Sunday, 14 May 2023 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called and reminded to live our lives worthily of the Lord as Christians, whom God had called and chosen from this world. Through our shared Christian baptism, all of us have become parts and members of the Church of God, the one Body of Christ where all those who profess to be faithful in Christ are part of this Communion of unity, united as one people, living a new and blessed life with the grace of God as a community. All of us have been reminded of the life of the early Christian communities so that we may be inspired to pursue the same life filled with holiness and devotion to God, and that we may no longer be obsessed with all sorts of worldly temptations and evils, desires and attachments.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles, the account of how the Apostles worked to proclaim the Good News and the words of the Lord, His salvation and grace to all the people in various places. St. Philip the Apostle went to the region of Samaria, proclaiming the word of God likely to the Samaritans who lived in that area, who had earlier on responded favourably to the Lord and his teachings and truth. There were many great signs and wonders that happened, as the Apostle carried out his ministry, performing miracles and wonders, and many among the people listened attentively to the words of truth as proclaimed by St. Philip. And then we heard how St. Peter and St. John came to the Samaritans, who had been baptised, and sent the Holy Spirit to come down upon them as well.

Historically, there had been a rather tense and hostile relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans due to conflicting claims on the heritage of the people of Israel, and for their differing viewpoints with regards to faith practices and customs, with each side often blaming the other side for having become wayward in their way of living their faith, and each one of them claimed that their way was the right one while the other one was wrong and heretical. The Jewish people, particularly the Pharisees back then took great pride on their status as God’s people, inheriting the claim of the Israelites as God’s first called and chosen people. However, the problem was that this ended up with them being condescending, elitist and uncharitable in their attitudes and interactions with others, as exemplified by how the Pharisees considered that all those who did not follow their ways and beliefs would be doomed and damned.

This is in tandem with what we have heard from the readings we have listened to in the past few weekdays, which focused on the divisions and disagreements within the early Church where those who belonged to the group of the hardline Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were against those who sought to help and make it easier for the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles to become a member of the Church. The former demanded that all of the faithful people of God must embrace and obey the full entire range of extensive rules, laws, precepts, practices and customs of the Jewish Law, which the Jewish people themselves had found it hard to be followed and obeyed, which would have pushed many of the non-Jewish people away from the Church and the Christian faith, should they have succeeded in having their way done.

Instead, the Lord guided His Church through the hands of the Apostles and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in moderating the extreme demands of those who had their preconceived ideals and thoughts that were incompatible with what the Lord had taught us all. He has shown them what His disciples and followers should all do, and how His Church should be like. The Church is One and Universal, as contained within its character as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Therefore, as one community of the faithful people of God, all called to a holy life and existence, just as our Lord and God is Holy, there cannot be prejudices, bias and all other things that bring about division and disunity within the community of the faithful, and that is why the Church is Catholic, which means Universal in nature. There is no favouritism or preference for a certain custom or practice within the Church, as everyone is truly equal before the Lord.

Then, we must also remember that the Church is also Apostolic in nature, which is reflected in the works and mission of the Apostles and the other missionaries of the faith. The word ‘Apostle’ itself came from the Ancient Greek word ‘Apostolos’ which means the ‘one who is sent off’, highlighting that the Church is also missionary in nature, all of us are sent out to proclaim the truth and Good News to more and more people out there who have not yet known about the Lord yet. The actions of the Apostles St. Philip, St. Peter and St. John who went to the Samaritans to work amongst them, proclaiming the Good News and giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit were just some of the examples of how our Church is truly Apostolic or missionary in nature. The Church always extends it hands to reach out to more and more of the people, not enclosing ourselves within a bubble of self-righteousness and intolerance of differences.

Now, today, we also happen to celebrate the Feast of St. Matthias the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles, whose life and actions, inspirations and examples should be able to inspire us to follow in his examples and works, and that of the other Apostles and innumerable saints out there as well. St. Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot, the traitor who had betrayed the Lord Jesus, as one of the Twelve Apostles. And as a member of the Twelve, St. Matthias was extensively involved in the missionary efforts of the Church like that of the other Apostles, in them going forth from place to place, proclaiming the Good News and truth of God to more and more people, and converting many more to the Lord and His cause. According to the Apostolic traditions, St. Matthias went to the regions of Cappadocia in Asia Minor, parts of the Caspian Sea coast region, and even as far as Ethiopia, gaining much success while also facing hardships and persecutions. Eventually, he was martyred for his faith, and died faithfully defending his commitment to God.

The Apostles had carried out what the Lord had told them all to do, as we heard it ourselves from our Gospel passage today. The Lord told them all that all those who loved Him would do the commandments and obey the Law of God, and that is what He has called them all to do, the commandments that the Lord Himself has summarised into two main key points, that is the Law that leads us all to a new, loving existence, with God at the centre of our lives and with us dedicating ourselves wholeheartedly and thoroughly to Him, and then at the same time, also being filled with the same love and compassion for one another, for our fellow brothers and sisters. That is our Christian calling and mission, and all of us are expected to live our lives worthily and faithfully as Christians at all times, to be good examples, inspirations and role model for others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hopefully all these serve to remind us all of our important calling and mission as Christians, for each and every one of us to do our part in living our lives faithfully and worthily as Christians at all times. Unless we carry out what the Lord had told us to do, and practice our faith with genuine and sincere desire to love Him and to walk in His path, doing what is right and just according to His Law and commandments, how can we convince others to believe in God as well? If our own actions contradict our faith and beliefs, then are we not just like hypocrites and unbelievers? If our actions, works and deeds, our words and interactions contradict what we believe in, then we may even end up driving others further from the faith, and causing divisions within the Church like how some of our predecessors had done.

Therefore, let us all discern carefully our path as we reflect upon the words of the Scriptures this Sunday, so that we may be inspired to live our lives more worthily and be able to commit ourselves more to the path that the Lord has shown us. Let us all continue to do our best, to live our lives to the best we can, so that our every actions, our every words and deeds, our interactions may be the best means through which we may introduce the Lord, His truth and Good News to all the people all around us. May the Holy Apostles, especially St. Matthias, pray and intercede for us all, and may the Lord continue to guide us all and His Church, and bless our good works and labours for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 14 May 2023 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 14 : 15-21

Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments; and I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He is with you and will be in you.”

“I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you. A little while and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me, because I live and you will also live. On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. Whoever keeps My commandments is the one who loves Me. If he loves Me, he will also be loved by My Father; I too shall love him and show Myself clearly to him.”

Sunday, 14 May 2023 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 3 : 15-18

But bless the Lord Christ in your hearts. Always have an answer ready when you are called upon to account for your hope, but give it simply and with respect. Keep your conscience clear so that those who slander you may be put to shame by your upright, Christian living. Better to suffer for doing good, if it is God’s will, than for doing wrong.

Remember how Christ died, once and for all, for our sins. He, the Just One, died for the unjust in order to lead us to God. In the Body He was put to death, in the Spirit He was raised to life.

Sunday, 14 May 2023 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 65 : 1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a, 16 and 20

Shout with joy to God, all you on earth; sing to the glory to His Name; proclaim His glorious praise. Say to God, “How great are Your deeds!”

All the earth bows down to You, making music in praise of You, singing in honour of Your Name. Come and see God’s wonders, His deeds awesome for humans.

He has turned the sea into dry land, and the river was crossed on foot. Let us, therefore, rejoice in Him. He rules by His might forever.

All you who fear God, come and listen; let me tell you what He has done. May God be blessed! He has not rejected my prayer; nor withheld His love from me.

Sunday, 14 May 2023 : Sixth Sunday of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 8 : 5-8, 14-17

Philip went down to a town of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. All the people paid close attention to what Philip said as they listened to him and saw the miraculous signs that he did. For in cases of possession, the unclean spirits came out shrieking loudly. Many people who were paralysed or crippled were healed. So there was a great joy in that town.

Now, when the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that the Samaritans had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. They went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for He had not as yet come down upon any of them since they had only been baptised in the Name of the Lord Jesus. So Peter and John laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, 3 May 2023 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of not just one but two of the great Apostles of the Lord, namely that of St. Philip and St. James, two of the Twelve Apostles, part of the innermost circle and closest collaborators of the Lord’s ministry and work. Both of them like that of the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, went through many hardships and trials, and went from places to places to proclaim the Good News of the Lord, delivering the truth and love of God to more and more people who have not yet heard of Him or known Him. They laboured for many years in distant lands and in foreign places, among foreigners and others so that many more may come close to the salvation in God. Through their efforts and hard work, many have come close to the Lord and found the path to His grace, and not few followed in the footsteps of the Apostles.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, we heard of the testimony of faith that St. Paul delivered to the faithful in the city of Corinth, reminding them all to pass on the truth, knowledge and the wisdom of God’s truth which they had received from the hands of the Apostles and the other missionaries. St. Paul shared with them how he himself has received the same truth and teachings from the Apostles, who shared and passed on to him the truth about what happened in the Lord’s ministry, in everything that He had done for the sake of the salvation of the whole world. St. Paul himself did not witness everything that had happened but he received the same truth from the hands of the other Apostles and also through the wisdom and inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles have been called and chosen to bring the Good News of the Lord to the nations, and in the case of St. Paul, while he himself never journeyed together with the Lord and His group, and in fact was an ardent and overzealous persecutor of Christians in his early moments, but this did not prevent the Lord from calling St. Paul and making him to be one of His greatest missionaries, proclaiming the message of His truth to more and more people that had not yet known Him and had not yet heard His words of truth and experienced His love. St. Paul hence shared to the people of God, the faithful in Corinth that each and every one of them ought to be missionary and evangelising as well, in committing their lives and works to the glorification of God and the proclamation of His truth and salvation. That is what all of us are called to do this day and henceforth.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard that the Lord told His disciples that He has indeed come from the Father, showing them all the fullness of God’s love and truth to them, and seeing Him is in truth the same as having seen God in His fullness of glory and love. That is because He was indeed the Love of God made manifest and perfect in this world, incarnate in the flesh as the Son of God and as the Son of Man. God has not hold back from us even His own most beloved Son, but sending Him into our midst so that all of us may experience the fullness of God’s love manifested in the flesh, as He appeared before us as the Son of Man, born of His blessed mother Mary, becoming the tangible expression of God’s ever generous love and grace. Through Christ His Son, God wants us all to experience the fullness of His love, and He wants us all to pass that love to more and more people we encounter in our own lives.

That is why each and every one of us are reminded that we should walk in the footsteps of the Holy Apostles. Both St. Philip and St. James were mentioned in today’s Scripture readings, with St. James being one of those from whom St. Paul mentioned that he had received the truth of God from, and St. Philip being present among the disciples as the Lord revealed to them in our Gospel passage today, about the truth of His nature and ministry. As mentioned, both Apostles having received, experienced and shared in the same truth of God, the fullness of His love manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, His Son, Who has suffered in His Passion, died on the cross and then Risen in glory to show us all the path to eternal life, they courageously and fearlessly went forth to proclaim this same truth to the many people and to the other disciples and followers of the Lord that they had encountered, like St. Paul and many others.

Now, as Christians, all of us have received this same truth and we are all called to follow the Apostles who had gone forth in proclaiming this truth, like St. Philip who had gone to many places in order to evangelise and spread the Good News. In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Philip was the one who proclaimed the Risen Lord to an Ethiopian official who then agreed to be baptised and become a Christian, and he was also involved in the evangelisation in the regions of Judea and Samaria, and then, he went on to other places like Syria, Greece and Phrygia in Asia Minor, among others. He ministered to the faithful and helped to build up the foundations of the Church in many places, showing encouragement and support for many of the faithful facing hardships and persecutions for their faith. According to Apostolic tradition, both St. Philip and St. Bartholomew went to the region of Hierapolis and proclaimed the Good News there, and it was there that he was martyred for his faith, either by crucifixion or beheading.

Meanwhile St. James, also known as St. James the Less, is often associated with another James, that is James son of Alphaeus, who also ministered to the faithful people of God, and proclaimed the Good News to many people all around the many regions where he had worked tirelessly to glorify the Lord. St. James also faced a lot of hardships and struggles, but he continued to spread the Good News nonetheless and inspired many among the faithful to carry on doing the same, as St. Philip and the other Apostles had done. According to one Apostolic tradition, he was martyred in the southern region of Egypt while in the midst of carrying out his mission, but what is certain is that, he died faithfully amidst the efforts he carried out to proclaim more and more of the Lord and His truth. This is the spirit that all of us should inherit as well, to be courageous in living our Christian lives and in proclaiming the Good News of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the dedication and examples showed by the Holy Apostles, St. Philip and St. James, and be strengthened and inspired to walk in the same path that they had walked. Let us all turn towards the Lord faithfully and dedicate ourselves to Him thoroughly, doing our very best to be faithful missionaries and evangelisers of our Christian faith, not just through mere words only, but also through genuine actions and works, in doing God’s will and obeying His Law and commandments, becoming true shining beacons of the Light of Christ in the midst of our community. May the Lord continue to be with us always and may He empower each one of us to walk in His presence at all times. St. Philip and St. James, Holy Apostles and devout servants of God, pray for us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 3 May 2023 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 14 : 6-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you know Me, you will know the Father also; indeed you know Him, and you have seen Him.”

Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough.” Jesus said to him, “What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever sees Me sees the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?”

“All that I say to you, I do not say of Myself. The Father Who dwells in Me is doing His own work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; at least believe it on the evidence of these works that I do. Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in Me will do the same works that I do; and he will even do greater than these, for I am going to the Father.”

“Everything you ask in My Name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon My Name, I will do.”

Wednesday, 3 May 2023 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Wednesday, 3 May 2023 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-8

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then He appeared to James and after that to all the Apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me.

Wednesday, 25 January 2023 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the whole Church marks the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, in which we remember the moment when St. Paul the Apostle, then known as Saul, turned away from his path of persecuting the followers of Christ in the earliest days of the Church, and then became one of the Lord’s greatest champions and defenders instead. This Feast marks that moment when even such a great sinner and enemy of the Lord and His people could turn away from his wrong path and walk in the path of God’s righteousness. The example of St. Paul the Apostle and his conversion is a classic and very good example that no sinner is truly beyond God’s help and grace, as long as the sinner is willing to make amends and listen to the Lord calling on him or her, and turn back towards Him.

As Saul, in his earlier life, St. Paul was a young and overzealous Pharisee who was convinced to try to eradicate the Christian faith and all Christians throughout Judea and beyond. He was the leader of the efforts to persecute and destroy Christian believers, arresting and torturing them, and striking at them in conjunction with the Pharisees and the chief priests. Saul caused great harm to many among the faithful and he probably led to the suffering and death of many earliest Christians. He was present at and approved the martyrdom of St. Stephen, one of the Church’s seven original Deacons and the first of the martyrs of the Church. No one therefore could have believed that it was possible for one like Saul to embrace the Christian faith, less still to become one of the Lord’s chief defenders and servants.

Yet, that was what happened. The Lord called Saul on his way to Damascus to arrest and eradicate the Christians living there. He was called by the Lord in a miraculous and dramatic encounter between the two of them, as he saw and witnessed the Lord appearing to him, and revealing to him the truth, of the mistake he has committed in persecuting and arresting the Lord’s followers. Saul experienced for himself the encounter with the Lord and ever since then, through his baptism and miraculous healing via the assistance of Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, Saul’s life was completely changed and made anew, as he embarked on a new life that was faithful to the Lord, giving his best, all of his efforts and hard work to serve the Lord and to glorify Him, becoming one of the Lord’s greatest disciples and champions.

That was how Saul turned to eventually become St. Paul the Apostle, from a great enemy of Christians and the Lord Himself, to a great disciple and a most faithful servant of God, one of the Apostles and a great missionary who devoted his whole life, a lot of time and effort for the sake of proclaiming the Lord and His truth to more and more people all throughout the world. St. Paul’s example, faith and dedication ought to inspire all of us that even if we have sinned against God, or think that our sins made us to be unworthy of Him and His love, we have the hope of salvation and eternal life all the same. God’s love for us is far greater than all of our sins and wickedness, and in St. Paul’s own words, in one of his Epistles, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Undoubtedly, St. Paul was referring to his own example as the great example of how even great sinners can become great servants of God and saints.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle all of us are reminded that we are all also called by the Lord for the same purpose and mission in our own lives. Each and every one of us as members of the Church are parts of the Church’s works and missions in proclaiming the truth of God and evangelising the whole world. All of us are successors of the works entrusted by the Lord to His Apostles and disciples, the missions that the Lord entrusted to His Church. The works of St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord are still aplenty and ongoing, as there are ever more people out there who have not yet known the Lord and His truth. St. Paul the Apostle showed us the way forward in life, in how we should commit ourselves to God’s mission and works.

Now the question is, are we willing to do our best to follow the Lord in the way that St. Paul himself had done? Are we willing to embrace the Lord and His mercy and forgiveness once again, as He continued to reach out to us, calling us to turn away from our sinful and wicked ways? Are we willing to embrace God’s love and grace in showing us His mercy even when we have often disappointed Him? All of us should appreciate the things that God has done in patiently embracing us despite of our constant stubborn attitude and rebelliousness. He has always loved us and wanted us to be reconciled with Him, and gave us the means to do so through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. By His suffering, death on the Cross and by His Resurrection, the Lord has opened for us the gates of Heaven and shown us the path towards Him.

Now, what each one of us need to do is to reflect on how St. Paul embraced the Lord wholeheartedly and humbly accepted that he was mistaken and wrong in his youth, and allowing the Lord and His other Apostles, as well as the Holy Spirit to help and guide him down the wrong path. Too often many of us continue to sin and disobey God because we are too proud to admit our mistakes and faults, and we are unwilling to let the Lord to correct us. For all that St. Paul had done in his youth as Saul to persecute Christians, he was humble enough to accept the truth of the Lord and embrace His mercy and compassionate love. Are we also willing to embrace God’s truth and love with humility and faith? The choice is ours alone to make. If we continue to walk with pride and refusing to accept our errors and mistakes in life, we will likely end up continuing down the wrong path.

Let us all therefore strive to renew our faith and lives by our humble obedience to the Lord and the willingness to change ourselves by listening to God’s will and words. Let us all be growing ever stronger in our faith and relationship with the Lord in the way that St. Paul had done himself. Let us be converted in life and draw ever closer to the Lord, and be good role models in our lives and actions, that we may inspire many others to live worthily of the Lord. Let us trust in God’s love that is so great that not even the greatest of sinners are beyond God’s mercy and forgiveness. May God continue to strengthen our faith and may He bless us in our everyday lives and actions. May God bless us in our every endeavours, efforts and good works for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.