Thursday, 30 April 2020 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of Pope St. Pius V, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian official by the Apostle St. Philip when the Apostle encountered the official who was on his way back to his homeland after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. At that time, it had been a thousand years since the coming of Queen of Sheba, who was told to be the ruler of the country at the region later known as Ethiopia, when she visited Jerusalem and paid homage to king Solomon of Israel.

As a result, the relations between the lands of Israel and Ethiopia had been established for many centuries since then, as they were definitely involved in trade and economic cooperation, as well as even religious encounter and exchanges. That was why the Ethiopian official was reading the passage from the prophet Isaiah’s prophecies and records, as it was likely that there were also some Jews and descendants of the Israelites who settled in Ethiopia and based on the history of relations between the two countries, it is likely that the Hebrew Scriptures have been widespread and read by many.

This was where then that St. Philip the Apostle came in, as he came up to the Ethiopian official who was reading the particular passage from the prophet Isaiah regarding the Suffering Servant or the Suffering Messiah. No doubt during that time, as he visited Jerusalem during those days, it was quite likely that he had also witnessed or at least heard about the events that had been happening in and around Jerusalem regarding Jesus the Messiah, Who had been condemned to death and crucified, and yet was told to have been resurrected from the dead.

Thus, St. Philip explained to the official what the passages of the Scriptures and the prophecies of Isaiah truly meant, explaining with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the revelations of God’s truth and also the personal experiences he had when he was travelling and journeying along with the Lord. And thus the Ethiopian official allowed himself to be persuaded and believed in the truth of Christ. He asked to be baptised at a nearby water source, and once he had been baptised by St. Philip, the Apostle was spirited away from him, and the official joyfully went back to his country, likely to be the first Christian among the Ethiopians, and establishing the seeds of the faith in that land that are to remain till to this day.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking to the people that He is truly the Bread of Life Who has come down from Heaven itself, the very One Whom the prophets had spoken and prophesied about. And He spoke of His relationship with the Father, how all can only know the Father through Him as He was the only One Who had come down from Heaven, revealing the truth of God into this world and among us all, God’s beloved people. He has come into this world to save us all from certain destruction.

Through what we have read in our Gospel today, we are therefore brought to pay attention to our faith in God, just as Christ has spoken to us all as a reminder that no one can come to the Father except through Him. And all of us have been called by Christ to be His followers as we received His truth through His Church. Like that of the Ethiopian official and many other people of all the various nations and races, all have been called by God to follow Him and to be His people.

Are we appreciative of what the Lord had done for us? Are we able to recognise just how much the Lord had loved us all these while, that even when we are all still sinners, rebellious and indignant in our attitudes, we are all still beloved by Him and God still did all He could to save us, that is by His selfless sacrifice on the Cross. God has called us all to follow Him, and we are all called to be witnesses of His truth, to proclaim this truth to our fellow brethren, through our lives and actions.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by our faithful witness through virtue and love, through real dedication and trust in the Lord. And we should also have a great zeal for the Lord, like that of the Apostle St. Philip, whose conviction and faith, wisdom and devotion persuaded the Ethiopian official to believe in God. The Lord will always be by our side, guiding us and helping us, but we need to trust in Him and open ourselves to His providence, guidance and strength.

Today, all of us should look upon the good examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Pius V, one of the great Popes and leaders of the Church. At that time, with the Church and Christendom under great threat from both within and without, Pope St. Pius V helped to lead the Church and the Christian faithful through those difficult times. His personal piety, dedication to the reform of the Church and the faith, as well as his leadership and commitment to the Lord allowed the Church and the faithful to endure the worst years successfully.

When the Christian world was threatened by the forces of the infidels and unbelievers under the Ottoman Empire, Pope St. Pius V helped to raise a great alliance of the faithful forces and handed the enemies of the Church and the Lord a great defeat at the Battle of Lepanto. And facing the great challenges of the heresies of Protestantism in much of Christendom, Pope St. Pius V helped to bring the instrumental Council of Trent to a successful conclusion, and helped to enforce the much needed reforms that reinvigorated the Church and the faithful, in a strong Counter Reformation effort that reversed much of the damages in the past decades.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see in the great dedication and efforts put in by Pope St. Pius V, let us all as Christians be ourselves inspired to follow in his footsteps, as well as in the footsteps of the Apostles, to be cheerful and courageous bearers of Christ’s truth and light to all the peoples of all the nations. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to guide us and bless our many good endeavours for His greater glory. Amen.

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