Monday, 18 May 2015 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the gift of baptism and the Holy Spirit which was given to the people who had turned their hearts to the Lord and who had hearkened to the Lord’s calling. The Lord in the Gospel today also mentioned to His disciples how He would go away from their midst for a while during His Passion and death, and how the disciples would be scattered. And yet, at the same time, He also promised that He would overcome the world and all the plots and evils designed against Him.

And it is through the Holy Spirit that our Lord worked His wonders. He sent the Holy Spirit to all of us who believe in Him, so that with the Spirit dwelling in us, we may be encouraged and strengthened in our conviction and in our faith, that no matter the difficulties and challenges, we would find strength and conviction to persevere through the challenges and oppositions that we would likely encounter as part of our journey of faith.

As we embark on this last week of Easter, we are preparing for the great solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday, when the Lord finally sent His promised Advocate and Helper, the Holy Spirit to His disciples in the form of tongues of flames. Therefore, since today, we should have started our preparations to celebrate this great feast and this significant event in the history of our Church and our salvation in God.

The Lord Jesus was telling us to be careful and to be ever vigilant, that if we adhere to His ways and follow His commandments and teachings, it is often that we will come into clash with the ways accepted and common to this world. And as a result therefore, there will be a few or even many times when we may be ostracised, rejected, looked down upon and persecuted for our faith and for our faithful actions and ways.

Remember that Jesus had also said that if the world hates us all, then we must keep in mind that it had hated Jesus first. Therefore, indeed, it is often that we have to make a conscious choice and decision, on whether to follow and obey the Lord but at the expense of rejection and persecution by the world and its forces, even by our own friends and relatives, or should we succumb to those pressures and embrace the acceptable ways of this world but at the expense of our faith?

Obviously, we should do the former and not the latter one. Jesus said, ‘Do not build for yourself a treasury that will not last, a treasury that thieves could steal and which moths and the elements could destroy. Rather, we all should build a treasury that lasts forevermore. This means that, rather than seeking for the acceptance of the world and risk losing our souls, which will bring us only temporary respite, human acceptance and praise that do not last, we should rather be concerned about the salvation of our souls.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we gather together today in devotion to God, let us all be mindful of our actions and what we are doing in our respective lives. All of us have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Lord Himself dwells within us, therefore, we all have to make sure that we are worthy bearers of our Lord’s presence, as the Temples of His holy presence and His dwelling in this world.

If we do not do as what He had commanded us, then it will indeed be scandalous and besmirching to the Holy Name of our Lord. If we truly belong to Him and if we want to be counted among His faithful, then we ought to act like one and do as He had taught us to do. And by doing so, then we will also be able to spread the Good News further as the Apostles had once done. This is the commandment that the Lord had given us, and we ought to take it seriously.

No one will take us seriously or believe in what we preach if we ourselves do not practice and do what we preach about. It is only when we show what we preach both through words and actions then we will be able to convince others to follow us and walk in the same path that we had walked. This is the essence of being a Christian. Our faith is not just about ourselves and about our own salvation, but it must include care and genuine concern for each other.

Brethren, let us remember that we are called to love not just the Lord only, as although that is the most important thing of all, but we must also show the same kind of love to our fellow brethren, to our brothers and sisters. May Almighty God bless us all and awaken in us the strength and courage to carry out the Good News of the Lord to all peoples through words and actions. May God be with us all. Amen.

Monday, 18 May 2015 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 16 : 29-33

At that time, the disciples of Jesus said to Him, “Now You are speaking plainly and not in veiled language! Now we see that You know all things, even before we question You. Because of this we believe that You came from God.”

Jesus answered them, “You say that you believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with Me.”

“I have told you all this, so that in Me you may have peace. You will have trouble in the world; but, courage! I have overcome the world.”

Monday, 18 May 2015 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 67 : 2-3, 4-5ac, 6-7ab

Arise, o God, scatter Your enemies; let Your foes flee before You. As smoke is blown by the wind, so blow them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before You.

But let the righteous be glad and exult before God; let them sing to God and shout for joy. Sing to God, sing praises to His Name. Rejoice in His presence.

Father of orphans and Protector of widows – such is our God in His holy dwelling. He gives shelter to the homeless, sets the prisoners free.

Monday, 18 May 2015 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. John I, Pope and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 19 : 1-8

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul travelled through the interior of the country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples whom he asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered, “We have not even heard that anyone may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Paul then asked, “What kind of baptism have you received?” And they answered, “The baptism of John.” Paul then explained, “John’s baptism was for conversion, but he himself said that they should believe in the One who was to come, and that One is Jesus.”

Upon hearing this, they were baptised in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Then Paul laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came down upon them; and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of them in all. Paul went into the synagogue and for three months he preached and discussed there boldly, trying to convince them about the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, 17 May 2015 : Seventh Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the last of the seven Sundays of Easter and the beginning of the last week of the Easter season. Next Sunday will be the Solemnity of the Pentecost, when we celebrate the great ending of the season of Easter, by recalling the birth of the Church through the sending and the descent of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and disciples of Christ.

And today we heard about how Jesus cares for all those who are under His care and protection. He prayed to His Father to bless and protect all those whom He had chosen and called, and to preserve them in His love so that they would not be lost, unless they themselves choose to be lost. This is to reflect the events that were about to happen at that time, when Judas, the faithless disciple betrayed Jesus and chose the greed of the world and money over faith to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us must understand that the fundamental part of our faith in God is to understand and comprehend the wholeness of the love of God. And this love is so great and so unconditional and selfless in nature, that for us all mankind who are used to the kind of selfish love and desires in the world, it is indeed difficult to understand the extent and nature of the love that God has for all of us.

But that is why our faith in God should be filled with the attempts by us to understand more about this love, which God had shown us, for God Himself is Love, and if we claim to know what love is, then we have to know what God has done for us. For we are all sinners and wicked in nature, through what we have done in our respective lives, be it in small or great things. And yet, God continues to love us and care for us, the love which He showed us by sending Jesus to our midst, that He may dwell among us, His beloved people and save us.

This celebration of Easter is truly a celebration of God’s love, which had been made real and concrete through Jesus, our Paschal Lamb, the Lamb of God who had willingly given Himself up to be sacrificed on the cross for us. From the cross He had offered up His Body and shed His Blood, as the perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sins, and by His Blood and His death therefore, we have been cleansed and made holy by the Lord Himself.

At the times past, after the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt, the people of Israel made a covenant with the Lord their God through Moses, who offered animal sacrifices on the altar at the foot of God’s holy mountain, and the blood of the lambs and goats sacrificed were sprinkled onto the people, who then became part of God’s covenant and became partakers in His grace and blessings.

Remember then, when our Lord Jesus Christ spoke at the Last Supper, the moment when He uttered the prayers we heard in today’s Gospel? Yes, the moment when He gave the bread and wine He blessed and transformed into His own real Flesh and Blood? He said, this is My Body which is given up for you, and this is My Blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins and as the seal of the new Covenant which God made with us all through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Jews who cried out for His death, asking for the crucifixion of the Saviour before Pilate, the Roman governor, spoke of how they would bear the Blood of the One they had condemned to death upon themselves and their own children, without realising the importance of these words. And often, we ourselves also overlook the importance of these words for our salvation. For this shows how by the Blood of the Paschal Lamb, Christ, we have been sanctified and consecrated to the Lord.

And unlike the blood of lambs and goats of the old days and times, this Blood is none other than the Most Precious Blood of our Lord and Saviour, and together with His Most Precious Body, we all have shared in them and become partakers in God’s new Covenant and therefore, receive the fullness of His blessings and grace. And all of us Christians that belong to the one and only Church of God, have been part of this new Covenant and sanctification that Christ mentioned, since the day of our baptism.

Regardless whether we were baptised as infants or as fully conscious adults, on the day of our baptism, we have cast aside our old life and our worldliness, and either by our conviction or by the conviction of our parents and godparents, we have made the decision to reject Satan and all of his evil and wicked lies, and vow to preserve the faith, the true faith and understanding of the Lord and His ways which have been passed down to us through the Church.

And by the waters of baptism, we are reborn anew, that is to be born again in the Lord. We have shared in the death of Christ, and we leave behind our sickened and corrupted old past, and then were raised again into a new life, sharing in our Lord’s resurrection. This is the essence of Easter and why we celebrate it with so much joy, because indeed it is inseparable from our own history of being saved in the Lord.

And then we also receive the Holy Spirit and its power and encouragement through the Sacrament of Confirmation, when our faith in the Lord is affirmed and strengthened. And we share in the Most Holy Eucharist, by receiving our Lord’s own Body and Blood, and thus become full participants and sharers in God’s Covenant that He has sealed with His own Blood and His own sacrifice on the cross.

We have all been consecrated and sanctified for the Lord, and He has chosen us all, to be loved by Him and to receive the fullness of His grace and love. As I have mentioned earlier, the Lord Himself is love, and by His love, the perfect and selfless love, He has willed for us all to repent and to change from our sinful ways, into new lives blessed by Him. And this is what had happened to us all.

But then, this then should remind us of what we need to do from now on. Christ is our Teacher, our Lord and our High Priest, and by the baptism we received, we have shared the same mission, the priestly, kingly and godly nature of our Lord. Therefore, we have a mission before all of us, that Christ Himself had entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, and therefore to all of us.

We have to carry the message of our Lord’s salvation to the nations, preaching His love and the care which He has shown us, to all the peoples, that they too may realise how great is the love that God has for them, just as He had shown us. God loves everyone, and it will indeed be very troubling if we have people who failed to be saved and rescued if it is within our power and ability to help them.

Let us therefore remember that we have been marked and chosen by our Lord to be saved, and we have been sanctified and prepared by Him, for a mission to continue His good works in this world, that is to save as many souls as possible from the darkness and sin, and from the depredations of Satan and all of his forces. Let us renew our commitments and efforts to help each other in reaching out towards salvation, and let us not be apathetic to the cries of our brethren who long to see and listen to the word of God. May God be with us all and with all of our endeavours. Amen.