured great tribulations for their faith, and yet they remained faithful to the Lord, enduring those sufferings with great faith and commitment to the very end.

Pope St. Fabian was the leader of the Universal Church during the difficult years of persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperors and the state. He was chosen when according to tradition, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the shape of a dove, in the sight of the assembled faithful. He was credited with the evangelisation and the efforts to spread the Good News in Gaul, what is today part of France. This happened during a relative lull and relaxation in the harsh persecution of Christians.

However, the rise of Emperor Decius to power ended the temporary halt to persecutions and this was accompanied with renewed attack against the Christian communities, in which many of the faithful were arrested and persecuted, and many among them suffered martyrdom for their faith. He ordered all the subjects of the Empire to offer incense to the images and figures of the Roman deities, the pagan gods and the idol of the Emperor, which were refused by the Christian communities as idolatrous.

That was how Pope St. Fabian became one of the first to suffer persecution and then martyrdom under the reign of the new Emperor, either through imprisonment or execution according to different Apostolic traditions. Pope St. Fabian remained faithful to his mission to the very end, giving himself wholly to the works entrusted to him by the Lord. And through his courageous defence of the faith and zeal of evangelisation, he inspired all of us on how to become good and faithful disciples and followers of the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Sebastian was a soldier who was a high ranking member of the Roman military and likely one of the elite members or even captain of the Praetorian Guards involved in protecting the Emperor. At that time, the Roman Emperor Diocletian and the other leaders of the Roman state ordered a particularly harsh and brutal persecution of Christians, as they forced the faithful to either obey the order of the Emperor to give offerings to the pagan idols and to abandon their faith or face certain suffering and death.

St. Sebastian according to tradition was involved in the conversion of several prisoners, who became Christians and helped some others to be freed from persecution. Eventually he himself was discovered and when he was confronted to reveal the truth about his conversion, put under arrest and was tied to a tree, and archers were told to shoot their arrows at St. Sebastian. Miraculously, even as endured the torture and pain,St. Sebastian never flinched from his sufferings. He remained strong in faith and was eventually martyred later after he rebuked the Emperor and his actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have seen from our two holy predecessors, we have no need to be afraid or fearful, just as Pope St. Fabian and St. Sebastian had been courageous in the living of their faith to the very end. Like King David, who entrusted himself to the Lord, and God protected him, then we too shall be in God’s good hands. Let us not be afraid against those who can only harm us in body but not our souls. By following God wholeheartedly, we shall find the path to eternal glory and true joy with Him. May God be with us all, and may He empower each one of us to live in His presence, at all times. Amen.