Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded constantly of our responsibilities and calling as Christians to love one another, to be ever generous in loving and to be filled with love in all of our actions, words and deeds. As Christians we have to put our brethren and others above ourselves, to be ever ready to commit ourselves for the good of our fellow men and women, and to spend the time, effort and attention to reach out with that love to our fellow brethren. We cannot be idle and be ignorant of this calling to love, for if we are truly God’s people, then we will also love in the same way that He has loved us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the conclusion of the matter highlighted in the Acts of the Apostles regarding the disagreements surrounding the commitments and responsibilities expected of the Christian faithful especially related to the old laws, customs and practices of the Jewish people. There were those who desired and even forced the adoption of the Jewish customs and practices such as circumcision and the strict dietary laws on the Gentiles or the non-Jews who converted to the Christian faith. Against these were those who argued that the Church should be more open in engaging the Gentiles and should not make it difficult for them to embrace the Christian faith.

Contextually, the cultural differences and other misunderstandings and prejudices existing between the Jews and the Gentiles were making it difficult for the new Christians to adopt the entire strict and extensive provisions of the Jewish laws as espoused by some of the Jewish Christians. This is because some of those practices and customs were regarded as undesirable, strange and even barbaric by the Romans, Greeks and some other people who were living then all around the Mediterranean, those to whom the Apostles and the other disciples had been ministering and preaching towards.

Hence, the Apostles having discussed and prayed over the matter with the elders of the Church, all of them agreed to not force the Jewish customs and laws on the entire body of the faithful, as doing so is contrary to the Lord’s commandments to love, and in fact as mentioned, is a distraction to the true way of the Lord. Some of those customs and practices were kept by the Pharisees to the extremes which not only turned people away from the Lord, but also ended up causing the laws themselves becoming more important and became the focus of attention rather than the Lord Himself. Hence, the Church commanded the faithful to follow only what the Lord Himself had told them to do, as according to what has been revealed through Christ.

That is why in our Gospel passage today, we heard once again that commandment of love being spoken to us through Our Lord Himself, Who told His disciples to love generously and wholeheartedly, to love one another just as He has loved all of them. The Lord has showed us all His unconditional love, His compassion and loving mercy, that even when we were still sinners and rebellious against Him, His love for us did not change at all. That love transcends even the disgust He has for our sinful ways, and hence, because of that love which He has unconditionally showed us, He endeavoured to come to our midst that He may show us what His love is all about.

The Lord has called on all of us to follow Him, embracing His love and mercy. He wants each and every one of us to throw away our attachments to sin and to the wickedness that once permeated our lives. And if we still live in the way and path of sin, all of us are called to turn away from those sins and embrace God’s love anew. Are we all capable of doing this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord wholeheartedly and then as He has commanded us to do, to love our fellow brothers and sisters with the same kind of love as well? Are we able to love one another generously and genuinely?

Today we should be inspired by the good examples set by St. Bernardine of Siena, whose feast we are celebrating this day. St. Bernardine of Siena was a great preacher and missionary, who spent a lot of time and effort in caring for the spiritual needs of the people. He was remembered as one of the greatest preachers that the Church ever had, preaching directly to the public with zeal and honesty, from his heart, speaking to them and showing them what the genuine love of God looks and feels like. He showed the people how God loved them all, and inspired them to love Him and in loving one another as well, distancing themselves from the path of sin and evil.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we inspired to be more like St. Bernardine of Siena and many other great saints, holy men and women of God who had gone before us, that by our actions, words and deeds, we may truly proclaim the Lord to all those whom we encounter in life, proclaiming His love and kindness, His great generosity and mercy, by our own loving actions to one another? We are all called and chosen as Christians to be the bearers and witnesses of God’s ever amazing love for His people. We are all reminded that by our love, many more will know about God and they will also know that we are His people.

May God help us to be His great disciples, in revealing Him and His love to more and more people all around the world. May He empower us all to remain always faithful to Him at all times, and bless our good works, for His greater glory, bow and always. Amen.

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 15 : 12-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This is My commandment : Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are My friends, if you do what I command you.”

“I shall not call You servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learnt from My Father.”

“You did not choose Me; it was I Who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. This is My command, that you love one another.”

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 56 : 8-9, 10-12

My heart is steadfast, o God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul, awake, o harp and lyre! I will wake the dawn.

I will give thanks to You, o Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praise to You among the nations. For Your love reaches to the heavens, and Your faithfulness, to the clouds.

Be exalted, o God, above the heavens! Let Your Glory be over all the earth!

Friday, 20 May 2022 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Bernardine of Siena, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 15 : 22-31

Then the Apostles and elders together with the whole Church decided to choose representatives from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. These were Judas, known as Barsabbas, and Silas, both leading men among the brothers. They took with them the following letter :

“Greetings from the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the believers of non-Jewish birth in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. We have heard that some persons from among us have worried you with their discussions and troubled your peace of mind. They were not appointed by us.”

“But now, it has seemed right to us in an assembly, to choose representatives and to send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have dedicated their lives to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. We send you then Judas and Silas who themselves will give you these instructions by word of mouth.”

“We, with the Holy Spirit, have decided not to put any other burden on you except what is necessary : You are to abstain from blood from the meat of strangled animals and from prohibited marriages. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

After saying goodbye, the messengers went to Antioch, where they assembled the community and handed them the letter. When they read the news, all were delighted with the encouragement it gave them.