Monday, 12 April 2021 : 2nd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 4 : 23-31

As soon as Peter and John were set free, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices as one and called upon God, “Sovereign Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, of the sea and everything in them, You have put these words in the mouth of David, our father and Your servant, through the Holy Spirit : Why did the pagan nations rage and the people conspire in folly? The kings of the were aligned and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against His Messiah.”

“For indeed in this very city Herod with Pontius Pilate, and the pagans together with the people of Israel conspired against Your holy Servant Jesus, Whom You anointed. Thus, indeed, they brought about whatever Your powerful will had decided from all time would happen. But now, Lord, see their threats against us and enable Your servants to speak Your word with all boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and to work signs and wonders through the Name of Jesus Your holy Servant.”

When they had prayed, the place where they were gathered together shook, and they were all filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.

Sunday, 11 April 2021 : Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today marks the last day of the Easter Octave and also the Second Sunday in the season of Easter. According to the declaration of Pope St. John Paul II at the canonisation of St. Faustina Kowalska in the Jubilee Year of 2000, the Second Sunday of Easter ever since has also been known as the Divine Mercy Sunday. The devotion to the Divine Mercy continues to spread in popularity ever since it was made known by St. Faustina Kowalska herself, in the visions she received of the Lord in His Aspect as the Divine Mercy.

On this Sunday, as we celebrate this Feast of the Divine Mercy of God and the Second Sunday of Easter, we are brought to attention through the Scripture readings of the wonderful graces that God has given us through His Church, all that He had done for us and what it is we then ought to do as Christians, as those who truly believe in God, in Him as Our Lord and Saviour. We have seen the Light of God’s salvation through Christ, Our Saviour, and through Him we have received the assurance of eternal life and glory, if we held on to our faith firmly in Him.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard the way that the early Christian communities had lived, in how they showed great care and concern for one another, in how they lived in communal living, sharing their blessings and possessions with one another, in being selfless in their actions and in helping sincerely those who were in need within their communities. Through those examples, we are shown that indeed it is possible for us to live our lives entrusting ourselves to the Lord and resisting the temptations of worldly desires.

And all of them believed in the Lord, their Saviour, Whom St. John in his Epistle to the faithful today spoke of, as the One Who had conquered death and triumphed over the darkness and evil. Christ has overcome death through His Resurrection and by His love for us, for each and every one of us He has endured the worst of punishments and humiliations for the sake of our salvation, our liberation from the tyranny and bondage of evil and death. Through Him, we have received the assurance of a blessed new existence, if we are to seek Him with all of our hearts and strength.

But as we heard in our Gospel passage today, many of us still hesitate to believe in the Lord wholeheartedly or to entrust ourselves to His love and care, and we still have doubts in our hearts, like what St. Thomas the Apostle showed us. We all know what happened as described in today’s Gospel, as St. Thomas publicly doubted the Resurrection and refused to believe that the Lord has risen from the dead. He has always been the most skeptical among the disciples, and happened to be absent during the time when the Lord appeared before His disciples for the first time after His resurrection.

St. Thomas doubted the Lord and said that he would only believe if he could prove that the Lord was indeed risen from the dead, only to be humbled when the Lord Himself appeared right before him and told him to prove everything just as he had said. St. Thomas believed and said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord and my God’. He and all the other Apostles and many of the disciples of the Lord witnessed the Risen Lord in person, and from then on, became courageous and faithful witnesses of His truth.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we may be thinking that St. Thomas was lacking in faith and was a doubtful person, but before we make any judgment on his actions, we ought to remember very well that it is perhaps and likely what we ourselves had done as well. Have we not doubted the Lord at some point in time in our lives? Have we not placed Him to the sidelines and forgotten about Him, prioritising more on other things in life, or treating Him as One Who is not significant and does not really exist?

St. Thomas in fact represent all of us, the people of God. There are many of us with different experiences and varying levels of faith and devotion. And at some point, we may have grown weak in our commitment to the Lord and begin to doubt Him, based on our own experiences, or when we were distracted and tempted by the many worldly temptations and concerns that we turned away from the Lord and began to idolise other things like money and material possessions, fame and prestige. At times, we have fallen in our path and lose our way like St. Thomas had experienced.

As we can see, the Lord did not choose perfect people to be His disciples, and rather, He called and chosen people who would have otherwise be overlooked by the society. He called the uneducated, those who were deemed as sinners and unworthy, people of no renown and those who were ordinary, to be His disciples and followers. But what was amazing is that He transformed them all from their ordinary existence into a new extraordinary existence through faith. That was how all the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord could courageously stand up for their faith and endure the bitter persecutions of those days.

And the words of St. Thomas as he came to witness the Lord, Risen and alive in the flesh, is the same words that we also utter at the moment of the Transubstantiation, when the bread and wine offered in the Holy Mass, by the power of God through His priests are transformed in reality, matter and essence to the very Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Himself. And when we see Him lifted up before us, we say, ‘My Lord and My God’ just as St. Thomas did. It is of us that the Lord had spoken, that even though we have not seen Him in person, but we believe, and we are blessed because of that.

We believe that the Lord is truly present in the Eucharist, really present in His Body and Blood, and which we receive and partake together as one Church. And we believe that He has given us all these so that through His sacrifice on the Cross, we may be saved and be freed from the tyranny of sin. In the words of St. Faustina Kowalska, the visionary of the Divine Mercy, and which is mentioned in every recitation of the Divine Mercy prayer, ‘Eternal Father, I offer you, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Your only beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the atonement of our sins and those of the whole world’

In tandem with what we heard from St. John, this is our Christian faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, in God Who is so loving and merciful towards us, that even as we have sinned and disobeyed Him, and doubted Him again and again as St. Thomas had done, and abandoned Him like the other disciples, denied Him like St. Peter, not once but thrice, but God’s love and mercy are still greater than all those, and if He forgave all of them, and made them to be worthy disciples and Apostles, then certainly He will forgive us all our sins as well.

This is the power of forgiveness from Our Lord, the Divine Mercy of God, the healing and reconciliation that have come through the loving sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross at Calvary. This is the power of God’s compassionate mercy through which He assured us of victory and triumph over sin and death, over the chains that had kept us trapped and enslaved all these while. However, are we willing to embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness, brothers and sisters? Are we willing to be reconciled with Him?

We often do not realise what God’s mercy and forgiveness really mean. And many of us think wrongly that the Lord in His mercy and as the Divine Mercy will forgive us all of our sins and allow us to continue committing those sims again and again, essentially condoning our sinful way of life and our state of sin. No, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord indeed forgives us freely and generously, but if we are to be fully forgiven, then we have to embrace His forgiveness, and this requires for us to repent, turn away from our sins and seek to walk in the path of the Lord.

Do we all remember the Lord speaking to the woman who was caught in the act of adultery, that He did not condemn her, but also telling her at the same time, ‘Go and sin no more’? This is what the Lord wants from us, a heart that yearns for Him, that is filled with the desire to love Him, and full of faith and believing wholeheartedly in His Resurrection and the salvation which He has therefore brought unto us, through His Passion, suffering and death, and glorious Resurrection.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all entrust ourselves to the Divine Mercy of God, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Let us all put our trust in Him, knowing that He has loved us so dearly and so patiently, and let us be filled with genuine regret and the desire to repent from our many sins, the sins which have been purchased and forgiven through the shedding of the Body and Blood of Our Lord on the Cross, the perfect sign of His eternal love for us.

Let us all not be stubborn and doubtful anymore, but acknowledge the Lord just as St. Thomas had once done, and humble ourselves before Him, allowing Him to lead us in our way, so that we may truly serve Him faithfully as Christians, and contribute in whatever way we can, to move forward with the many works of the Church of God in our world today, for the greater glory of His Name. May God be with us all, and may He, the Divine Mercy, forgive us all our sins, and embrace us all sinners, who desire to return to Him and be reconciled with Him. Amen.