Sunday, 13 May 2018 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, on which day we remember the day when the Lord Jesus ascended in glory into heaven, marking the end of His earthly ministry and work among His people, but not the end of His good works for us. He indeed ascended in Body and Spirit towards heaven, but He is still always ever present among us, for after all, He is God, ever-omnipresent.

And He has not left us all alone in this world, but rather, He promised and indeed gave us the Holy Spirit, to be our Guide and Helper in our journey of faith and in our struggle for a faithful life in God. This He sent to His Apostles and disciples at the occasion of the Pentecost, just days after He ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit reinvigorated them and gave them great strength and courage, and while before that, they were fearful of the repercussions from the enemies of their faith, after receiving the Holy Spirit, their actions and faith were transformed.

He promised us all as well, that He will come again in His glory, as His Second Coming, when He would deal a final defeat on Satan and all of His enemies. In fact, He clearly stated to His disciples, that He ascended to the side of His Father, that He may prepare a place for all of those who have been faithful to Him. Then, in the meanwhile, He gave all of us a mission, that is the most important mission which He has entrusted to each one of us, also known as the Great Commission.

The Great Commission is the command that Christ gave to all of His disciples, to be His witnesses among all the nations, to go forth to various places and to many different groups of peoples, preaching the Good News and the truth which He Himself had revealed to the Apostles. And from the Apostles, who had witnessed for their faith in God, this same faith has been passed down to their successors and the faithful who came after them, and from them, all the way through the ages and years, right down to all of us living today.

That is how each and every one of us became Christians, which means that we become members of God’s Church. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus mentioned that God has given us all various gifts, and to each different people were given different unique gifts as how God wished us to use them in our own unique ways, to serve His greater glory as part of His one Church.

What does this mean? It means that each and every one of us as members of God’s Church must make use of our talents and God-given abilities in order to serve God’s will, and to fulfil our part and our obligation as part of the Great Commission which I have just mentioned. And we will do it in our own distinct and unique way, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach in being a Christian and living a faithful and devout Christian life.

That means, each and every one of us are called to be devoted in our own way, making use of the gifts which God has given us, and serve Him in that way. To those among us whom God has called to be His servants, to surrender ourselves to His will and to give ourselves completely into His service, as priests and those living holy and devoted life consecrated to Him, God has given us all the gift of faith, and He calls upon us to answer to that call and respond to Him calling deep in our hearts.

Similarly, to those among us who are called to a life dedicated to our families, as fathers, mothers and as caretakers of our children, in holy matrimony and as part of our Christian families, we are called to live a good and faithful Christian life, through which we show our deep love for God, for our families and our fellow men, and by the appreciation of the love God has shown us, we too may show the same love in our own actions and dealings with each other.

Unfortunately, as surely we all know quite well, many of us have not been able to commit ourselves in our respective tasks and callings, and in fact, many of us have wandered off from God’s path, failing to obey what God had commanded us to do, and instead of listening to His will, we prefer to follow our own desires, our own considerations and thoughts of what we think is better for us.

That is why so many of us are lukewarm in our faith, and we do not realise just how we can contribute as true Christians and members of the Church. We carry on with our lives, thinking that as long as we are Christians in name and have been baptised, then everything will be fine with us without the need for us to do any more for the Lord and His Church. But this is exactly why today, we have so many Christians who are truly most un-Christian like in their actions and in their lives!

There are many among us as mentioned, whom God had called to the priesthood and other vocations dedicated to the service of God and His people, but many were too busy with their lives to respond, or that they were tempted easily by many things in this world, and therefore, failed to realise what it is that they need to do with their lives, in order to be better Christians and more faithful to God’s will for them.

And many among the laity have also not supported wholeheartedly the good works of the Church, thinking that the priests and those who serve God are all those who suppose to be working for God’s sake, and not them. No, that is also a very wrong mentality, as in fact, being members of the laity, and as people who have chosen to carry on their lives with marriage and family as their vocations, should also be actively supporting the Church together, as one family and as part of one Church.

As St. Paul mentioned, that we are all part of this one Body of Christ, that is the Church. And because of this, it is important that we are united as one in our actions, in our deeds and good works, so that we help each other and support one another, in carrying out what God has commanded us to do, that is to proclaim His Good News and His truth among the nations, and no part of the Church, be it laity or the priests, can do it alone on their own.

It is worse still when we as Christians do what we should consider abominable, that is, backstabbing, gossiping and all sorts of nasty and vile actions towards each other. This is when we act in the most uncharitable way towards one another, being angry or jealous at others, and that is indeed, most un-Christian in nature. Do we realise this, and do we understand just how much in our own lives, we have not been truly faithful to God?

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we come together to celebrate the moment of Christ’s glorious Ascension into heaven, let us all remember that while God ascended into heaven, He is not gone from our midst. On the contrary, He is always there with us, and He has given us many blessings, graces and gifts. And as Christians, meaning as those who have accepted Him as our Lord and Saviour, and having believed in His truth, we have the obligation and duty to do our part, to be witnesses for our faith in Him.

Therefore, if we have not done our part, or indeed, if we feel that we have not done enough to contribute our abilities, our skills, in our own way, be it as a father, as a mother, as a child, as a teacher, lawyer, doctor, engineer, in our own profession and work, or as a religious brother or sister, as a priest or as bishops, as those entrusted with the spiritual well-being of the faithful, each and every one of us have the responsibility to do our part, as the members of God’s one Church in this world.

Let us all therefore now pray, that God will grant us the strength, through His Holy Spirit, that each and every one of us will be able to discern well our role in the Church and in this world, and may He grant each one of us, the courage and the desire to love Him more, love our brethren and one another more, and be ever more devout and committed Christians each and every day of our lives. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 13 May 2018 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Sunday, 13 May 2018 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 4 : 1-13

Therefore, I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you, to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep among you, the unity of spirit, through bonds of peace. Let there be one body, and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, the Father of all, Who is above all, and works through all, and is in all.

But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it is said : When He ascended to the heights, He brought captives and gave His gifts to people. He ascended, what does it mean, but, that He had also descended to the lower parts of the world? He, Himself, Who went down, then ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things.

As for His gifts, to some, He gave to be Apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers. So, He prepared those who belong to Him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Ephesians 4 : 1-7, 11-13

Therefore, I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you, to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep among you, the unity of spirit, through bonds of peace. Let there be one body, and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, the Father of all, Who is above all, and works through all, and is in all.

But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. As for His gifts, to some, He gave to be Apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers. So, He prepared those who belong to Him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Sunday, 13 May 2018 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 46 : 2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

God ascends amid joyful shouts, the Lord amid trumpet blasts. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

God is King of all the earth; sing to Him a hymn of praise. For God now rules over the nations, God reigns from His holy throne.

Sunday, 13 May 2018 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 1 : 1-11

In the first part of my work, Theophilus, I wrote of all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when He ascended to heaven. But first He had instructed through the Holy Spirit, the Apostles He had chosen. After His passion, He presented Himself to them, giving many signs that He was alive, over a period of forty days He appeared to them and taught them concerning the kingdom of God.

Once when He had been eating with them, He told them, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the fulfilment of the Father’s promise about which I have spoken to you : John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit within a few days.”

When they had come together, they asked Him, “Is it now that You will restore the Kingdom of Israel?” And He answered, “It is not for you to know the time and the steps that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth.”

After Jesus said this, He was taken up before their eyes and a cloud hid Him from their sight. While they were still looking up to heaven where He went, suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the sky? This Jesus Who has been taken from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen Him go there.”

Saturday, 12 May 2018 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, all of us heard from the Word of God in the Scriptures, speaking to us about the works of St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, preaching in various regions of Achaia, what is now modern Greece, calling upon many people to turn towards the Lord and to be baptised in His Name. Many people came to believe in the Lord Jesus, and they believed because they heard what St. Paul had preached to them.

Another follower of Christ named Apollos also preached among the people, and many came to believe because of his teachings, although he was not completely correct as he had not yet received the full teachings of the Apostles. Thus, St. Paul helped to correct him and guided him, and Apollos continued to preach henceforth in many places, just as St. Paul would go on to many more places, teaching the people about the Lord and the truth which He had given them.

This was the fulfilment of the revelation and the promise which Christ had made to His disciples in our Gospel passage today, that the time would come when the truth would be revealed in its completeness. He often spoke in parables to the people, that is using stories and parallels, by which He delivered to them, piece by piece, the truth that He wanted to reveal to the whole world. Then, He would explain the meaning of the parables to His disciples separately.

But He promised His disciples, He would speak in plain truth, and He did, although many of them did not understand what He meant at first, because of their lack of faith and understanding. Yet, God revealed to them the whole truth, through the Holy Spirit He sent them, at the Pentecost and henceforth, by the laying of the hands, of the Apostles on the elders and leaders of the Church, and to all the faithful.

The Holy Spirit tells them all, the truth which came from God, and stirred in their hearts, a strong and fervent faith, that brought them to zealously spread their faith and the truth of God among the many peoples they encountered, going from towns to towns, villages to villages, and places to places, testifying about the truth of Christ and declaring His salvation to all the nations.

Of course, we must also remember that while many believed because of what they have heard from the faithful disciples of the Lord, and through the journeys of St. Paul and his companions, there were also plenty of opposition to their works, to the point that many of the disciples were martyred while doing their work of evangelisation and teaching. Many became martyrs of the Church, shedding their blood for the sake of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we remember the memory of three of those devoted servants and martyrs, namely St. Nereus, St. Achilleus and St. Pancras, all of whom have given their lives in the faithful service to God. St. Nereus and St. Achilleus were told to be chamberlains of a family relation of the Roman Emperor Domitian, who carried out a particularly harsh repression and persecution of Christians throughout the Empire.

St. Nereus and St. Achilleus remained faithful to the Lord despite these difficulties they encountered, and as they were working in close relation to the Emperor who were bitterly against the followers of Christ, it was likely that they refused to abandon their faith and they rather chose persecution, and eventually martyrdom, rather than to betray their Lord and Master.

Meanwhile, St. Pancras was a young teenager who had shown great faith and courage amidst the persecution of Christians under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians throughout the Empire, and forcing them to choose between abandoning their faith and live, or to remain true to their faith and suffered grievously to death.

Despite still being young as a teenager, St. Pancras refused to listen to the commands of the Emperor ordering the faithful to abandon their faith and offer sacrifices to the Emperor and the pagan gods. The Emperor himself was surprised and indeed, impressed at the courage and determination shown by the young St. Pancras, and he offered him much wealth and riches, power and glory should he be willing to abandon his faith.

St. Pancras was not tempted however, and he remained true to his faith, refusing the Emperor’s offer. That was how he met his end in martyrdom, beheaded at such a young age, remaining true and faithful to his faith in God. All these saints chose the same path, that is God’s path. They would rather gain an eternity of joy with God, rather than to gain the temporary pleasures and joys of the world, knowing that God is always faithful to His promises.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, for each and every one of us as Christians, are we able to devote ourselves wholeheartedly in the same manner as these faithful and courageous saints had done with their lives? All of us are called to follow in their footsteps, and to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to God’s service, to glorify His Name through all of our actions and deeds.

May the holy saints, St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, together with St. Pancras, intercede for us all, that each and every one of us may be continuously empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, and have the same courage to testify our faith before others, by our actions, filled with faith, at all times. May God bless us all and bring us all together to eternal life and joy, with the glorious martyrs. Amen.

Saturday, 12 May 2018 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Nereus and St. Achilleus, Martyrs, and St. Pancras, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 16 : 23b-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. So far you have not asked in My Name; ask, and receive, that your joy may be full.”

“I taught you all this in veiled language, but the time is coming when I shall no longer speak in veiled language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. When that day comes, you will ask in My Name; and it will not be for Me to ask the Father for you, for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and you believe that I came from the Father.”

“As I came from the Father, and have come into the world, so I am leaving the world, and going to the Father.”