Sunday, 21 May 2023 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the whole Church celebrates the occasion of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, marking the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ, forty days after His glorious Resurrection from the dead, ascended in glory to His heavenly Throne. The Lord Jesus ascended in glory by His own power, leaving behind this world but not abandoning His disciples and followers. He ascended to prepare for us all our places by His side in Heaven, to welcome us all in the end of time, to prove to us that we all truly have something to look forward to in our faithful and dedicated life. Each and every one of us are reminded of this most joyous moment and time, emphasising to us that Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in Whom we have put our faith, truly came from the Father in Heaven, and has returned to His place in Heaven, the Son of God incarnate, showing us the love of God manifested in the flesh.

In our first reading today, we all heard from the Acts of the Apostles detailing to us how the Lord ascended to Heaven in glory, before His assembled disciples and followers, and promising to them all the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who would guide and strengthen them in their journey and work, and Who would lead them to go forth and fulfil the commands and mission that He has entrusted to them, to proclaim the Good News of God to all the people of all the nations, and to baptise them all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He ascended to Heaven afterwards and this was witnessed by His disciples, many of whom would suffer persecution and even martyrdom in subsequent years and decades, and they endured all those sufferings with faith, exactly because they have seen everything that the Lord had done, how He has risen from the dead and was with them, and ascended into Heaven.

If the Lord Jesus has not truly come from Heaven and if He had been a fraud and false Messiah as how some among His enemies and opponents claimed, then His disciples and followers would not have persevered and endured in their faith in such a manner. Many of them have experienced everything that the Lord had said and done, and witnessed His Resurrection and Ascension as mentioned, and therefore, they were willing to even die to defend their faith in the Lord. Everything also happened as how the Lord has promised the disciples, with the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Apostles and the other disciples, heralding the birth of the Church, and encouraged them all to go forth and proclaim the Good News, spreading the words of the Gospels of salvation to more and more people who also come to believe in the Lord Jesus and His truth.

In our second reading today, all of us heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians regarding how Lord has revealed to His Church, to all of us the revelation of His truth and glory, everything that He has told and brought upon us, and most importantly, how all of us believe in and follow this Lord and God, Who is the Almighty God, the Master and King of all Creation. Not only that, but it also reminded us that we believe in this Jesus Christ, as Christians, and that He is not just merely like any Man, or any other beings. By His Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, the Lord has shown us all that He truly came from His heavenly abode, from eternity and glory, coming down upon each and every one of us so that by dwelling among us and by His appearance in this world, He might save each one of us from being destroyed and crushed by our sins and wickedness.

This reminds us all that our faith in the Lord is not something that is nonsense and imaginary. By the testimony of faith and the evidence that the Church as well as other historical records have passed down to us, all of us know that our God is real, and although He did not leave behind much earthly existence, because He has ascended into Heaven, but He was there for us all, has been with us and shown us the love of God manifested to us, and He is and will always be there for us, guiding and helping us all throughout the way. He has sent us all the Holy Spirit to guide us and to strengthen us, to encourage and empower us, just as how the Holy Spirit encouraged the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord to do what they had been sent forth to do, in proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel, the words of God’s salvation to His people.

In our Gospel passage today, that is what the Lord has told hIs disciples to do, to go forth to the nations and to all the people, and to proclaim God and His truth, His love and everything that He has done through the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ Himself, Who has shown us the love of God manifested and approachable in the flesh, and by Whose Passion, suffering and death has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life and glory. All these are brought upon us through Christ, and the Good News have to therefore be spread throughout the whole world, so that more and more people may come to believe in the truth that Christ Himself has proclaimed. And all of us as the members of the same Church of God are the bearers of this Good News and truth, which we have to proclaim in our own works and in whatever capacity and opportunities that the Lord has given us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this great Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, all of us are reminded as well that forty days have passed in this joyful and glorious season of Easter. How have we been living through our Easter season? Have we been idling around and been ignorant of our calling and mission as Christians? Have our words, actions and deeds been reflective of our Christian faith and beliefs? If we call ourselves as Christians and yet we do not practice our faith, our carry out our actions, deeds and works, and if our words and interactions with each other are not reflective of our faith in God, then how can we expect others around us or those whom we encounter and interact with can become believers as well? Not only that, in fact, there had been many cases where people both within and outside the Church had been scandalised by the wicked and less-than-worthy actions by our fellow Catholics, who have not lived their lives the way they should have. The sad reality is that there are many Christians within the Church who have become lukewarm and even dead in the faith, abandoning the Lord for worldly pursuits and other things.

And lest we easily point finger and blame others, or think that this problem is what others have but not us, let us all look upon ourselves first, our way of life, our predisposition and our actions. If we truly have lived our lives in the most Christian manner, obeying the Law and commandments of God, showing love for both God and for our fellow men alike, then well done indeed, and we should continue doing that. It is by all these that we can truly be missionary and evangelising in the way how the Apostles and the many saints and holy missionaries in the past had done. Many became believers not only because of the miracles and wonders that they had done, but also because of the faith and dedication which our holy predecessors had shown in their lives, in how they committed themselves to God and to His path, and also in how they loved and cared for each other.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to be the beacons of the light of God, which Christ our Lord has shown and passed on to us. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to a virtuous and worthy life that all of us as Christians have been expected to do in our own respective lives? All of us should no longer be hesitant or ignorant to do as God has told us all to do, as our first and most important mission as Christians is evangelisation, to go forth and spread the faith to others, just as the Lord told His disciples in the Great Commission, ‘Go forth and make disciples of all the people of all the nations, and baptise them all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ And we do not have to seek for great things or worry that we have to aim for great achievements and wonders. We do not have to compare or worry, but instead let the Holy Spirit to help and lead us down the path, and entrust ourselves to God Who will show us how we can glorify Him by our lives.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this great Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, let us all remind ourselves that we have important mission in our lives, by doing our best in whatever we do in life, in whatever opportunities we have received and in whichever places that we have been called to, in our various respective ministries and vocations, be it as those called to the priesthood and holy orders, or those called to the religious and consecrated life, or those called to a life of holy singlehood and other forms of ministry associated with that, and of course as Christian couples and families tasked with the building of the faithful Christian families, the foundations of our Church and Christian faith, where our faithful future and young generations ought to be raised well in the Christian faith and truth of God. Each one of us should do our best to proclaim the Lord and His Good News, to those around us, both within and outside the Church, by our exemplary and faithful life.

May the Lord, ascended in glory onto His Throne in Heaven, most excellent and almighty, continue to guide us all His Church and all of us His beloved ones, in our path and way of life so that we may truly be the inspirational and worthy beacons of His light, truth and love. May all of us continue to strive to be faithful in all things, and do our best to be good role models and inspiration as the missionaries and disciples of our Lord in our world today. Amen.

Sunday, 21 May 2023 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 28 : 16-20

At that time, as for the eleven disciples, they went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Jesus, they bowed before Him, although some doubted.

Then Jesus approached them and said, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples from all nations. Baptise them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. I am with you always even to the end of the world.”

Sunday, 21 May 2023 : Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 1 : 17-23

May the God of Christ Jesus our Lord, the Father of Glory, reveal Himself to you and give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that you may know Him. May He enlighten your inner vision, that you may appreciate the things we hope for, since we were called by God.

May you know how great is the inheritance, the glory, God sets apart for His saints; may you understand with what extraordinary power He acts in favour of us who believe. He revealed His Almighty power in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and had Him sit at His right hand in heaven, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any other supernatural force that could be named, not only in this world but in the world to come as well.

Thus has God put all things under the feet of Christ and set Him above all things, as Head of the Church which is His Body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all.

Sunday, 21 May 2023 : 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, 21 May 2023 : 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.”

Sunday, 21 May 2023 : Seventh Sunday of Easter, World Social Communications Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are reminded first and foremost of the need for all of us as Christians to be in communication with the Lord our most loving God and Father. And it is not a coincidence that this Sunday, the seventh one in the season of Easter, we also mark the occasion of the World Communications Sunday or the World Social Communications Sunday. On this Sunday, we keep in mind the importance of communication, especially with regards to the communication that we should have with the Lord, our most loving God. The Lord has always loved us and each one of us have always been so fortunate to be beloved in such a manner by God. Yet, many of us have not spent the time to reach out to the Lord and we have often forgotten about Him, ignored His love and attention towards us.

We often refused to embrace His love, hardened our hearts and minds against Him, turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to His constant efforts in reaching out to us, in all the love that He has continuously shown us, all these while. The Lord has sent us His own beloved Son, incarnate in the flesh, the Son and Divine Word of God, Who came into our midst so that we may behold the fullness of God’s love manifested in the flesh. Through Him, all of us have experienced the presence of God so close to us, and it is part of His ever enduring desire to reach out to us, to communicate with us and to be with us all. He went through all these because He truly cares for each one of us, and wants us to be freed from the bondage due to our many sins and wickedness. He does not want us to fall into eternal damnation.

Hence, that is why He taught us all how to pray, like what we heard in our Gospel passage today. We heard the Lord Jesus speaking in prayer to His heavenly Father, glorifying and thanking Him in all that He had done, and in all of His wonders and glory. He also commended and entrusted His disciples and followers to His care and providence, asking Him to protect and guide them, to bless them and to be with them just as He has been with them. The Lord has always thought about us and He therefore asked His heavenly Father to bless us and to give us the strength and the courage, and through Him, the Father has sent unto us the Holy Spirit to be our guide and strength, leading us all to Himself. The Lord Jesus Himself has often communicated with His Father, spending time in prayer and in quiet solace, showing us what it truly means to communicate with our loving God and Father.

We may wonder why is it that Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Son of God Himself, had the need to communicate or pray to His heavenly Father. First of all, that is because it shows us how the Son and the Father are always in harmony, together with the Holy Spirit, in a perfect unity of the Three Divine Persons in one Godhead, the Most Holy Trinity. Not only that, but as the Son of God, He is also at the same time, the Son of Man, born to be one like us, sharing in our human likeness and nature, so that by being the Son of the Father, He may share with us all the same identity as sons and daughters, for each one of us so that we truly can call God as our Father as well. That is why, all of us call ourselves as brothers and sisters in Christ, the same children of our most loving God and Father.

Now, as we heard in our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard how the Apostles themselves spent time in prayer as they came back from witnessing the Lord’s glorious Ascension into Heaven, and while waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. They all prayed seeking guidance from God and remaining in communication with Him, listening to Him speaking in their hearts and minds, and once the Holy Spirit came down upon them at Pentecost, they kept on praying and spending time to attune themselves with God, a connection ever strengthened by the Holy Spirit guiding them, as well as through their constant prayerful life and actions. The examples of these early Christians, our holy predecessors ought to become inspiration and good examples for each one of us to follow just as we ourselves seek to live our lives worthily of the Lord.

How about us then, brothers and sisters in Christ? As we commemorate this World Communications Sunday today, let us ask ourselves and remind ourselves whether we have already done what we should as Christians, first and foremost in communicating with God our Father? Many of us are often so busy and preoccupied with so many things in life that we may have forgotten about God, sidelining Him from our lives and ignoring Him. To not few among us, prayer is something done just as a last resort when all hope is lost, or that we desire that God must do something on our behalf, or for our own benefits. While it is indeed right for us to trust the Lord and ask Him for assistance and help, however, demanding for Him to do something for us and to help us is not alright at all. Unfortunately, that is often how many of us prayed, and instead of genuine communication which is what a prayer truly is, our prayers become litanies of supplications and demands.

We become angry when our prayers are not answered or when it seemed that God did not listen to our prayers, requests or desires. But we forget one important and most fundamental fact that the Lord was in no way answerable to us or obliged to answer us or give us what we demanded of Him. This is what happened when we do not have a strong and genuine faith in Him, and when our faith and commitment to Him is truly fleeting and temporary in nature, that prevented us from truly being able to grow into a truly wonderful, strong and enduring relationship with our most loving God and Father. When we pray and seek the Lord only when we have need for Him, then it is not truly building relationship with God, brothers and sisters in Christ. All of us have to strive to build a strong and lasting relationship with God, one that endures through even the most difficult moments and challenges.

And as Christians, all of us are also encouraged to build up strong and genuine relationships with our fellow Christians, our brothers and sisters in the same Lord, our God and Father. Our Christian faith is not something that thrives in isolation, as we need to be part of a vibrant and living Christian community, all in good communication and contact with each other, so that we may indeed become closer to each other and grow to love and care for our fellow brethren, just as the Lord has commanded all of us to do. Our Christian faith and obligation requires us to spend time not just with God but also with our fellow brethren, to communicate with them meaningfully and to develop strong, living and enduring relationships, through which we will become ever more enriched and stronger in faith and dedication to the Lord.

Let us all therefore do our best so that we may grow ever better in how we communicate with God through prayers and other means, and also how we communicate with each other, by spending quality time with those who are important and dear to us, and also spending time and effort to interact meaningfully and lovingly with one another, to our beloved ones, in our families and among our friends, and also with the strangers and acquaintances whom we encounter each day. Let us all do this, and commit ourselves to be effective communicators, knowing that by our exemplary lives and good communication skills, we may truly proclaim the Lord and His truth to more and more people from all the nations. May the Lord continue to guide and bless each one of us in our efforts to glorify Him, in each and every moments. Amen.