Wednesday, 31 May 2023 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the last day in the month of May, also known as the month of the Rosary, we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Chronologically, this feast celebrates what occurred back then during the time when Mary, who was bearing within her the Son of God Himself, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the hillside of Judea. Elizabeth was then heavily pregnant and was almost due for her son, the future St. John the Baptist, and both women had their children conceived in the most miraculous way. Mary conceived the Child in her womb without any human intervention, as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and by the power and will of God, the Divine Son of God, the Word of God Himself became incarnate in the flesh, to be born of Mary as the Son of Man, the Saviour of the world. Meanwhile Elizabeth conceived a child in her old age, something that seemed impossible, especially after many years having unsuccessfully conceived a child at all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard from our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we are reminded that this day is truly a joyful celebration because of the great things that the Lord had done for His faithful servants, for Mary and Elizabeth, in performing great and miraculous deeds through them and their respective conceiving of their children. The prophet Zephaniah was conveying the great joy that the people of God ought to experience because of everything that the Lord had shown them, in the faithfulness and steadfastness that He had shown towards His Covenant with all of His beloved people, and in many other things that He has done for us. And most importantly, as mentioned, through Mary and Elizabeth, the light of God’s salvation and Good News was finally revealed to us, through our Lord and Saviour Himself, and through His Herald, St. John the Baptist.

Then, as we heard the account of the encounter between the two women, Mary and Elizabeth as told by our Gospel passage today, we are all reminded of the love which God has shown us that He was willing to come into our midst, and He did so not in a magnificent and glorious manner, but He came to us through two ordinary woman, and especially through His mother Mary, a most ordinary woman and virgin from the unassuming small town of Nazareth in Galilee, with her cousin Elizabeth, another ordinary elderly woman living in Judea. Yet, it was through them that God made His salvation tangible and real to us, one as the mother of His Herald to proclaim His Good News and to prepare everyone for His coming, and one as His own Mother, allowing Him to enter this world in the flesh, coming upon us and dwelling in our midst.

Then in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the great song of rejoicing by Mary, who was full of the Holy Spirit, inspired to sing that song which we all now know as the Magnificat. The Magnificat is a great hymn of praise and thanksgiving which summarised the great joy which all of us mankind experienced for having seen and received the salvation from God and the assurance that everything which He had promised would come true. For Mary herself, the joy was even greater because she would become no less than the Mother of God herself, and God chose her, a humble and poor young woman, as the Vessel and the one to bear the Saviour, to bring forth the deliverance that God has long promised His people. God truly works in mysterious ways, and this was how our salvation came to be, not through great miracles and wonders by a mighty and conquering God, but through a simple yet devout woman who embraced her role and answered positively to the Lord’s call.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to these words from the Scriptures and recalled how the Lord had performed His great and wonderful deeds through those two great and holy women, Mary, Mother of God and Mother of us all, and St. Elizabeth, the Mother of St. John the Baptist, all of us are reminded that each and every one of us also share in their grace and the love which God has shown both of them. All of us are also beloved children, the sons and daughters of God by adoption through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Therefore, all of us, having been made sharers in our Lord’s plan of salvation and the New Covenant that He has established with us, the Church that He has established in this world as the tangible and real Communion of all those who are faithful to Him, all of us have also received the same assurance of salvation and eternal life, and we should emulate both Mary and Elizabeth in their response and faith.

Each and every one of us have been blessed and provided by the Lord with a variety of gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities, unique to each one of us and our various circumstances. Therefore, all of us are called and sent out to do God’s will in our various capacities and opportunities, and we should do whatever we can to glorify God in all things, and in our every actions and works, in even the smallest and least significant of the things we do. We should live our lives with zeal and commitment, entrusting ourselves to the Lord and doing whatever we can to carry out His will and to follow Him as best as we are able to. We should not be idle or ignorant of what we can contribute to the good works of the Church, but do our best always, at all times to serve the Lord and to inspire each other by our own lives and actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us emulate the faith that Mary and Elizabeth had in the Lord and let us do what we can to make good use of the blessings and opportunities provided for us so that we may help to lead more and more souls back towards the Lord and that we may proclaim God and His Good News among more people and in more places, that we do not waste these opportunities provided for us. Each one of us can serve our role and parts as members of God’s Church and as an integral part of the work of the Church’s mission in evangelising the world. Each one of us should help others to fulfil their parts and roles in loving God and loving one another, that the Lord’s works become ever more tangible in this world, and more and more may come to experience God’s great love and glory.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may He empower all of us to walk ever more faithfully in His ways, providing us the courage and strength to do His will, and the perseverance and commitment to endure the challenges and trials that may come our way. May the Lord give us the Spirit to walk ever more faithfully like Mary and Elizabeth had done, so that we may be more and more like them and our holy predecessors in how we live our lives, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 39-56

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women, and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my Saviour! He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed.”

“The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name! From age to age His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.”

“He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid. YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me. You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation.

Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.

Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 : Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Zephaniah 3 : 14-18

Cry out with joy, o daughter of Zion; rejoice, o people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! YHVH has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. YHVH, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.

On that day they will say to Jerusalem : Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for YHVH your God is within you, YHVH, saving Warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for He has revived His love. For you He will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the Feast.

I will drive away the evil I warned you about, and you will no longer be ashamed.

Alternative reading

Romans 12 : 9-16b

Let love be sincere. Hate what is evil and hold to whatever is good. Love one another and be considerate. Outdo one another in mutual respect. Be zealous in fulfilling your duties. Be fervent in the Spirit and serve God.

Have hope and be cheerful. Be patient in trials and pray constantly. Share with other Christians in need. With those passing by, be ready to receive them. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not wish evil on anyone. Rejoice with those who are joyful, and weep with those who weep.

Live in peace with one another. Do not dream of extraordinary things.

Monday, 29 May 2023 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the day after the Pentecost Sunday, and therefore mark the beginning of the second part of the Ordinary Time of this current liturgical year. And on this day the Church celebrates the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God herself in her aspect as the Mother of the Church or Mater Ecclesiae. We remember Mary in her constant guidance and protection for the Church that has been entrusted by her own Son to her care, so that all of us may always seek for her intercession and guidance, and do not easily give up the struggles and the trials that we may have to face in this world in becoming faithful disciples and followers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of our beloved Mother, who is also the Mother of the Church, the Mother of all of us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Genesis of the account of the downfall of mankind which happened because the first woman, Eve, was unable to resist the temptations of the devil who convinced her to disobey the Lord and succumb to the temptations of her desires, eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Gardens of Eden. Through her therefore, disobedience and sin entered into the hearts of mankind, separating us from the grace and love of God. Mankind was cast out from the Gardens of Eden, and forced to wander off and suffer the consequences of our disobedience and evils, our sins and failure to listen to the words of God. And this was highlighted today because Mary is also known as the New Eve just as Christ is the New Adam.

That is because unlike and opposite that of the original Eve, Mary as the New Eve obeyed the Lord perfectly and wholeheartedly, saying yes to the Lord Who revealed to her through the Archangel Gabriel that she would be the Mother and bearer of the Messiah, the Son of God Himself, incarnate in the flesh. Such a task must have been very challenging and difficult, and yet, despite all the uncertainties, Mary chose to entrust herself to the Lord and to dedicate herself wholly to Him, answering His call with a resounding yes. Her obedience to God and her faith became therefore the source through which salvation entered into the world, coming through her Son, Who was in her womb for nine months, and afterwards, she continued to take care of her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, and followed Him throughout all His works and ministry.

And we heard of how the Lord entrusted her to His disciple St. John in our Gospel passage today, to be his Mother and hence, by extension, as the Mother of all the faithful and of the whole entire Church. Mary followed her Son all the way even throughout all of His Passion, His sufferings and crucifixion right up to the very foot of the Cross. She watched her own Son dying before her, and faithfully continued to dedicate herself to Him. That is all how Mary, as the New Eve, have shown us true obedience, love for God and faith in Him, an example and inspiration that all of us as Christians should be inspired to follow and emulate as well. Mary, as the Mother of the Church is also our Mother, loving and ever caring towards us, ever concerned about us falling again and again into sin and being separated from His Son.

That is why, today, all of us are reminded of our obligation and need to follow our Blessed Mother’s own examples in faith and do whatever we can so that we can be good role models and inspirations ourselves for our fellow brethren in faith, and for many others who have not yet known the Lord or those who have not yet understood His teachings and commandments. And it is through our own examples and actions, our worthy and exemplary way of life that just like Mary, our Mother herself had done, we can inspire others and be great missionaries and evangelisers of our Christian faith. Through Mary, the Mother of the Church, all of us are also led to follow her examples and to follow the path that she led us into, the most direct path to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we embark on this time post Easter, with this Ordinary Time and season, let us all remind ourselves that this time is not for us to slacken our faith life and our Christian obligations and duties. The word Ordinary here as we all ought to know does not refer to anything being ordinary or usual, but rather refers to the word ‘Ordinal’, which pertains to the numbered nature of the weekly observance of the Lord’s time and year, right up to the very last day of our current liturgical year. And all of us as Christians have the important calling and mission to lead a worthy and holy life, dedicated and committed to God much like Mary, our Mother and the Mother of the Church had done in her own life.

Let us all ask Our Blessed Mother to intercede for us and to lead us down the path of righteousness, to always inspire and remind us whenever we err or make any mistakes in life, so that we will not be easily be swayed by the many temptations all around us, all the evils and wickedness of the world. Let us all follow the Lord and His Mother, and do whatever it is that we have been called to do, to be worthy in all things and to commit our lives anew as Christians, those whom God had called and chosen to be His own beloved people. Let all of our actions, works and deeds from now on continue to inspire many others and help many of our fellow brethren to be able to come ever closer to God together with each one of us.

Mary, our loving Mother and the Mother of the Church, pray for us all sinners and pray for the Church that your Son, Our Lord and Saviour, had established in this world. Intercede for us all whenever we need your help, and be with us always in our journey towards your Son. May God be with us all and with His Church, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 29 May 2023 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 19 : 25-34

At that time, near the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom He loved, He said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “This is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus knew all was now finished and, in order to fulfil what was written in Scripture, He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of bitter wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a twig of hyssop, they raised it to His lips. Jesus took the wine and said, “It is accomplished.” Then He bowed His head and gave up the Spirit.

As it was Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross during the Sabbath, for this Sabbath was a very solemn day. They asked Pilate to have the legs of the condemned men broken, so that the bodies might be taken away. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other man, who had been crucified with Jesus.

When they came to Jesus, they saw that He was already dead, so they did not break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a lance, and immediately there came out Blood and water.

Monday, 29 May 2023 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 86 : 1-2, 3 and 5, 6-7

He Himself has built it in His holy mountain; YHVH prefers the gates of Zion to all of Jacob’s towns.

Great things have been foretold of you, o city of God. But of Zion, it shall be said, “More and more are being born in her.” For the Most High Himself has founded her.

And YHVH notes in the people’s register : “All these were also born in Zion.” And all will dance and sing joyfully for you.

Monday, 29 May 2023 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Alternative reading

Acts 1 : 12-14

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olives, which is a fifteen minute walk away. On entering the city they went to the room upstairs where they were staying. Present there were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alpheus; Simon the Zealot and Judas son of James.

All of these, together, gave themselves to constant prayer. With them were some women, and also Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the last day of the glorious and most joyful season of Easter, with this celebration of the Solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday, marking the time when the Holy Spirit came down upon all the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, bestowing upon them the many gifts that God has promised, as well as the Wisdom, guidance and courage that would strengthen many of those disciples in their ministry and works, marking the moment when the Church was truly born. That is why this Pentecost celebration is sometimes also known as the ‘Birthday of the Church’ as prior to the Pentecost moment, all the disciples were filled with fear and uncertainty, hiding from the Jewish authorities and others who opposed the Lord and their works. Through the Holy Spirit, the great Advocate and Helper from the Lord, God has truly given us all the renewal and the encouragement we all needed to embark in our mission as Christians.

In our first reading today, we heard of the traditional account of the moment of the Pentecost from the Acts of the Apostles. detailing to us what happened on that day as the great tongues of flame of the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven upon all of the Apostles and the other disciples assembled in the same room, from which they immediately burst forth to proclaim courageously the truth and Good News of God to everyone who were assembled in Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival, that happened fifty days after the Passover. The Holy Spirit did not just give them the strength and courage to carry out the mission that they had been entrusted with, overcoming the fears in their hearts and minds, but also gave them the Wisdom and eloquence to speak the truth with great intellect and understanding of the truth, as well as the miraculous gift of speaking in tongues, allowing many people to understand them all at the same time.

The huge number of people who came to Jerusalem came from both the Jewish diaspora and also other foreigners who were interested to know more about the Lord, as were other travellers and people who came to enjoy the festivities, all coming from different parts of the world and speaking different languages, and yet all of them could miraculously comprehend what the disciples of the Lord were preaching to them. That is what the Holy Spirit had done upon us all as well, by bringing unto us the unity and harmony that restored our unity as one flock of the Lord, one Church of God. This unity had once been broken and shattered because of our sins and pride, our disobedience against God, like what one of the Old Testament passages from the Vigil of the Pentecost last night highlighted to us regarding the well-known story of the Tower of Babel, where human pride and arrogance led to them being scattered and their languages confused by God.

The Holy Spirit therefore came down upon us, uniting us and bringing us to once again live in harmony as one people of God, one Church, giving us the gifts to live worthily as Christians, as God’s people and to proclaim His Good News and truth to renew the world. The Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we all may carry on the missions entrusted by the Lord to His Church and disciples, to gather all the scattered people and those whom He loved from all over the whole world. Through the Holy Spirit, the Church was made tangible as the disciples no longer hid themselves but went forth with great courage to call on more and more people to turn back towards the Lord and to repent from their sins. Right from the very first day of the Church’s visible existence at Pentecost, according to the Acts of the Apostles, three thousand people chose to be baptised and therefore laid the foundations for the growing Christian community.

The Lord gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples, who then passed on the same Holy Spirit to the rest of the Church, giving all of its members, including all of us a variety of gifts and blessings, abilities and opportunities as we have heard from our second reading today, from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. Through the Holy Spirit, St. Paul mentioned that we have been given diverse and different gifts, graces and blessings, and made to be one people regardless of our origin and background. Thus, there should be no longer be discrimination or attitudes that show elitism or contempt within the Church from one to another just because a certain part or member of the Church felt that he or she is better and more pious compared to others, or more capable and worthy than their fellow brothers and sisters. All of us are equal before the Lord our God and we are equally beloved as well.

The Holy Spirit has given us all many gifts and this is what we should be reflecting on this day as we celebrate this glorious occasion, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the birthday of the Church and the end of the glorious Easter season. We must first realise that the joy and the spirit of Easter must not end with today’s celebration. Rather, we have to carry on living our Christian lives with zeal and courage, to continue doing what we have done thus far, in doing God’s will and in carrying out whatever missions and opportunities we have been given. It is also an important reminder for each one of us that we have been given different calling and vocations in life, and this means that in whatever areas and in whichever vocation that we have, we should do what we can do to glorify God and to proclaim His Good News, and more often than not, this requires us to live our Christian lives well, to be genuinely and fully faithful in our lives to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all hence remind ourselves to let the Holy Spirit guide us and strengthen us each day and at every moments, so that we may always be good role models and sources of inspiration for one another in faith, continuing what the Lord has asked us to do, to be missionary and evangelising in our own respective communities. Let our actions, words and deeds, and our every interactions and works inspire more and more people, touch their hearts and minds so that they may come ever closer to God and that they may know the Lord and His truth better. Through all these, many more people and many more souls will come ever closer to God’s salvation, and each one of us have important parts to play in this. All of us are important in the Church’s efforts for the conversion of souls, and each one of our little actions do really matter.

May the Risen Lord be with us and His Church always, and may the Holy Spirit continue to guide and strengthen us, inflame and encourage us that we may always be firm in our faith and actions, and do our best to reach out to others with exemplary and shining faith in God. May the Holy Spirit lead us and help us to serve God ever more courageously and may all of us be strengthened in all things, now and always, forevermore. Come, Holy Spirit and renew the face of the Earth, and come to bless and strengthen us, give us the courage and desire to continue to do God’s will, at all times. Amen.

Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 20 : 19-23

At that time, on the evening of the day when Jesus rose from the dead, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples kept looking at the Lord and were full of joy.

Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” After saying this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”