Sunday, 9 May 2021 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter, all of us are called to remember the generous and most wonderful love by which God has loved us, throughout all these time, and then of our obligation as Christians, as the people whom God has called and chosen, loved and blessed, to be the bearers of this same love in our own lives, to be His witnesses and His disciples in our world today, showing His truth and love through our own actions, deeds and interactions in our lives.

In our Scripture readings today, we are all constantly reminded of God’s love that is ever present all around us, and that God Himself is Love. And as God is our Lord and Master, then we should also follow in His examples and do as He Himself has done and follow in whatever He has shown us and taught us to do, to be loving in all of our actions and interactions, to be sincere and committed in love towards one another, just as we have also loved Him and how He loved us first before all else.

In our first reading, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles the account of St. Peter and his visit to the family of a Roman centurion and citizen, Cornelius, who was willing to listen to him and the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ, and hearing that St. Peter was there, Cornelius invited St. Peter to his household to speak about the Lord and His salvation. Before this visit, St. Peter had been hesitant as he was about to enter into the house of a Gentile or non-Jew, which in the old Jewish custom, was considered as some sort of taboo as doing so would make them unclean.

That was also why the Jewish elders and chief priests did not enter into the Praetorium at the time when the Lord was condemned to death in Jerusalem, as doing so would have rendered them unclean, a fact stated clearly in the Gospel accounts on the Passion of the Lord, and they remained outside to keep themselves clean for the celebration of the Passover. In the same manner therefore, St. Peter initially was hesitant in responding to Cornelius’ invitation, but God then showed him a vision, of a great sheet lowered down from Heaven, with all sorts of beasts and animals considered unclean by the old Jewish laws and customs.

St. Peter was hesitant and refused to eat of those animals in the vision, when the voice of God commanded him to eat of those animals deemed to be unclean by the Law. And then, three times the Lord reminded him again and again, that he should not consider unclean what the Lord has considered to be clean and purified. Through that vision, the Lord wanted St. Peter and also all of us by extension, to know that for Him, there is no distinction between Jew or Gentile, Jew or Roman or Greek, slave or free, man or woman, rich or poor, strong or weak. Instead, everyone is equally beloved by Him and He considers each and every one of us as His beloved children, without exception.

Hence, as St. Peter came to Cornelius’ house, he himself saw how great the faith that he had in the Lord, and how willing he and his whole household were in listening to the truth that he was about to reveal to them, and it was there then St. Peter realised fully the meaning of the vision I mentioned earlier, that God is calling on all the whole world to be His disciples and followers, and that there should be no more distinctions between Jews or Gentiles, or any other distinctions that we usually encounter in the world, in any forms. God loves all equally and wants all to be saved.

And the Lord again gave a very clear sign of His love and favour to the Gentiles and the faithful among them, by sending them the very same Holy Spirit that He Himself has given to the Apostles at Pentecost. The whole household of Cornelius received the Holy Spirit and began glorifying God in joy and speaking in tongues and different languages, the same spirit of wisdom and courage that the Apostles themselves had received. This is yet another proof that God wants all to be His disciples, and not just the Jews alone, or just those who follow the strict tradition of Jewish laws and customs.

This is important because in the later chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, there would be disagreements and divisions in the early Church, which we might have heard in the previous days Scripture readings for those of us who attended the weekday Mass, where it was elaborated how the converts from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were trying to impose on the whole faithful the strict observances of the Jewish laws and customs, such as circumcision, the dietary restrictions on unclean foods that were forbidden, many other customs and practices that would have made it very difficult for the Gentiles to be Christians as many of the Jewish practices and customs were seen as aberration and even disgusting by the non-Jewish people, particularly by the Greeks and the Romans.

Hence, through that passage today from the Acts of the Apostles and the life and work of St. Peter, in his interactions with Cornelius, later known as St. Cornelius the Centurion, all of us are called to be loving to one another, not be judgmental and territorial in our behaviour and attitudes in the Church, and we are all reminded that the Church is indeed Catholic, which means ‘Universal’ from the Greek Katholikos, just as it is also ‘One’, means united as one in God, ‘Holy’ as it is sanctified by God and the Holy Spirit that He has sent to us, and ‘Apostolic’ in the evangelising and missionary nature of the Church, in reaching out to all the faithful of all the nations and all the people.

That is why today, as we continue to progress through the season of Easter and rejoice in the Lord’s Resurrection and glory, all of us as one Church, the members of the same Body of Christ, the Living Church in this world, we are all reminded that we all share in the generous and ever wonderful love of God, and through Christ, Our Lord’s only begotten Son, as St. John elaborated in his Epistle in our second reading today, God has shown His love in the flesh, coming to dwell within us and among us, that His love remains with us, always and at all times.

We know the love of God because He has come to us and showed us all what it truly means to love unconditionally, and to love generously, the way that the Lord has loved us, that He gave us His only begotten Son, to be given up as the sacrifice for the atonement for our sins, the most loving sacrifice on the Cross. Whenever we look at Christ Crucified on the Cross, we should remember that it was for love that God’s own Son has suffered and died for us, that through His suffering and death, all of us may have life through Him. He put Himself between us and death, that He may gather us all in, into His loving embrace and save us from certain destruction due to our sins.

Therefore, as we then heard in our Gospel passage today, having known of God’s great love, and indeed how blessed we are to be so beloved, then, we all need to love as well, and obey the commandments that God has given us, to remain in His love and to love Him first and foremost before anything else, to give Him our whole heart and love, attention and focus, and to love one another, our fellow brothers and sisters, sharing the same love that we ourselves have received, and loving one another just as much as we love ourselves.

These two commandments summarised the whole Law as revealed to Moses, and which then was perfected by the Lord, as He showed that the whole Law, all the teachings and words of the prophets were all about love, the love that all of us, God’s people ought to have for Him, because He has loved us first and constantly loving us as well, and which we also ought to love one another in the same way. If we are being prejudiced and harsh towards others, and if we are looking down on anyone because of their race, background, upbringing or any others, then how can we call ourselves as Christians, since all equally beloved by God, and if we do all those we are going against God?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall what we have just heard from our Scripture readings and all that we have discussed together just earlier on, let us discern carefully how we are going to move forward in life from now on. And let us look deep into ourselves and see how we have lived our lives so far, and ask ourselves whether we have been loving in our way of living our lives. We should ask ourselves whether we have loved God first and foremost, having Him as the centre and focus of our existence, or whether we have often forgotten Him for other attachments and temptations of worldly glory and pleasures?

And we should also ask ourselves and reflect whether in how we interact with our fellow brothers and sisters around us, with our own spouses, children, parents, our family members and relatives, and with our friends and acquaintances, and even with all those whom we encounter, with the strangers whom we met in each and every one of our daily activities, have we shown genuine love in our actions? Have we instead sown discord, bitterness and hatred among each other by our words and interactions with each other?

It is much easier for us to love ourselves than to love others, and it is much easier for us to be selfish rather than to be selfless and caring. And that is why all of us are challenged today to learn to love others more and to show more empathy, care and concern for those who are in need of love, for those who are marginalised and ostracised, rejected and despised by the society. Do not forget, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord Himself has shown us the example. When we are still sinners, wicked and terrible, sinful and corrupted, unworthy and broken by those sins, the Lord still loved us and reached out to us with love.

That is why, today on this Sunday and from here onwards, we are all called and challenged to walk in the path that the Lord has set before us, as He calls on all of us to be His witnesses and disciples in this world, to be the ones to proclaim His truth and love, that through our lives, our actions and genuine care and concern for one another, through our enduring and great love, our commitment to God, we may be the shining beacons of faith and examples of Christian charity and love in our world today. And that is how we reveal the Lord to ever more people who desire to know Him, and bring ever more souls to salvation in Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why all of us are called to be part of this missionary and evangelising mission of the Church, to proclaim the Lord’s truth and love through our own lives, through our own actions and words, our deeds and works in life. We are all called to do our best in our own lives, to be people of love, to be filled with love for God, first and foremost, and love for our fellow brothers and sisters, for all those whom we meet and encounter in life, be it strangers or those whom we know. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to this cause, brothers and sisters? This is what we have been called to do, and we should respond to the Lord’s call, in showing how the Lord and His love is truly Universal and all-encompassing.

In this present world, where there are so many bitterness and hatred, let us all bring love and forgiveness, compassion and mercy. And where there is selfishness and jealousy, let us bring humility, understanding and true, selfless love for our fellow men. And as we know that there are still so many who are suffering these days from the ongoing impact of the pandemic and other troubles facing our world today, let us all do our best, in whichever way we can, to be good influence to others, to be more loving as best as we can, to show more care and empathy towards others, especially those who are suffering and sorrowful. The world has enough pain and suffering as it is, and it is up to us to show out genuine love, which is a reflection of God’s love, to all who need it.

Let us all be the shining beacons of God’s light and love, and be good role models for one another, and may God be with us all that we may continue to persevere in our journey, and remain committed to the mission He has entrusted to us, to make His love and truth known in all the whole world, as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, a truly Universal Church in which every children of God belongs to. May God bless all of us and our every good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

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