Sunday, 24 May 2015 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark a truly great feast day of the Church, that is the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, at the fiftieth day of Easter, the culmination of our Easter celebration, and then, as the new beginning of the time of glory and service, as today also marks the birthday of the Church, the day when the Lord established His Church on earth, with the sending of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Helper to the Apostles and disciples, and the baptism of the three thousand people.

On this day, we rejoice, because God had reversed the bonds and destroyed the darkness in us, the lies of the devil and the confines of our selfish desires, and thrust upon us the undeniable and all-revealing light of truth, the very Light of our Lord Jesus Christ. God made it clear this day, by sending the Spirit of truth to dispel the darkness and the shackles of blindness that Satan and his allies has imposed on us, that is sin, desire, greed and selfishness.

If we look at the readings of the Vigil, we see in the beginning how God scattered men across the world by confusing their languages and causing divisions to appear among the people. We may think that this is something that God had done out of His anger at us, but if we look more closely at it, in fact, it was the pride and greed of mankind that had brought it upon themselves.

For since the beginning of time, men had always desired things that are often beyond their means, and as a result, they received harm instead. First, they were tempted by the devil to eat the fruits from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil, and as a result, they received the punishment for their disobedience of the word of God. This was the first sin.

And then, they did not repent and continued to sin, and God sent the Great Flood to destroy the wickedness in the world, and to purify mankind. Only the righteous Noah and his family was spared. But yet, they continued to gather in their pride and gave in to their greed, that they endeavoured to build the highest building possible, the Tower of Babel.

And their aim was to reach out even to the heavens itself, and for their arrogance and pride, the disrespect that they showed against God, they received their just reward, and God scattered them all, to show them that God alone has the power and might, and all of us and our pride cannot stand before the might of God.

However, God did not punish and then leave us alone in suffering. Instead, He gives us chance and opportunities to change our ways and repent, and to those who do so, He gives succour from the sufferings which have been ours because of our disobedience. And that is by giving us the Spirit of truth, and the Spirit of life, so that our afflictions may be healed, and all falsehoods may be dispelled.

The disciples being able to speak many languages, is a proof of this revelation, that God would lift up the punishment from those who have willingly put themselves in the path of salvation and devote themselves to Him. The veil of darkness and the veil of ignorance and the lack of knowledge had been lifted up from them, and Wisdom itself entered into them by the Holy Spirit.

Pope St. John Paul II once said in his Papal Coronation and Enthronement ceremony, that we must not be afraid to open up the doors of our heart to the Lord. We must open wide these doors indeed, so that the Spirit of truth may come into us, dwell into us and transform us. During his visit to his country, Poland, then a Communist country oppressed by ideologies hostile to the Faith, he said, inspired by the passage from the Holy Scriptures, that may the Holy Spirit come down upon the earth and renew it thoroughly.

And today is such a perfect occasion, the coincidence that today is both Pentecost Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for another Church that is in suffering and persecution, that is the Church in China. In China, ever since the takeover by the Communist regime in 1949, the Church has been suffering in various degrees for the past almost seventy years.

And so today, we have to pray, and pray that the Lord will indeed send His Spirit and His might, that eventually our suffering brethren of the Church suffering in China, may be relieved from their burdens, and from all the oppressions that the enemies of the Faith had placed on them. Remember that it does not matter how the forces of this world try to destroy the Church and the faithful, they shall never succeed. For God will protect all those who have entrusted themselves to Him.

Just as God eventually triumphed and cast down all the oppressors of the faithful and the holy ones in Poland and beyond, the same too He will promise and do for all of His faithful persecuted no matter where it may be, and when it may be. But at the moment, the situation remains very dire, and blatant disregard and assault on the freedom of the faithful to worship the Lord freely is rampant. We need to pray for our brethren in China, that the Lord will soon deliver them from this great suffering.

This day is also a reminder for us that God has given us many gifts through the Holy Spirit, that is the fruits of the Holy Spirit, namely love, joy, patience, peace, goodness, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity and others. But these fruits will never grow if we do not cultivate and utilise the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us.

Remember what the Lord Jesus told His disciples about the fig tree that is barren? Remember what He did to it? He cursed that barren fig tree, and the fig tree which was without any edible fruits withered and died. Then in another separate occasion, Jesus told the disciples about the tree that does not bear fruit, and the farmers wanted to kill and uproot the plant, for it has no use. But the Master gives it a chance, by pruning it and giving it more fertilisers to grow, hoping that it will bear fruit.

Thus, the Lord has also done the same to us. He gave us the Holy Spirit not just as a gift for us just to be passive and wait passively for salvation. Instead, on the other hand, God gave us His Holy Spirit so that we may be actively pursuing the works which He had taught us to do, that is to love one another tenderly, to show concern for the oppressed, for the poor, sick and dying. It is also to show concern for the salvation of souls, by sincerely and truly being concerned about how the people around us are falling into hell because of what they have done.

If we do things according to God’s will, then we will bear many fruits, and the Lord who sees what we have done, and what we have produced will be satisfied and will be pleased at us. And our reward in heaven shall be rich and great. Indeed, the giving of the Holy Spirit is not just a one-off event, but a continuous call for us to work ceaselessly and act ceaselessly in accordance to the way of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this event of Pentecost Sunday, the season of Easter may have come to an end, but this does not mean that our Easter joy should end. Rather, as I have mentioned, it is a new beginning, that just as the Church was born on this day, we too should renew our commitment to the very mission which our Lord had entrusted us, when He gave us the Spirit. This mission is for us to be the witnesses of the Lord, to be the bearers of His Good News to all the peoples of all nations.

May the Lord our God Almighty be our guide, and strengthen our resolve always to live out our lives in accordance to the truth which He had revealed to us through the gift of His Holy Spirit. Let us all also commend in our prayers today, our brethren persecuted in China, by the godless and the worldly peoples and authorities, and let us then also pray for all others persecuted for their Faith around the world, asking God that He may send His Holy Spirit to renew the whole world, and give succour to all those who are currently suffering. God be with all of us. Amen.

Sunday, 24 May 2015 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 20 : 19-23

At that time, on the evening of 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.”

Alternative reading

John 15 : 26-27 and John 16 : 12-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “From the Father, I will send you the Spirit of truth. When this Helper has come from the Father, He will be My witness, and you, too, will be My witnesses, for you have been with Me from the beginning.”

“I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into the whole truth. He has nothing to say of Himself, but He will speak of what He hears, and He will tell you of the things to come. He will take what is Mine and make it known to you; in doing this, He will glorify Me.”

“All that the Father has is Mine; because of this, I have just told you that the Spirit will take what is Mine, and make it known to you.”

Sunday, 24 May 2015 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 12 : 3b-7, 12-13

No one can say, “Jesus is the Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There is diversity of gifts, but the Spirit is the same. There is diversity of ministries, but the Lord is the same. There is diversity of works, but the same God works in all. The Spirit reveals His presence in each one with a gift that is also a service.

As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptised in one Spirit to form one body and all of us have been given to drink from the one Spirit.

Alternative reading

Galatians 5 : 16-25

Therefore I say to you : walk according to the Spirit and do not give way to the desires of the flesh! For the desires of the flesh war against the spirit, and the desires of the spirit are opposed to the flesh. Both are in conflict with each other, so that you cannot do everything you would like. But when you are led by the Spirit you are not under the Law.

You know what comes from the flesh : fornication, impurity and shamelessness, idol worship and sorcery, hatred, jealousy and violence, anger, ambition, division, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I again say to you what I have already said : those who do these things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy and peace, patience, understanding of others, kindness and fidelity, gentleness and self-control. For such things there is no Law or punishment. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its vices and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us live in a spiritual way.

Sunday, 24 May 2015 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 103 : 1ab and 24ac, 29bc-30, 31 and 34

Bless the Lord, my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour. How varied o Lord, are Your works! The earth full of Your creatures.

You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works! May my song give Him pleasure, as the Lord gives me delight.

Sunday, 24 May 2015 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 2 : 1-11

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. And suddenly out of the sky came a sound like a strong rushing wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared tongues as if of fire which parted and came to rest upon each one of them. All were filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

Staying in Jerusalem were religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered, all excited because each heard them speaking in his own language. Full of amazement and wonder, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear them in our own native language?”

“Here are Parthians, Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and foreigners who accept Jewish beliefs, Cretians and Arabians; and all of us hear them proclaiming in our own language what God, the Saviour, does.”

Saturday, 23 May 2015 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 7 : 37-39

At that time, on the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me; and let the one who believes in Me drink, for the Scripture says : ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.'”

Jesus was referring to the Spirit, which those who believe in Him were to receive; the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into His glory.

Saturday, 23 May 2015 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 8 : 22-27

We know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pangs of birth. Not creation alone, but even ourselves, although the Spirit was given to us as a foretaste of what we are to receive, we groan in our innermost being, eagerly awaiting the day when God will give us full rights and rescue our bodies as well.

In hope we already have salvation. But if we saw what we hoped for, there would no longer be hope : how can you hope for what is already seen? So we hope for what we do not see and we will receive it through patient hope.

We are weak, but the Spirit comes to help us. How to ask? And what shall we ask for? We do not know, but the Spirit intercedes for us without words, as if with groans. And He who sees inner secrets knows the desires of the Spirit, for He asks for the holy ones what is pleasing to God.