Sunday, 17 May 2020 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the sixth Sunday in the Season of Easter, as we quickly approach the end of this blessed season and time, with the Solemnity of the Ascension coming up within the week, and the Solemnity of the Pentecost coming very soon as well. On this Sunday therefore our attention is brought to the promise of God’s Holy Spirit that He has made to His disciples and which we have therefore received through the same Apostles and disciples of the Lord, passed down through God’s Church.

In our first reading today taken from the Acts of the Apostles we heard of the work of St. Philip, one of the Twelve Apostles who went to the land and region of Samaria in between Judea and Galilee, and preached there about the truth and salvation in Jesus Christ, and many came to believe in the Lord. And as described, when the Apostles in Jerusalem heard about the conversions of the Samaritans, some of the Apostles, St. Peter and St. John went over there to pray over the newly converted Samaritans and laid their hands on them, giving them the same gift of the Holy Spirit they have received at Pentecost.

The same Holy Spirit has therefore been passed down from the hands of the Apostles to all the faithful people of God, and from the Apostles to their successors, the bishops and priests of the Church who then in turn pass down the same Holy Spirit to the faithful down the many generations since the early days of the Church to this very day. We have received the same Holy Spirit through our Sacrament of Baptism, when we were baptised like that of the Samaritans, in the Name of the Blessed Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and then sealed by the Sacrament of Confirmation.

In our second reading today, from the Epistle of St. Peter, we heard of the Apostle exhorting the faithful to remain true to their faith in God, to keep the tenets of their faith and to be strong amidst the pressure to leave behind their faith and the temptation to abandon their God. The Apostle exhorted the faithful to be genuine in their faith, to be virtuous and righteous in their words, actions and deeds so that all those who slandered and oppressed them would be ashamed and humiliated by their own wickedness and evil.

St. Peter therefore called on all of us as Christians to be active in living up to our faith, to be faithful in all things and deeds that everyone who hear us, witness us and interact with us may know that we are Christians, that we belong to God and are His people, and that we are who we say we are, faithful and dedicated to do the will of God at all times. Otherwise, how can we then call ourselves as Christians? And if we do not sincerely practice our faith, we will end up scandalising it, as others will then then be able to point our faithlessness and lukewarm attitude.

The Lord Jesus put it plainly before all of us in our Gospel passage today, that if we truly love Him, we will keep His commandments and do the will of His Father, and that is to love God with all of our hearts, with all of our might and with all of our efforts and attention. If we truly love God, then we will also love our brothers and sisters, regardless of who they are and how close they are to us, and we will love them through all our actions, caring for them and showing them the same love and compassion that God has shown us all.

This is what is meant for us to be Christians, and to be faithful in our calling as God’s own beloved people. If we are not able to do this, or unwilling to do what the Lord has called us to do, then we cannot call ourselves as Christians. Unfortunately, this is what many among us who call ourselves as Christians are doing in our lives. We carry on our lives treating our Christian faith as merely a formality, just as a badge or name on paper only, and not living with sincere desire and love for God.

Many of us even had to drag ourselves to go to Mass every Sunday, and many more even attended Mass only on Easter and Christmas, and some did not even attend any Mass or faith activities at all! This is the sad state and reality about our faith, which had been happening in the past many years and decades. However, the good news is that in recent years, there had been a surge of hope as more and more Christians, especially the younger generation, began to take their faith much more seriously again. They began to attend the Holy Mass with regularity and genuine desire to know more of the Lord and to love Him.

More and more people are beginning to wake up from their slumber in their faith lives, as they began to take a more active and dedicated approach in their lives to follow the Lord. More and more people begin to seek for God, desire for His love and love Him again with greater sincerity of heart. This is what all of us must embrace too, brothers and sisters in Christ. God has called us to Himself, and He has shown us the path and He has also bestowed upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help and guide, to lead us down the path of truth and hope.

Are we willing to follow this path shown to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to live our lives from now on with Christian sincerity and dedication? The choice is ours alone, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can choose whether we want to continue to be lukewarm with our faith, to be unfaithful and treating our faith as no more than a nuisance and chore, or whether we want to embrace our faith with zeal and sincere commitment, to walk down the path that God has shown us?

In our current time and day, we are still enduring the painful effects of the various tragedies we have been encountering all these past few weeks and months, particularly the still dangerous threat of the coronavirus pandemic. As of today, over four million people had contracted the disease, and while over one and a half million had recovered, but almost three hundred thousand people had lost their lives, and millions more are still hospitalised and some among them fighting for their lives.

And many tens of millions of people if not more are threatened in their income and employment. Many had lost their precious work and many had to endure significant difficulties in searching for new job, while others had to work extra hard because they are in the frontline and healthcare efforts to combat this pandemic. Others had to endure significant pay cuts or suspension in their pay, and thus worry about how they will feed and take care of their loved ones.

Now, what are we going to do then? How do we live our lives as Christians and indeed, genuine Christians during these difficult and dark moments? It is by showing genuine love for our fellow brothers and sisters, to share hope and encouragement with one another, rather than to act selfishly or to stoke hatred for certain groups of people or individuals. We have heard and read of quite a few sad story of how the current crises led to increase in incidents of racism and attacks against certain group of people, certain acts of ostracising and unfair treatments and judgments of our fellow men, among others.

We have also heard how people acted irresponsibly and selfishly, hoarding essential goods and materials, just so that they could save themselves and get what they wanted, but with disregard for the need of others. And it is the sad truth that not few Christians were among those who have committed all these irresponsible, unjust, and indeed, most un-Christian behaviour. And this is therefore a reminder for each and every one of us that we must not adopt this kind of attitude ourselves.

Rather than spreading hatred, injustice and bitterness, we are called and indeed challenged to spread love, justice and compassion instead. When our hearts and minds are tempted to be selfish in our actions, to be angry at other people and to fear for our safety and our livelihood, to despise and to be filled with despair, let us all remember that God is always there for us, by our side, as our Hope and our Strength, as our Anchor in this most uncertain and darkest moment of our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us bring with us this Hope we have in God, the trust we have in His love and providence, and let us share it with everyone around us. Let us be the beacons of God’s light and hope, brightening the lives of others around us, helping our brothers and sisters to overcome their fears and despair. Let us all be true Christians at all times and bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. May the Lord be with us always and bless our every good endeavours. Amen.

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