Saturday, 4 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter (First Reading)

Acts 16 : 1-10

Paul travelled on to Derbe and then to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy lived there, whose mother was a believer of Jewish origin but whose father was a Greek. As the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him.

So he took him and, because of the Jews of that place who all knew that his father was a Greek, he circumcised him. As they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, for the people to obey. Meanwhile, the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number every day.

They travelled through Phrygia and Galatia, because they had been prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the message in the province of Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go on to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to do this. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

There one night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and begged him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” When he awoke, he told us of this vision and we understood that the Lord was calling us to give the Good News to the Macedonian people.

Friday, 3 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles (Scripture Reflection)

Christ did not die, but He lives. He did not die a death that lasts, since He was risen by God the Father from the land of the dead, as the firstborn from the dead, the first One to rise from death and conquer death itself, to prove that death does not have the final say, and neither Satan, the evil one, has final say over us, and all creation.

For Christ, through His death and then His resurrection, made all creations new, and He rejuvenated all of creation, by the shedding of His Most Precious Body and Blood, which He offered as a perfect and unblemished sacrifice that day on the cross on Calvary. The Lamb of God, the Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed for us, and has been found worthy, that we too, can be found worthy by God, our Father.

We are the sons and daughters of God, our Father, and therefore we should also be like our Father, who is good and perfect. Yet, sadly, we had been tainted by the evils of sin, by the disobedience of Adam our forefather, and Eve, his wife, being seduced by Satan, the deceiver. But God did not want  us to suffer death and eternal separation from Himself, and He wants us to be once again worthy of Him who is good and perfect.

Christ became the new Adam who renewed mankind’s contract with God, by providing them with a new life through the Spirit, but this time, He completed and made perfect that union between God and mankind, sealed through His own blood, as He is fully man and fully divine, indivisible and one. Christ came so that we can have hope once again, of life in the Spirit. God breathed life into mankind by His Spirit, that is His breath, but mankind squandered that life and made it imperfect by their disobedience.

The Blood of the Lamb that is sacrificed on the cross justifies all those who believe in the One sent by God, that is Christ, once again, and made them whole, just like the days before the fall of mankind. He then was resurrected from the dead and became the living proof and truth of all that He Himself had brought and taught to all those who had listened to Him and His preaching,

Today, we commemorate the feast day of the two apostles of Christ, in both St. Philip and St. James, both of whom became His witnesses to the entire world. They preached the Good News of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, which are indeed Good News, for they brought the long-awaited redemption to all mankind who believes in God and in Christ, His Son.

St. Philip and St. James worked hard to spread the Good News of the Lord to the many peoples of their time, and they converted many to the cause of Christ. Philip once told and explained the Word of God to the emissary of the ruler of Ethiopia, and converted him through the word of God and baptism. They did many other good things, just as Christ Himself had said, that those who belong to God, will do just like what the Lord Himself had done, that is what Christ had done in His short life and ministry in this world.

St. James, who was also called James the Just, became the first leader of the Christians in Jerusalem, becoming its first bishop and was one of the most important leaders of early Christendom with Peter, the leader of all the apostles and disciples.

Both of them endured rejection, persecution, and intense suffering for their service of the Lord, and they ultimately faced death with courage, in their ministry and in their defense of their faith in God. They had done well in this earth, and were rewarded with eternal life with Christ that is their due. Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we follow in their footsteps? The footsteps of the apostles and many other holy men and women who had walked the same path in following the example of Christ in doing God’s commandments and what is good in His eyes?

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us strive to be more like these holy apostles, and follow in their footsteps, to be always courageous in proclaiming the Word of God and the Good News, to our fellow men, and to explain them to our brethren in faith, who are wavering in their faith in God. For in our world today, there is still a great need, if not greater than ever, for evangelisation, to bring light to many in our world, darkened by sin.

May God bless us and strengthen our faith and love, and may His holy apostles and saints pray for us and watch over us. Pray for us, St. Philip and St. James, apostles, that we may be more like you and can dedicate ourselves to Christ our Lord, ever more. Amen.

Friday, 3 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

John 14 : 6-14

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you know Me, you will know the Father also; indeed you know Him, and you have seen Him.”

Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough.” Jesus said to him, “What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever sees Me sees the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?”

“All that I say to you, I do not say of Myself. The Father who dwells in Me is doing His own work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; at least believe it on the evidence of these works that I do.”

“Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in Me will do the same works that I do; and he will even do greater than these, for I am going to the Father. Everything you ask in My Name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon My Name, I will do.”

Friday, 3 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles (Psalm)

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.

Friday, 3 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles (First Reading)

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-8

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then He appeared to James and after that to all the apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me.

Thursday, 2 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor (Scripture Reflection)

Today, we hear the words of Christ, that we all should love, just as Christ and His Father, our Lord have loved us, so then we should also love them back with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls. For love lies at the very centre of our faith in God, and it is in love that we truly can have faith in Christ. If we have no love in us, we can never be truly faithful to Christ and to God, for without love, we cannot possibly understand what they are doing and what they have done, for our sake, and for our own good.

Love one another as God has loved us. Indeed, it may seem to be easy for many to say that they can love, but in fact, love should not be taken for granted, for the ability to love is not as easily obtained as one would think, but true love require great dedication and effort, in order for love to be present, to be maintained, and to be able to flourish. Our world lacks love, and it is in this lack of love, that the many problems of our world can trace their roots from.

Have we followed Christ’s commandments, the commandments of love, to love one another as unconditionally as Christ had loved us? He died for all of us, by suffering on the way to Calvary and finally hung between the heaven and the earth, so that all of us may be saved from death that is our fate, and by His resurrection we can share in His life, that all of us will have eternal life in Him. This He offered to everyone, even to those who hated Him, and even to those who persecuted Him, and His people.

To be able to love is a great blessing to all of us. If we are able to learn more about love, and how to love, we will be able to transform ourselves, but indeed not just ourselves, but also those around us, and many other things surrounding us. Love is indeed the key to life, life eternal in God, both for ourselves and to those to whom we show and reflect God’s love.

Today, we celebrate the memorial and feast of a great saint, Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, who was one of the great early Church Fathers that helped to establish the Church of God, and strengthened the faith of the people of God, in the onslaught of heresies and heretical thoughts espoused by those who the devil had entrusted to destroy God’s Church. The devil hates love, and therefore, it is only natural that he will want to destroy the very place where love can still be found in this world, that is in the Church of God.

St. Athanasius defended the Church against the heretical teachings of Arius, the popular presbyter and preacher, who espoused the idea that Christ is not fully man and fully divine, and rather just as a man, a mere human, without divine qualities, as we believe in our Creed. St. Athanasius had to suffer exile and persecution due to his steadfast defense of the Lord and the true faith in God, against these heresies. Yet he prevailed, and due to his ceaseless efforts to bring many back to the true faith in God, he managed to prevail in the end, and bring back countless ones back into God’s Church and therefore into God’s love.

For we have to remember always that Christ is no mere human, for He is the Son of God, both fully human and fully divine at the same time. He is God, and with God since the beginning of time. And it was because of the great and infinite love that God has for all of us, that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be man like us, and in this great love, we are saved and are given chance for eternal life, if we would receive His divine love and that He is our Lord and God.

For if we believe that Christ is just mere human, then there would be no hope for all of us, all of us beloved by God and who place our trust in Christ. For a human’s blood has no power to free us from the chains of slavery of sin, which Satan has imposed on us, since the rebellion of our forefathers, Adam and Eve, our ancestors. But because Christ is God, and with God, one with He who created us, we have hope since the Lamb of God Himself shed His Precious Blood, that we can be saved, out of His great and infinite love for all His people.

Now that we know how much God has loved us, and how much He wants us to remain within His love and care, should we now then vow to our Lord and God, that we will love Him ever greater and ever more? Let us put our full trust in Him and follow in His ways, in the footsteps of St. Athanasius, the great defender of the true faith in Christ. St. Athanasius of Alexandria, pray for us. Amen.

Thursday, 2 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor (Gospel Reading)

John 15 : 9-11

As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Remain in My love! You will remain in My love if you keep My commandments, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

I have told you all this, that My own joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.

Thursday, 2 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor (Psalm)

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 10

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name.

Proclaim His salvation day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Thursday, 2 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor (First Reading)

Acts 15 : 7-21

As the discussions became heated, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that from the beginning God chose me among you so that non-Jews could hear the Good News from me and believe. God, who can read hearts, put Himself on their side by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them and cleansed their hearts through faith.”

“So why do you want to put God to the test? Why do you lay on the disciples a burden that neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? We believe, indeed, that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”

The whole assembly kept silent as they listened to Paul and Barnabas tell of all the miraculous signs and wonders that God had done through them among the non-Jews. After they had listened, James spoke up, “Listen to me, brothers. Symeon has just explained how God first showed His care by taking a people for Himself from non-Jewish nations.”

“And the words of the prophets agree with this, for Scripture says, ‘After this I will return and rebuild the booth of David which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again. Then the rest of humanity will look for the Lord, and all the nations will be consecrated to My Name. So says the Lord, who does today what He decided from the beginning.'”

“Because of this, I think that we should not make difficulties for those non-Jews who are turning to God. Let us just tell them not to eat food that is unclean from having been offered to idols; to keep themselves from prohibited marriages; and not to eat the flesh of animals that have been strangled, or any blood. For from the earliest of times Moses has been taught in every place, and every Sabbath his laws are recalled.”

Wednesday, 1May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we commemorate the great feast and memorial of St. Joseph, the foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. St. Joseph was well-known as a great and diligent worker, and as a good carpenter. He laboured hard to provide for the Holy Family, which consists of himself as the head of the family, Mary, the Mother of God, and of course, our Lord Jesus Christ, his foster-son.

St. Joseph is indeed a role model to all workers, to all who labour and toil for the sake of themselves, their families, and for those who are dear to them. Labour and pain had always been part and parcel of human life and nature, ever since our ancestors, Adam and Eve, rebelled against the will of God, by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge. They were punished with having to toil hard to survive in tough life on earth, having forsaken the easy and blissful life of heaven in Eden through their disobedience.

Yet, just like Mary, the Mother of God, whom through her perfect and unconditional obedience and surrender to the will of God, which allowed salvation to work through her and her Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, St. Joseph too, had a great role in the plan of salvation, in that, just as Christ is the new Adam who would reverse the sins of the first Adam, and bring mankind to salvation, St. Joseph, the foster-father of Christ, showed that he is an upright man, who endured with joy the labours and toils that he and his ancestors and all of us have to suffer for our rebellion.

St. Joseph the worker, worked hard and never complained. He remained an upright and just man, a man of strong principles and faith in God. He obeys and listens, just as how workers should be, and yet he is just and upright, and workers too should ensure that they are rightfully and justly treated, so as not to be manipulated by those who seek profit at the expense of these workers.

St. Joseph raised Jesus Christ, who was not his biological Son, but with love as great as any Father would and could show to their own child. His dedication to protect and bring up Jesus was truly evident, in how he helped to protect the child Jesus by the flight to Egypt, in order to avoid the persecution of Herod, and having to endure many tribulations in exile in Egypt, protecting our Lord from harm. He protected the Lord from the devil, whom through King Herod attempted to disturb the plan of salvation.

St. Joseph also taught the child Jesus on the importance of loving God in His life, by his guidance, and his bringing of Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the festival, showing to Jesus His true Father in heaven, and bringing Him close to the Father who loves His Son. St. Joseph is therefore the great role model and patron for all of us, because in one way or another, we are all workers and labourers in the eyes of the Lord.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we often heard, that the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. For we are the labourers of Christ, harvesting the fruits of the divine works of evangelisation, and indeed, there are many opportunities in our world today for even more evangelisation, to bring the Good News and the Word of God, to many who have yet to receive them, all over the world.

We need more labourers who are like St. Joseph in appearance and in spirit. We need many more men who are dedicated to their cause like St. Joseph the great worker did. For there are many works for us to do, and there are still so much opportunities, for us to follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph, and in the footsteps of the apostles. Let us follow their holy and wonderful examples, of labour that is both fruitful and filled with God’s love, that will surely bear much fruit. Our world needs love and peace that only the Lord can offer. Can we then, help to fulfill this and made such a world a reality? Where love and peace of God reigns?

May God bless us and protect all of us, and may He guide us through life, that from the fruits of our labour, we may taste the sweet fruits of love and glory, just as St. Joseph did, and in doing so, honouring God our Lord. St. Joseph, patron of workers and all who labour, pray for us. Amen.