Message and Reflection on the Occasion of the Great Feast Day of the Church, Solemnity of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and Vicar of Christ, and St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, the Patron Saints of Rome

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate in this moment, the great celebration of the Church, both of the Church of Rome, and the entirety of the universal Church, of the whole world, for we celebrate today the feast day of the two pillars that established and built up this Church, namely St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of the Apostles and the first Vicar of Christ, leader of the entire Universal Church, Keeper of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

And then the other one, St. Paul the Apostle, who was once a great sinner and enemy of the faithful, then called and made to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, to be the one to bring the Word of God’s salvation to all mankind, beyond the limitations of the Jews. And so, while St. Peter stood at the heart of Christendom, St. Paul is the brave and courageous evangeliser who spread wide the Christian message.

These two saints are two great saints and great role models for us, but they were also once ordinary and simple men, coming from unexpected origins, but ended up serving the Lord through their works and ministry to God’s people. And we celebrate their lives and their works today, and we hope that we all will be inspired by what they had done for the sake of God and His faithful.

St. Peter was a fisherman of the Lake Galilee, who was called by Jesus to be the shepherd of His sheep, that is all of us. He was made a fisher of man, as Jesus Himself had said when He called Peter and the other disciples to Himself. Meanwhile, St. Paul was an upper class Jew, who was brought up in strict and orthodox Jewish teachings, becoming kind of a fanatic who ended up persecuting many of the faithful in Israel, before he met the Lord on the way to Damascus and be converted to the cause of the faith.

In both of their stories, the two great saints, St. Peter and St. Paul had encountered a profound change in their lives after they met the Lord and professed their faith for Him. St. Peter was a brave person, but yet he feared death and persecution when the enemies of the Lord came for Him, and thus despite having vowed before the Lord that he would die for Him, he disowned the Lord three times before the Lord’s Passion and death.

And St. Paul was a great enemy of the faithful, the scourge of the believers, hunting down the faithful with zeal, but zeal that is mistaken in purpose and nature. He caused the death and suffering of many, and many would naturally have hated and feared him, but this was not what God intended from him. He was called and taken away, in an ultimate coup-de-grace against Satan, and was made to be the greatest champion of God’s cause in the world.

Both of them went on to spread the Good News to many parts of the known world of that time, the Roman Empire, together with the other Apostles and disciples of Christ who spread the Word of God to the ends of the earth. They went on to spread the Gospel to many cities, towns and villages across the Mediterranean, facing rejection and persecution in many places, but also acceptance by those who willingly received the Word for themselves.

They were persecuted by the Jews and the chief priests, who arrested them many times, harassed and tortured them many times, and handed them to the Romans to be jailed and punished many times. And in the end, both St. Peter and St. Paul went to Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire, ministering to the people of God there and eventually was martyred for the faith there.

The Empire was initially neutral and did not care about the faithful, but as time went on, the Empire and the Emperor Nero became hostile to the Christians, who were made as scapegoats of the many failures and disasters that befell the Empire, including the Great Fire of Rome. The Great Fire of Rome was allegedly started by Nero himself to build himself a grand palace in place of the rubble and ruins. He blamed the fire on the Christians, and as a result, many were martyred and sent to gladiatorial games to be butchered by lions and other wild animals.

St. Peter was martyred by crucifixion, but he did not feel it right to die in the same way as Jesus his Lord and God had died. Therefore, he asked to be crucified upside down, so that he would not die in the same way as his Lord and God. St. Peter embodied the faithfulness and indeed, true faith in God, that he faithfully carried out until the end. For St. Paul, he was beheaded in Rome as part of the great persecution against the faithful by the Emperor, and his blood was spilled that more seeds of faith might grow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we who are in the Church of God are the continuation of the ministry and the divine mission entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles, chiefly among which, St. Peter and St. Paul, who went to be martyred at the heart of the Empire that persecuted the faithful, marking the beginning of the long history of our Church, centred firmly on the authority of the Apostle Peter, whom the Lord had entrusted His Church to, and the entirety of the faithful ones of God that are part of that Church.

Today, we stand strong and courageous with the whole Church, inspired by St. Peter and St. Paul whose examples had inspired us in our own faith. St. Peter taught us to be faithful, and to keep that faith strongly in our lives that our lives may be truly based on a firm and living faith. Then St. Paul taught us how to love others, and how to bring the Lord’s salvation to all men as the manifestation of that love we have for each other.

And we also stand together with our Pope, as our leader, the shepherd of shepherds, and the vicar of the Chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ. For he is, as the Bishop of Rome, of that city where St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred, the successor of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ on earth, the leader of the entire Universal Church, through whom we keep our unity, that we may stay and remain as One Body in Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ had entrusted Peter with His sheep, the flock of His faithful, whom He asked Peter to take care and keep well. In that way, He entrusted His entire Church to Peter and His successors, the Popes, and they become the symbol of unity and the point of reference, through which the entire Church and the faithful drew their faith to God from.

Indeed, throughout history, sometimes the Popes had been corrupt and abused their power, but as a whole, the office of the Papacy, regardless of its past mistakes, remains as a very important and crucial institution, in particular in this increasingly confused and darkened world, where Satan grew in power day after day. And in addition, St. Paul also reminded us that it is important for us to go forth confidently to spread the Good News to all nations and all peoples.

We cannot evangelise most efficiently if our house itself is not in proper order. We have to ensure that the foundation of our faith is strong, so that we may grow stronger in faith and bring others to salvation. And this strong foundation of the faith can be found today in the Popes, and in the entirety of the teachings of the entire Magisterium of the Church, which the Popes are custodian and guardian of.

That is why we also pray and hope that our Church will be one, and all the estranged members of the Lord’s Body, that is the Church, will repent and come back to the Holy Mother Church, under the leadership of the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ, whom Jesus had appointed to be the leader of all of His faithful ones and to be the one to represent the Chief Shepherd on this world, a world darkened by the power of evil, the wolves trying to devour the innocent sheep and lambs of the Lord.

We pray that our brethren in the see of St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, and in the see of St. Mark, and those in the ‘communion’ born from the insistence and the greed of King Henry VIII and many others who had been misled by false prophets and leaders of the faith, will return to the Lord and be one again with us, even as we celebrate this feast day, and we ask that the two great saints pray for this to happen. For indeed, the unity of the Church is needed, as there is a need for us, greater than ever to stand up for the Lord against Satan and his forces marshalled against us.

The primacy of St. Peter must be upheld, and the primacy and supremacy of his successor the Pope must be upheld by all who believes in Christ, for once again, he is the one on whom the Lord had built His Church on, as the focal point for all the faithful in their faith to the Lord. Those who doubt this fact, fail to understand the meaning of the words when Jesus said, and His commission to Peter, to feed and support His lambs.

Our Church therefore must stand strong and remain truly faithful, and not an iota of its teachings, the teachings of the early Church fathers of the faith, must be lost or contravened. We cannot let this Church which Christ had built on solid rock foundation of Peter and His successors to stumble on the high waves and the storms of this world today. There are indeed many oppositions and currents trying to push the Church in the wrong direction, in the name of adjustment, accommodation and many other reasons, but I say brethren, that we ought to stay faithful as St. Peter had been faithful to the end! And we pray that our Pope, as the successor of St. Peter will keep his duty faithfully and keep close to the teachings of the entire Deposit of the Faith and the Apostolic Tradition.

And ultimately, in the spirit of St. Paul the Apostle, our Church must also be brave to stand up to the faith and spread it to those who are still in darkness and in ignorance or opposition to the faith, as St. Paul had once done. For too long in the recent decades that our Church had become timid in the face of opposition and rejection by the world. We need to rediscover that zeal of the faith and the commitment that St. Paul had once shown through his tireless ministries to the faithful throughout many places until his own martyrdom.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us pray for one another, and pray for our Church, that first, it may grow stronger in faith and grow more united in the faith to the Lord. May the Lord strengthen us all, that we may become more loving children of God, and a more loving and living Church. May St. Peter and St. Paul intercede for us and help us on our path, that we too may follow their examples in faith and love. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 June 2014 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 21 : 15-19

After they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.”

Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me.”

Saturday, 28 June 2014 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Galatians 1 : 11-20

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel we preached to you is not a human message, nor did I receive it from anyone, I was not taught of it but it came to me as a revelation from Christ Jesus.

You have heard of my previous activity in the Jewish community; I furiously persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it. For I was more devoted to the Jewish religion than many fellow Jews of my age, and I defended the traditions of my ancestors more fanatically.

But one day God called me out of His great love, He who had chosen me from my mother’s womb; and He was pleased to reveal in me His Son, that I might make Him known among the pagan nations. Then I did not seek human advice nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before me. I immediately went to Arabia, and from there I returned again to Damascus.

Later, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other Apostle except James, the Lord’s brother. On writing this to you, I affirm before God that I am not lying.

Saturday, 28 June 2014 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Saturday, 28 June 2014 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 3 : 1-10

Once when Peter and John were going up to the Temple at three in the afternoon, the hour for prayer, a man crippled from birth was being carried in. Every day they would bring him and put him at the Temple gate called “Beautiful”; there he begged from those who entered the Temple.

When he saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple, he asked for alms. Then Peter with John at his side looked straight at him and said, “Look at us.” So he looked at them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you : In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, walk!”

Then he took the beggar by his right hand and helped him up. At once his feet and ankles became firm, and jumping up he stood on his feet and began to walk. And he went with them into the Temple walking and leaping and praising God.

All the people saw him walking and praising God; they recognised him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, and they were all astonished and amazed at what had happened to him.

Message to the Faithful and Reflection on the Occasion of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday

Liturgical Colour : Red

Brothers and sisters in Christ! Today I wish you all Happy Pentecost and indeed happy birthday to us all as the members of His One Church, the One Body of Christ. Today is indeed the birthday of the Church, as the Pentecost day when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles marked the very beginning of the Apostolic ministry of the Church as we know it.

The Pentecost day from its name signify a period of fifty days since the celebration of the Passover, that is the Jewish Passover. Why do we call this solemnity, the solemnity of the Pentecost? That is because the Jews also celebrate Pentecost, but for a different purpose. After the people of Israel had been brought out of Egypt, they travelled for days through the desert, from the Red Sea to the Mount Horeb, or the Mountain of God.

There the people encamped on the plain, while Moses ascended up the mountain to meet the Lord and receive something that was truly very important. The Pentecost celebration by the Jewish people celebrated that moment when the Lord gave His gift, the Law which He revealed to Moses, to the people of Israel, as a guide on how they should live their lives worthily of the Lord. The Pentecost for the Jewish people therefore originally meant the reception of the Law as the means of enlightenment, that the people who was once lawless and without guide, now has the Law to guide them.

As we witnessed in the Scripture reading, the reading on the Tower of Babel, which many of us are quite familiar with, shows how mankind after creation had grown proud on earth with their accomplishments, and tried to challenge God by building the tower that reaches to the heavens. As a result, God punished mankind who had grown proud by confusing their languages and customs, that they become separated into many peoples and many languages. Hence the people of God became leaderless and without guidance.

But God did not intend to let this go on forever. So first through Moses He gave the people the Law, as the first guide for them to seek Him. But it is not perfect, for although the Law itself in its entirety is perfect, but mankind whose wisdom has been brought to disarray by God has different mindsets and ways of thinking. That is why we often disagree on many matters big and small, and we often have different opinions on things and other occurrences. The same therefore happened to how the people of God interpret the Law.

Some took a laidback and leisurely attitude to the Law, while others took the Law very seriously and even to the point of being very detailed and thorough in their observation of the Law. There were widely differing views and interpretations, which ended up in the corruption of the true meaning of the Law. The observation of the Law over time became ritualistic and formal observations, and the elders of the people over time interpret the Law in ever more varying ways so as to create extensive new rules and regulations that the people have to obey, an astounding six hundred and thirteen rules in all for the people to observe.

Hence, that is why the people grew ever more distant from the Lord, and they grew ever more wayward, particularly that of the leaders and the priestly class. These people grew to enjoy the power that they possess as judges of the people, and abused their power in many occasions. Over time, this grew worse, and these leaders ended up leading the people of God further from salvation, as they committed wicked things and sins before the eyes of God.

The Lord promised the coming of the Messiah, who would liberate the people of God and brought them to a new light and understanding about God. And He had well-prepared the people long before the coming of this Messiah, who came in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, and also the Son of God. He is the Word of God made flesh, and by entering into the material body of mankind, He entered our world in order to redeem it.

The Son, Jesus Christ was with God, and is now with God, and He is equal with the Father, and together with the Holy Spirit, He is One. Yes, there is only One God, omnipotent and unsurpassed in all things, but at the same time, the Oneness of the Lord consists also of three distinct and equal Divine Persons, in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each of them are equal to each other, but they are not the same to each other. Yet, they are perfectly bound in love, forming what we know as the Most Holy Trinity.

And this was the truth which the Messiah and Son brought into the world, together with the proclamation of God’s love and saving works, which He intended to fulfill through the works of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He taught the people of God by the means of parables and stories, as well as explanations, which He made even clearer to His disciples, the Apostles. But they had not been able to understand it yet before the coming of the Holy Spirit, for the understanding is in them, but their confused mind still blocked them from truly understanding the completeness of truth in Christ.

This is where the Pentecost came in, the Christian Pentecost, that is the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, the beginning of the Church of God on earth. Just as the first Pentecost involves the revelation of God through the Law, the second and greatest Pentecost involves the revelation of God in its completeness and fullness through the Holy Spirit Himself that descended directly to the people of God through the Apostles.

Jesus had promised the disciples often, that He would send them the Helper, or the Advocate, which in fact is the Holy Spirit. And He fulfilled that promise on the Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended like a fire on each of the disciples, who went on to preach from then on, without fear and full of courage, the truth about Christ and the Good News of His salvation, passing down the Holy Spirit to all those who are faithful to God.

The Holy Spirit filled the hearts of the disciples and their minds, inflaming in themselves the fire of wisdom, understanding and love. The Holy Spirit is the great Teacher promised by Jesus, that He would teach mankind the complete truth about the Law and the Love which God has for mankind, and through Him would come the entirety of the revelation of His plans for us, that is for our salvation.

The Most Holy Trinity is working in tandem in order to make sure that everything goes on smoothly. God the Father is the source of all things, of all knowledge, wisdom and power, and the Son, Jesus, is the channel, through which the Father made manifest all of His love for mankind, which culminated in His death on the cross, the ultimate proof of love by God for men. And lastly, the Holy Spirit is the energy, the power that makes everything possible, through which the grace of God enters mankind, and that was exactly what happened at the Pentecost.

We can see clearly the difference between what happened before the Pentecost and after that. Before the Pentecost, the disciples were often doubtful and fearful. Even when Jesus was still with them, they often had doubts and fears while following Him. When Jesus was arrested by the chief priests, the disciples were scattered, like sheep whose shepherd had been struck down. Even Peter denied the Lord three times in order to preserve his own safety, because he was uncertain, afraid and doubtful.

But after the Holy Spirit had descended on the disciples on Pentecost, there was a drastic and total change in attitude and outlook in them, that the once fearful disciples became courageous and fearless in proclaiming their faith openly. From the meetings that were carried under locked doors into the public preaching on the streets and in the Temple, and persevering even against the harsh persecution by the chief priests and the Pharisees. That is the power of the Holy Spirit.

However, all of this would not have been possible if they had not opened themselves and commit themselves to do the will of the Holy Spirit. We too, brothers and sisters, have received the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Confirmation, when the Spirit granted to us in Baptism is strengthened with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit like that of the Pentecost day when the flames of the Holy Spirit descended unto the disciples of Christ.

But we cannot be idle, for if we remain idle, then we will never bear any fruits of the Holy Spirit. There are seven fruits of the Holy Spirit, all of which bear the testimony of God’s love and blessing on us, and they need to be cultivated in us, if we are to bear these fruits. The Apostles and the disciples of Christ opened themselves completely to the Spirit and were committed to do the works of the Holy Spirit, and therefore they bore many fruits in their lives and received rich rewards in the end.

In the parable of the fig tree, Jesus said that a tree that bears no fruit or bad fruit is useless, and ought to be thrown into the fire and perish. That will be the same for us, if we fail to make use of the Holy Spirit which had been passed down to us through the Sacrament of the Church from the Apostles. We have to bear fruits, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, if we are to receive rich rewards from the Lord, otherwise, we will be cast out from His presence and unworthy of Him.

Let us all therefore, in this Pentecost day celebration, renew our commitment to the Lord, and recall the day when we received the Holy Spirit unto ourselves. Let the Holy Spirit make great works within us, that we may bring the love of God to all the peoples of all nations, and bring many souls closer to God, that they too may receive the Holy Spirit and be saved. God be with us all, and may His Spirit be upon us always. Amen.

Sunday, 8 June 2014 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 20 : 19-23

On the evening of that day, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.

Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” After saying this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”